- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Supermarket wine sales bill headed to governor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Legislation that would let voters decide whether their cities or counties allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores has been sent to the governor, who is expected to sign the measure into law.

The Senate, which passed its version of the bill 23-8 in January, on Monday approved minor changes made by the House when the lower chamber passed its version of the bill 71-15 last month.

“This bill has been around a long time,” said Senate sponsor Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro. “I think the members of this body and members in the House actually listened to the people who are going to have that opportunity to purchase wine in grocery stores.”

The proposal would grant authority to cities and counties that have package stores or liquor-by-the-drink sales to hold referendums on whether to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.

It also allows local votes to take place as early as this fall but would not allow supermarket wine sales until July 2016 at the earliest.

Under current law, supermarkets and convenience stores can sell beer containing up to 6.5 percent alcohol by volume. Anything stronger can be sold only in package stores, which can’t sell anything beyond booze and lottery tickets.


Senate passes bill to legalize switchblade knives

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The state Senate has passed a bill to legalize switchblades and other knives with blades longer than 4 inches in Tennessee.

The chamber voted 24-1 on Monday to approve the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville.

The measure would make it a felony to use a switchblade knife during the commission of a crime and would increase the maximum fine from $3,000 to $6,000.

Legislative analysts project that the measure would lead to one incarceration every 10 years.

Under current law, switchblades are included on a state list of weapons that are illegal to knowingly possess, manufacture, transport, repair or sell.

The companion bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah is awaiting a vote in a subcommittee of the House Finance Committee.


Ex-magistrate censured in Messiah name change case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A former Tennessee magistrate who changed a baby’s first name from Messiah to Martin was censured Monday.

Lu Ann Ballew said at the time that Messiah was a title held only by Jesus Christ. Ballew’s attorneys have argued that she was acting in the child’s best interest because having the name Messiah could make his life difficult.

Board of Judicial Conduct Disciplinary Counsel Tim Discenza said in a phone interview that a panel of the board voted unanimously in Dandridge for a public censure. Discenza said public censure is the probably most serious sanction the board could take against Ballew, given that she already lost her position as a magistrate.

The decision for which Ballew was censured came in August, when Jalessa Martin and Jawaan McCullough appeared before Ballew at a child support hearing in Newport about their 7-month-old son Messiah Martin. As part of the hearing, the father requested the baby’s last name be changed to McCullough.

Ballew surprised both parents by ordering that the baby’s name change to Martin McCullough. Ballew’s decision was overturned in chancery court a month later, and both parents agreed to name the baby Messiah McCullough.

Ballew spoke to a local television station after she changed Messiah’s name, saying, “The word ‘messiah’ is a title that has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ.”


Winter storm brings icy roads, accidents to Tenn.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A powerful winter storm pounded parts of Tennessee with snow and ice on Monday, causing hundreds of traffic accidents on slick roads and leaving thousands without power.

Gov. Bill Haslam declared a state of emergency due to the deteriorating conditions and state offices were closed because of hazardous weather conditions. Only essential state employees were ordered to work. Officials in Tennessee warned motorists to stay off the icy roads.

Middle and West Tennessee north of Interstate 40 appeared to suffer the brunt of the storm, weather officials said.

A steady freezing rain fell for hours Sunday night in Shelby County and other parts of the state. Some places in Middle Tennessee had half an inch of ice on the roads, and Stewart County reported 5 inches of sleet, said Brittney Coleman, a meteorologist with National Weather Service office in Nashville.

Parts of West Tennessee had between 2 to 3 inches of precipitation since Sunday, including sleet, freezing rain and snow, meteorologists said. At Memphis International Airport, the mixed precipitation total was about 1 inch. Sections of Shelby County, which includes Memphis, were still getting snow flurries Monday afternoon.

The freezing rain and ice downed trees and power lines and left more than 61,000 customers without power at one point Monday. About 19,000 customers in the Memphis area were without power Monday afternoon, down from about 30,000 earlier in the day, according to Memphis Gas Light & Water.

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