- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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March 20

The Kingsport Times-News on a truth in sentencing bill:

Tennessee Rep. Bud Hulsey’s truth in sentencing bill merited passage on principle, regardless of cost. Now that he has modified it to reduce its cost from $112 million to $37 million, lawmakers should get on board.



It is unconscionable that violent felons are released from prison in Tennessee before even minimum sentences rendered by judges and juries are fully served.

Hulsey’s original bill would have prohibited any inmate from using sentencing credits until the inmate has served the minimum sentence. It was estimated that keeping inmates locked up at least through their minimum sentences would cost $112 million.

The bill now has a $37 million fiscal impact because Hulsey has amended it to only include violent felons. Violent offenders have a recidivism rate of 67 percent, and the longer we can keep them locked up, the safer we are.

Says Hulsey, “You have folks in your district who have killed and raped and murdered and slaughtered” who get a 20-year sentence, but only serve a fraction of it because they are let out early for behaving themselves in prison, something they should be made to do, not rewarded for.

Hulsey filed the bill after James Hamm, convicted in the 2014 drunken hit-and-run that killed Kingsport businessman and Hulsey’s friend Mike Locke, was denied parole last year. In May 2016, Hamm received a 14-year prison sentence, but his parole eligibility came up after he used sentencing credits for good behavior. The Tennessee Department of Correction says more than a third of the more than 15,100 inmates released each year over the last five years received sentencing credits.

“(Violent felons) … I don’t think they should be in that category to start with,” Hulsey pointed out. “We need a whole new overhaul on truth in sentencing so people know exactly how much time they are going to get and when they get out. Until I get there, I’m going to work with what I’ve got and what I’m doing right now.”

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus, in a recent meeting with members of the Times News Editorial Board, supported Hulsey’s original bill. “The Hamm case . he served two and a half years. He was up for parole and was denied, but the (Locke) family had to come and relive it,” Staubus noted.

“I went to the parole hearing. That’s my job, but we’re using resources we shouldn’t have to. His family had to be there, his friends had to be there, we had to oppose it. They had to get stressed out, but said they would come back in two years. There’s no closure,” Staubus said.

Letting inmates who have committed violent crimes out before even their minimum sentence has been served is another offense against victims. The legislature should pass this bill.

Online: http://www.timesnews.net/

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March 15

Johnson City Press on the politicization of child marriage:

It should be a relief to Tennesseans that the General Assembly has revived a bill to end an antiquated aspect of state law permitting child marriages.

The bizarre loophole gives judges the option to grant marriage licenses with no minimum age - a provision Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, hopes to end.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, the Department of Health reported that in 2016 there were 42 grooms and 166 brides who were under age 18 at marriage. From 2012-2016, the state averaged 36 grooms and 183 brides who were minors.

Furthermore, Unchained At Last, an advocacy group working to outlaw child marriage across the U.S., found that more than 8,400 Tennessee minors were married in Tennessee between 2000 and 2014. Three brides were age 10 while one groom was 11 - the nation’s youngest on both counts - and all were married to adults, according to the group’s data.

In 2018, such a barbaric practice is unthinkable. Adolescents are too emotionally and physically immature to cope with the interpersonal pressures of marriage and sexuality, and they certainly have no place in the beds of adults.

Yet when Jernigan’s bill went before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, legislators nixed it, acting on an email from former lawmaker David Fowler, president of the conservative Family Action Council of Tennessee. Fowler claimed a child marriage ban could interfere with a lawsuit he is developing against the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

First, same-sex marriage is law, and hundreds of thousands of marriages have taken place since the Court’s ruling. Reversing it would bog down the state and the nation in a quagmire of legal challenges. Tennessee should just move on. Second, it’s unconscionable for lawmakers to hold the welfare of children hostage to political posturing.

Thankfully, public outrage prompted lawmakers to bring Jernigan’s bill back to the House subcommittee.

Tennessee has long suffered the decidedly unfair reputation of being a backward state - an insult unfortunately bolstered by traditionally low rankings in such key indicators as public health and education. Legislators have not helped things over the years with impositions on sex education, proposals to bar evolution instruction, the infamous “Don’t say gay” bill and other base-rallying measures that have captured national headlines.

Continuing to allow child marriage is the last thing this state needs. More importantly, it’s the last thing our children need. Lawmakers should fast-track Jernigan’s bill and make the ban the law of the land as soon as possible.

Online: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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March 20

The Commercial Appeal on the new head coach of the “beleaguered” University of Memphis men’s basketball program:

Hiring Penny Hardaway as new head coach wasn’t just the right move for the beleaguered University of Memphis men’s basketball program. It was the right move for Memphis.

Anfernee Deon Hardaway is more than an accomplished basketball player and coach. He is a true Memphian, a man whose life has exemplified the grit and grind, the grace and generosity that define this community.

Like so many children in Memphis, Hardaway grew up in a distressed neighborhood and was raised by his grandmother.

Like too many young people in Memphis, Hardaway was a gunshot victim and a struggling student who was academically ineligible to play ball in college.

Like countless kids he grew up with, played with, and later mentored and coached, Hardaway’s resilience helped him overcome the obstacles and beat the odds.

His story isn’t just about his success on the basketball court. It’s about his relentless and faithful success here on his home court.

Hardaway grew up in the distressed Binghamton neighborhood, raised by his grandmother, Louise, an Arkansas sharecropper who bought and paid off her home working as a nanny, maid and city schools cook. She liked to call him “pretty” but his friends called him “penny.”

Hardaway played basketball at Lester Middle School and then Treadwell High and became a star, averaging 36 points and 10 rebounds as a senior and becoming Parade Magazine National High School player of the year.

He grew up wanting to be a Memphis Tiger, but he was academically ineligible and had to sit out the 1990-91 season. He stayed in Memphis and made the team and the dean’s list.

During his freshman season, he was robbed at gunpoint. A stray bullet broke three bones in his right foot. He stayed in Memphis, became a two-time All-American and led the Tigers to the Elite Eight in 1992.

He was drafted by the Orlando Magic after his junior year in 1993, but he returned to school and graduated in May 2003.

In the meantime, Hardaway became a superstar and a multi-millionaire - an All-Star who helped lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995, and member of the U.S.A.’s gold-medal Dream Team in 1996, and the face of the “Lil Penny” Nike ad campaign.

Injuries forced him to retire from the NBA in 2007 and brought him home. He didn’t rest on his wealth or his laurels. He donated $1 million for the UofM’s sports hall of fame building. He also volunteered to help Desmond Merriweather, a friend who was coach at Lester Middle, and then East High.

In 2012, he started Team Penny, which became one of the most successful youth basketball programs in the country. When Merriweather lost his battle with cancer, Hardaway took over as head coach and has led East High to three consecutive state championships.

Can he lead his hometown University of Memphis Tigers to an NCAA title? That would be wonderful, but at this point it’s irrelevant. He already has proven that he’s a champion in and of his hometown.

Penny Hardaway was born to coach the Memphis Tigers. He’s all-Memphis and true-blue.

Online: https://www.commercialappeal.com/

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