- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015
3-year-old boy shoots little brother in the head

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Police say a 3-year-old Coffee County boy has shot his 18-month-old brother in the head.

The Coffee County Sheriff’s Department said the toddler shot the infant with a .25-caliber automatic pistol in a home Tuesday afternoon in the community of Hillsboro, which is about 70 miles southeast of Nashville.

The 18-month-hold was transported to a local hospital. His condition is unknown.

Sgt. Danny Ferrell told the Associated Press that investigators are still trying to determine how the child was able to get a hold of the weapon. He said the 3-year-old was not harmed.

Authorities are not identifying the boys.

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Tennessee school voucher bill advancing in House

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A proposal to create a school voucher program in Tennessee is advancing in the House.

The so-called “opportunity scholarship” legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville passed an education subcommittee 7-1 on Tuesday. The companion bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

The legislation that would give parents the option to move a child from a failing public school to a private school is similar to a measure Republican Gov. Bill Haslam proposed last year that failed.

Under Dunn’s proposal, eligibility would be opened to low-income students in districts that have a school in the bottom five percent.

Haslam’s proposal was approved in the Senate last year, but the House version was unsuccessful because it sought to expand eligibility to the bottom 10 percent of failing schools.

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GOP lawmakers: Challenge FCC ruling on broadband in Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Federal Communication Commission ruled last week that cities like Chattanooga may expand their municipal broadband service, but Tennessee officials who oppose the decision are lining up to block the move.

On Tuesday Republican state lawmakers led by Rep. Jeremy Durham of Franklin urged state Attorney General Herbert Slatery to file a lawsuit challenging the decision as “a violation of state sovereignty.”

Slatery said no decision has been made about the state’s next step.

“We are disappointed the FCC would assert authority over a local governmental body, which is an area of responsibility resting exclusively with the state in which the local governmental body exists,” the attorney general said in an emailed statement.

Slatery was among several prominent Republicans who had urged the FCC not to override a state law blocking Chattanooga’s electric utility from expanding its super-fast Internet network beyond its current service area. Other letter writers included Gov. Bill Haslam and the speakers of the state House and Senate.

The FCC nevertheless voted 3-2 last week in favor of the utilities in Chattanooga and Wilson, North Carolina.

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Bill would restrict where CCA inmates could file lawsuits

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Corrections Corporation of America could not be sued anywhere in Tennessee except for the county where the private prison targeted by the lawsuit is operated, under a bill filed in the state legislature.

A lawmaker who sponsored the proposal said it would increase safety because it will prevent inmates from being transferred across the state to go to court. A critic, however, says that judges and even juries in small towns that rely on jobs at those private prisons are likely to be biased in favor of Nashville-based CCA.

Inmates at state-operated prisons under the Tennessee Department of Correction must file their lawsuits against the prison system in the county where they are being housed, said Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, the bill’s sponsor. He said his bill not only puts CCA prisoners under the same rules as inmates in government-operated prisons, it cuts down on the cost and risk of transporting prisoners across county lines.

“It’s really a safety issue and it’s a cost issue as well,” Lamberth said.

But one advocate for inmates say prisoner transportation isn’t an issue.

“The vast majority of inmates are not transferred to civil hearings,” said Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News. Friedmann, who has sued CCA, said judges and juries in small towns are more likely to be biased in favor of the giant private-prison operator because they bring jobs to their communities.

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