- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015
Too much Mr. Nice Guy? Haslam struggles to exert influence

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was riding high. He swept all 95 counties in his re-election bid, then his peers picked him to be chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

But that momentum came to a crashing halt just days into a special legislative session he called in February, when lawmakers unceremoniously rejected Haslam’s signature proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans.

And Haslam bookended a tumultuous legislative session by reversing his previous opposition to a bill allowing handgun carry permit holders to be armed in all local parks, playgrounds and ball fields. Haslam in his earlier role as Knoxville mayor had supported a ban on guns in city parks.

To House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, the governor’s failure to veto the guns bill was an “an absolute failure of leadership.” And the Ripley Democrat has urged Haslam to call repeated special sessions to force lawmakers to reconsider the Insure Tennessee proposal.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders saw little reason to fear retribution for working against the administration on the Medicaid expansion and gun measures, given Haslam’s non-confrontational approach to governing. That has raised questions in the halls of the Legislative Plaza whether Haslam’s is just too nice to exert his will with lawmakers. That’s a charge that the governor is tired of hearing.

“I hear that all the time,” the governor told reporters after Insure Tennessee failed in the special session. “But again, I think you’re talking about inside-the-Capitol type stuff.

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Police: Man shot by officer had a history of paranoia

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A man who was fatally shot by an officer Thursday had shown signs of paranoia for months and thought people in his neighborhood were agents who were spying on him, Metro Nashville police said.

The victim has been identified as 53-year-old John D. Acree. Police say he died after exchanging gunfire with an officer at his home in an upscale neighborhood in south Nashville.

Four police officers went to Acree’s home Thursday morning to arrest him for failing to appear in court on an aggravated burglary charge. Acree had been charged after a female neighbor said he entered her home just as she was getting out of the shower. The woman told investigators that she got dressed and found Acree outside taking photographs of her house. Acree, authorities say, accused her of conducting surveillance on him and said he was going to do the same thing to her.

Police said Acree had become so paranoid that he accused federal government agents of stalking him and putting surveillance devices in his home and car, and thought his neighbors were harboring agents so they could spy on him. Neighbors, according to police, had become concerned about his paranoia and his photographing children.

Because of his past behavior issues, police say they sent four officers to Acree’s home. Two went to the front, and two went to the rear of the house. Police say Acree opened the back door and walked to a threshold pointing a semi-automatic pistol at Officer William Wright. Wright, authorities said, believed Acree was going to shoot him and the pair exchanged gunfire.

Acree was shot in the head and died at the scene with a gun in his hand, officials say.

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Old meat served for lunch at schools in East Tennessee

ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - An East Tennessee school district has implemented new food handling procedures after years-old pork roast was served to students for lunch.

Media report the frozen meat had dates of 2009-2011 and was served to students in the Hawkins County district on April 22. No sicknesses have been reported.

Director of Schools Steve Starnes told media that a new inventory system went into effect last Friday. In addition, all current frozen items were inventoried and outdated items were discarded.

“I want to stress to students, staff, and parents that the safety and welfare of our students is the highest priority to our system and all of our decisions and actions moving forward will continue to reflect this priority,” Starnes said. “I, along with members of my staff, will always strive to make decisions based on the best interests of our students, staff, and community.”

Hawkins County Commissioner Michael Herrell said he received a call from a concerned cafeteria worker, and he raised questions about the safety of the food.

“They go to school, and that might be the only meal they get all day long, and it just very upsets me that these kids are going to school to get that meal. It just didn’t go over well with me when I heard we were feeding these kids meat that’s dated 2009,” Herrell said.

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Former Marine reservist accused of stealing, selling goods

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A federal grand jury has indicted a former Marine reservist for allegedly stealing and selling assault-style training rifles, ammunition and body armor.

A news release Thursday from the U.S. attorney’s office in Memphis said 21-year-old Armando Jaime Vazquez Jr. of Memphis is also accused of using two government vehicles in an unauthorized manner. The indictment accuses Vazquez of taking an $89,000 Hummer and a $150,000 multipurpose vehicle in January 2014 from the Marine Reserve Center in Memphis.

The release alleges that the following month, Vazquez sold more than $4,000 worth of stolen military equipment, including ammunition, body armor and a helmet. Additional equipment valued at more than $20,000 was allegedly sold in March 2014.

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