Legislators eye oversight boards, education, IDs

By RICK NORTON
Posted 2/11/19

Legislation to govern community oversight boards, Gov. Bill Lee’s rollout of a plan to build access to vocational and technical training, changes to Tennessee’s driver’s licenses and a fire …

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Legislators eye oversight boards, education, IDs

Posted

Legislation to govern community oversight boards, Gov. Bill Lee’s rollout of a plan to build access to vocational and technical training, changes to Tennessee’s driver’s licenses and a fire marshal warning dominated lawmaker activity in Nashville last week. 

Although legislators dealt with a variety of issues at the committee and subcommittee level, state Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) and state Rep. Mark Hall (R-Cleveland) listed these as highlights in their weekly summary provided to the Cleveland Daily Banner.

Community oversight boards — whose purpose is to protect law enforcement officers and their families from politically driven persecution while assuring residents of a fair and equal voice — have existed since the 1950s without specific rules, local legislators pointed out.

“… There are presently no guidelines outlined in Tennessee state law that define how they are created, who can serve on them and what their specific function is,” Howell said. “This measure provides much-needed structure to all current and future community oversight boards in Tennessee, which is critical to their overall success, as well as overall safety.”

Proposed under House Bill 658, the legislation — which is still under detailed discussion — places “guardrails,” as worded in the bill, on such boards statewide. As outlined, the bill’s impact “… removes subpoena power, requires reporting to the General Assembly, and limits the board to registered voters from the jurisdiction for which it serves.”

The legislative summary points out the bill proposal also promotes diversity among board members by ensuring membership is not restricted or limited based upon demographics, economic status or employment history.

According to the summary, which is generated through the House Republican Caucus and distributed locally by Howell and Hall, legislation sponsors and advocates “… support the brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives and make tremendous sacrifices as they serve their communities.”

The summary adds, “At the same time, we understand the need for transparency and appreciate the desire of our citizens to hold our officers to a higher standard of conduct.”

The bill is among many sparking debate among Nashville lawmakers.

State Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), House bill sponsor, outlined the proposal during a press conference at the state Capitol Building after its announcement.

“This will ensure everyone is treated respectfully and justly during any review of alleged misconduct involving members of our law enforcement community,” Curcio, flanked by supporting legislators, told reporters.

“Let me be clear,” he added. “We are not here to drown out the voices of our citizens. This legislation does not eliminate the community oversight boards. It is applicable to all Tennessee communities.”

In his comments to the press, Curcio stressed the proposed legislation “… mirrors best practices as observed by the National Institute of Justice,” while still holding law enforcement professionals accountable to a high standard of conduct.

As is customary in the General Assembly, House Bill 658 is expected to undergo intense discussion at committee levels prior to making it to the House floor for a vote.

Lee administration

unveils investment

in tech training

The first legislative initiative by the new governor, who took office in mid-January, caught the eye of both Bradley County legislators.

Tagged the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education, the plan expands access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students.

“The GIVE initiative is a two-pronged approach that utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities,” Hall explained. “Communities will now have the funding and flexibility to build programs that best reflect local needs and work directly with private industry to structure programming.”

Howell pointed out Lee’s initiative goes even further.

“GIVE also provides funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four fully funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs,” Howell said. “Previously, high school students only had access to two fully funded enrollment credits. With access to four credits, students will now be better prepared for entry into the workforce within two years of graduation.”

Two grant programs will fund the initiative: GIVE Community Grants and GIVE Student Grants.

Using the framework of the state’s Labor Education Alignment Program, the governor will recommend new funding in support of work-based learning through GIVE Community Grants, the Howell-Hall summary cited.

“These competitive grants will go to regional partnerships between TCATs, industry and K-12 to build new programs in work-based learning and apprenticeships, market-driven dual-credit opportunities, and the expansion of industry-informed CTE offerings at local high schools,” Howell said.

GIVE Student Grants will be funded by the Tennessee Lottery, and they will support expanded access to dual enrollment, the Georgetown lawmaker noted.

House Transportation

discusses REAL ID

Act of 2005

In other legislative activity last week, the House Transportation Committee — which is chaired by Howell — met with Tennessee Department of Safety representatives to discuss changes to Tennessee driver’s licenses under the REAL ID Act of 2005.

Created in 2005, the federal measure was designed to increase security following the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001. 

“Its goal is to ensure people are not using false forms of identification when it comes to air travel, entering federal buildings or accessing nuclear power plants,” Hall explained. “Funding is allocated to states through federal grants to be used for additional security components like information technology, cameras, key codes, special features on driver’s licenses, as well as the implementation of an age verification system.”

Currently, 43 states — including Tennessee — comply, the legislative summary confirmed. Another five states are expected to reach this classification later this year. All are required to comply by Oct. 1, 2022.

State fire marshal

says always handle

candles with care

With the approach of Valentine’s Day, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office reminded state residents to handle, and to use, candles with extreme care in order to avoid loss of life, injury and property damage from an accidental fire.

The reminder made its way into the Howell-Hall summary.

According to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, Tennessee fire departments responded to 71 residential structure fires that were started by candles in 2018 alone. These fires caused two civilian fatalities, four civilian injuries, two firefighter injuries and more than $1.8 million in property damage.

A few tips for proper use of candles, as provided by TDCI, include:

• Place candles in sturdy, safe candleholders that will not burn to tip over.

• Never leave a burning candle unattended.

• Keep children and pets away from burning candles; never leave them unattended in a room with a burning candle.

• Never use a candle where medical oxygen is being used; medical oxygen is highly combustible and can cause materials to ignite more easily and burn at a rate faster than normal.

• Lit candles should not be placed in windows where blinds and curtains can close over them, causing a fire.


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