By Wally Wellman, Germantown News
April 2, 2008

Members of the audience heard brief presentations on varying subjects from five state legislators last Friday during the 9th Annual Legislative Breakfast, hosted by the Government Relations Committees of the Collierville Chamber of Commerce and the Germantown Area Chamber of Commerce.

The event was held at Ridgeway Country Club in Collierville. Speakers included Sen. Mark Norris, of District 32; Sen. Paul Stanley, of District 31; Sen. Reginald Tate, of District 33; Rep. Brian Kelsey, of District 83 and Rep. Curry Todd, of District 95.

Speaking first on the topic of “The State of the State,” Sen. Norris said the state is strong, despite the condition of the economy. He did say that because of the sagging economy, the state budget can be expected to be cut by between $181-$300 million. He said that the state will not see a lot of new programs this year, and a big question will have to do with the state’s lottery reserve and how it will be spent.

Sen. Stanley said the legislature is trying to pass a crime package containing three major pieces of legislation which would have a major impact. One of the pieces of legislation would cover acts of crime in which two or more people commit an offense in unison.

Sen. Stanley said that a lot of individuals are affected by crime, including the business community and that crime can have a negative effect on business and industry when it comes time in which to choose an area to locate.

Sen. Tate said he has been visiting nursing homes in the area, talking to patients, nurses, doctors and administrators.

Shelby County Schools is still one of the top-performing school systems in the state of Tennessee, said Rep. Brian Kelsey. But the country is falling behind other countries in producing top students and professionals in some subjects, and that we need to improve the education of our local work force in order to compete for jobs.

Kelsey said there are a lot of proposals concerning the use of lottery reserve funds and all of them are good. He said the state needs to fulfill its K-12 commitment, which would mean a good amount of money coming to local schools.

Rep. Curry Todd, who said he sometimes “takes up subjects others don’t,” such as a pyrotechnics bill last year, said that he is working on the legalization of mixed martial arts in Tennessee.

Currently, government is losing out on millions of dollars in economic benefits because the sport is illegal in Tennessee. At the same time, the state’s boxing codes must be updated to be able to bring in headline fights such as were seen when Lennox Lewis fought Mike Tyson years ago. He put the economic benefits of such legislation between $24-$47 million.

Todd said he would “continue to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens” who have a legitimate license to carry a weapon into a restaurant. He said he makes a distinction between “bars” and restaurants that also serve alcoholic beverages.

Answering other questions from the audience, the legislators indicated that there is little chance of the revival of an effort for a two percent sales tax on prepared foods; that they were not in favor of any changes to the state’s Sunshine Law; and that due to the economy, there probably would not be any community grants coming out of Nashville this year.

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