House

House passes bill to ban drivers from using handheld mobile phones

The House has narrowly approved a bill to ban Tennessee drivers from using handheld mobile phones on the road. The measure passed 53-38 on Wednesday. It takes 50 votes for bills to pass the chamber.

The bill sponsored by Rep. John Holsclaw (R- Elizabethton) and Art Swann (R-Maryville) would make Tennessee the 17th state to enact such a ban aimed at reducing distracted driving.

Violating the ban would be punishable by a $50 fine, though it could be waived on the first offense by completing a driver education course. Using a speaker phone or Bluetooth device would still be allowed under the bill.

Critics of the bill have included Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), who in a committee meeting listed several other distracting activities not specifically banned under state law, including eating, changing the radio station, arguing with a spouse, or “reaching around and smacking a young’un in the back seat.”

The companion bill is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Finance Committee next week.

Lamberth: Bill to block ‘harassing’ requests is part of transparency push

Lawmakers gather in Nashville for the first day of the 111th General Assembly. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Majority Leader William Lamberth’s bill seeking to block people deemed to be “harassing” records custodians from obtaining public records is part of what he is calling push for greater transparency in state government.

The Portland Republican’s bill would allow custodians to seek judicial intervention if a member of the public makes three or more annual requests “in a manner that would cause a reasonable person” to feel abused, intimidated, threatened, or harassed.  The same would go for people making multiple requests that are “not made in good faith or for any legitimate purpose.”

A release from Lamberth’s office on Friday makes no mention of the specifics of his proposed legislation other than to say it will “protect record custodians.” But he said an amendment is coming to expand government openness by streamlining requests and increasing online access to records.

Here’s the full release from Lamberth’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) today is calling for greater government transparency that will further serve to protect all records custodians, while expanding public availability of open records through increased online access.

“I am calling on both state departments and local governments to evaluate all records that may be placed online and to explore ways to increase availability,” said Leader Lamberth.

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House Speaker Casada names senior staff

Newly-elected House Speaker Glen Casada gestures toward his predecessor, Beth Harwell, in the House chamber on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

New House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) has named the top staffers for his office.

Here’s the full release:

(NASHVILLE) — Today, Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) announced the addition of his new senior staff to assist in the operations of the Tennessee House of Representatives and to help serve the citizens of the state.

Cade Cothren has been named Chief of Staff in Speaker Casada’s office. Cothren will oversee day-to-day operations in the General Assembly for the Speaker and serve as his top advisor and strategist. Under his leadership, Cothren will select and supervise House staff, manage communications and information flow, and negotiate with key stakeholders and groups to implement the Speaker’s agenda. The University of Tennessee graduate previously served as Political Director, Press Secretary, and Director of Communications. At age 31, Cothren is the youngest person to serve in this role in modern history.

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