News briefs from around Tennessee at 1:58 a.m. EDT

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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State spending plan headed to full House

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee’s annual spending plan is headed to a full House vote.

The House Finance Committee approved the measure on a voice vote Tuesday night. The Senate is hoping to also take up the legislation this week.

Gov. Bill Haslam has said planned increases in higher education funding and pay raises for teachers and state employees will have to be abandoned to balance the books.

The Republican governor said an ongoing decline in revenue collections is the main reason for not being able to give the increases and raises.

House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley proposed an amendment in the House Finance Committee Tuesday night to take money from reserves to give a one-time bonus to state employees and teachers, but the measure failed.

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Barge capsizes on Mississippi River; 2 missing

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A Mississippi River barge overturned while unloading steel coils in northeast Arkansas on Tuesday, and authorities were searching for two people who fell into the water and went missing.

The Coast Guard closed part of the river where it was searching for the two people, whose names hadn’t been released. The barge overturned and sank at a terminal on the Arkansas side of the river near Blytheville, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Brandon McMillan, who is based in Memphis, Tenn., about 60 miles south.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department were also taking part in the search effort, McMillan said. He said it was carrying steel coils, and that he didn’t know if anything that was on the barge could be environmentally hazardous.

Three people were first thought to have gone missing, but one of them jumped to safety when the barge overturned, said Keith Stephens, the assistant communications chief with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Kim Skelton, a dispatcher with the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department, said someone called 911 Tuesday afternoon to report the capsizing.

“The 911 caller said that they were unloading and the load shifted and then the boat overturned,” said Skelton, who didn’t publicly identify the caller.

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