Views from elsewhere in Tennessee

Views from elsewhere in Tennessee

By: AP

The following is a roundup of recent editorials from Tennessee members of The Associated Press. In some cases, the editorials have been edited for length. They do not reflect an editorial position of the AP but represent the opinions of the newspapers from which they are taken. ———— The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, May 27 Grading the Tennessee legislative session this year is a bit like assessing a child who doesn’t have a lot of natural gifts: The marks depend on the effort. Gov. Phil Bredesen had to cut $468 million from his original budget plan. But, honestly, some improvements could have been made, anyway. It’s regrettable but understandable why lawmakers could not expand the state’s pre-kindergarten program. But what’s the excuse for not banning mountaintop-removal coal mining? Or curbing predatory lending practices in the car title loan industry? Or legalizing wine sales in grocery stores? At least the legislature turned back efforts to legalize guns in places where alcohol is served and city parks. But why not take the common-sense approach toward text messaging while driving and send a clear message to drivers just how nutty that is? Give the legislature credit, though, for putting Tennessee on a path toward a more flexible long-term care system that will allow more elderly people to stay in their homes. Lawmakers should get a B, at least, for reaching an agreement on the qualifications for earning and retaining lottery-funded scholarships that is expected to benefit some 12,000 students. And future problems surely have been avoided by the passage of legislation requiring all Tennessee voting machines to provide a paper trail of votes cast by the 2010 elections. Bredesen and legislative leaders of both parties pronounced the session a success. That might be going a little too far, but if the true test of a government is how well it performs without a lot of money to spend, the year was not bad. http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2008/may/27/editorials-its-not- just-about-money/ ———— Bristol Herald Courier, May 25 On a clear day, the views in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are awe inspiring. Clear days, however, are hard to find — especially in the summer when warm, stagnant air traps a blanket of pollution over the park. The EPA must stand for protection of our nation’s air, land and water rather than capitulating to the demands of the White House and its energy industry cronies. The air pollution rule change, likely to be finalized this summer, is a rewrite of the provision of the Clean Air Act that applies to Class I areas. Returning to the rule change, the EPA has proposed to alter the way it monitors air pollution in the parks. Present regulations require pollution to be monitored in three-hour and 24-hour increments. This captures spikes in emissions that occur in periods of peak power demand — mostly the result of increased generation at coal-fired power plants. The rule change would smooth out these peaks and measure average pollution on an annual basis. This means that spikes in pollution would no longer violate the Clean Air Act. As a practical matter, this likely would lead to more low-visibility, high-smog days in the park just as long as the annual average was OK. The administration is no longer taking public comments on the rule change, but there are still available avenues of protest. Local residents who feel an affinity for the Smokies can call their congressmen and senators and urge them to take a strong stand against this rule change. The federal government has a duty to protect our cherished national parks for the next generation. To relax the pollution standards in this manner is a dereliction of that duty. http://www.tricities.com/tri/news/opinion/editorials/article/easing— rules—that—protect—our—parks/9924/ ———— The Jackson Sun, May 27 After a hard-fought battle in the Tennessee General Assembly, open government finally got a boost. One new rule requires public records custodians to respond to open records requests within five days, or explain why they need more time. Making progress toward more open government in Tennessee is fraught with danger. Every time the issue is brought before the legislature, there is the chance it could result in less open government. That almost happened this year when some lawmakers wanted to make it legal for up to three members of an elected body to meet in private to discuss public business. Fortunately, that measure didn’t survive. Another would have required notifying elected officials whenever a public records request involving them was made. It died, too. The new open government provisions sent to Gov. Phil Bredesen for his signature represent progress. Besides the five-day turnaround time requirement, the office of the public ombudsman is instructed to create a reasonable fee schedule for public records requests that take more than five hours to fulfill. Adding the fee structure to complicated records requests also makes sense. It will prevent public record custodians from arbitrarily levying unreasonable fees as a way of discouraging record seekers. Thanks must go to the Tennessee Coalition on Open Government and its executive director Frank Gibson. His careful shepherding of the legislative battle helped tip the scales in favor of the public, not elected officials. Open government is crucial to public trust in government. Too many lawmakers see it as a burden and a bother. But cutting the public out of their own government is unacceptable, and always will be. Published in The Messenger 5.30.08

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