- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014
‘I Voted’ stickers feature GOP name in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - No matter how Tennessee voters cast their ballots, they’ll be offered “I Voted” stickers featuring the name of a key Republican who’s not running for office - yet.

The stickers - red and shaped like Tennessee - prominently display the words “Secretary of State Tre Hargett.” They’ll be handed out beginning with the start of early voting next week for the Nov. 4 election.

Hargett is a former state House Republican leader and is widely considered to be preparing a bid for higher elected office. Hargett has downplayed his aspirations and didn’t immediately respond to an interview request.

The new stickers replace the traditional motif of an American flag on a white background. Some states have modified theirs to be shaped like a state symbol, such as Georgia’s peach.


Tenn. voters to decide on judges’ merit selection

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee voters will begin casting ballots next week on whether to keep but modify the state’s current method of selecting appeals judges and Supreme Court Justices.

Under the current system, the governor makes appointments to fill vacancies on the state’s top courts. Voters then decide whether to keep or replace them in uncontested retention elections. A proposed constitutional amendment would add a provision to give the Legislature the power to reject the governor’s nominees.

“We have to bring finality to this issue of selecting judges in Tennessee,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, a supporter of the amendment.

Opponents of the current system argue the retention elections violate a provision in the Tennessee Constitution that says the Supreme Court justices “shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state,” and dismiss various legal rulings supporting the current system as tainted because they were made by jurists who have a stake in the current system.

Supporters like Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen call the system a way to advance the best candidates for the bench and to avoid overly political judicial elections involving head-to-head contests between candidates.

Haslam has argued that injecting legislative approval to the mix adds a layer of accountability, as voters would elect both the governor who nominates the judges and the legislators who would confirm or reject them.


Interstate 55 bridge could temporarily close

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Transportation officials are considering whether to temporarily close the heavily-traveled Interstate 55 bridge connecting Tennessee and Arkansas during construction of a new interchange in Memphis.

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nichole Lawrence said Thursday that a decision will be made once the department vets its options of whether to close or partially close the bridge while the I-55 Crump Interchange is being built. The department will conduct public meetings on the issue before a decision is made.

A contract for the interchange project will be awarded next year. Officials say the current interchange is structurally deficient and creates multiple safety problems, and the new one is expected to reduce traffic congestion and the number of crashes.

The I-55 bridge is one of two spans that connect Memphis with West Memphis, Arkansas, across the Mississippi River. The other one is the Interstate 40 bridge located just north of the I-55 bridge.

Officials say more than 55,000 cars, trucks and tractor-trailers use the I-55 bridge each day. I-55 links Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans.

Memphis-based FedEx, whose trucks regularly use the bridge, said it is closely monitoring the issue.


Report says lead may be leaching into Tenn. River

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - An environmental assessment has found that thousands of spent bullets at a police firing range could be contaminating surface water that drains into the Tennessee River.

The Chattanooga Times Free-Press (https://bit.ly/1smmCLk) reports the National Park Service did the assessment to estimate the cost of cleaning up the joint Chattanooga-Hamilton County firing range on Moccasin Bend.

The report found that surface soil on five acres has more than the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable limit for the site, and that contaminated surface water is likely making its way into the river.

City and county officials say they plan to review the findings.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s spokeswoman Lacie Stone said the administration may also do its own water quality analysis.


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