Tennessee editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

March 10

Johnson City (Tenn.) Press on pseudoephedrine:

Law enforcement officials in the region say legislation proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam to limit the amount of pseudoephedrine Tennesseans can buy without a prescription is a good step in battling methamphetamine.

An even better step, they say, would be to require a prescription before any pseudoephedrine — the main ingredient in meth — can be purchased in this state.

The governor has agreed to a compromise that would allow 4.8 grams, or roughly 20 doses of pseudoephedrine, to be purchased a month without a prescription. There would be an annual limit of 14.4 grams.

Once a consumer reaches the limit -— either in a month or in a year — he or she must obtain a doctor's prescription to get more pseudoephedrine.

Meth production takes a huge bite out of tax dollars going to law enforcement. There is the cost cleaning up the very toxic meth labs. There are the medical and dental costs of those jailed for making meth. (Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said his office is now paying $1,000 more a month for a dentist to deal with cases of "meth mouth" at the jail.)

There is the cost of taking children into state custody as a result of a parent making meth. And there is the cost of investigating burglary and other theft crimes committed by meth addicts desperate for money to buy the drug.

Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said ending local meth production might mean traffickers will try to bring the drug in from other areas of the country. But that's OK, he said, because area law enforcement agencies do have the resources and expertise to tackle that problem.

Rausch told the Press last month that he and other members of the Tennessee Public Safety Coalition believe the only way to bring the meth problem under control is to require a prescription for any purchase of pseudoephedrine in Tennessee. He said the governor and state lawmakers are under the mistaken impression that Tennesseans would be opposed to that.

Online:

http://www.johnsoncitypress.com

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March 9

The Tennessean, Nashville, Tenn., on the walking horse legislation:

We used to think that soring — inflicting painful injuries to the legs and hooves of Tennessee Walking Horses to force them to adopt a high gait known as the "Big Lick" — was solely for the purpose of winning ribbons and prize money at horse shows.

After the latest maneuver by the "Big Lick" faction of the show-horse industry, we can see there is a special brand of inhumanity that thrives among us in Tennessee.

By pitting its own alternative legislation, courtesy of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, against the popular "Prevent All Soring Tactics" (PAST) bill, this group demonstrates how determined it is to continue secretly torturing animals. Stronger than a desire for mere show-ring glory, this appears to be about deriving pleasure from causing pain. That it is defenseless animals, and not people, only increases their ability to get away with it.

After decades of violations of the nation's Horse Protection Act, PAST offers a real chance to strengthen the law. The bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., would toughen inspection standards at horse shows and ban the use of chains and pads that are worn on the horses' legs and hooves, both to perpetuate pain for the horse when its hoof hits the ground and to hide scarring and other evidence of soring.

Blackburn's bill is, in fact, a Trojan horse — institutionalized abuse disguised as animal protection.

It would set up a single horse industry organization (HIO), whose board would be chosen by the current trainers association that is populated with repeat violators of the Horse Protection Act. Those HIOs that currently prohibit soring at their shows would be left out.

In short, Blackburn's legislation was the best that horse-abusers' money could buy, in the form of tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to her campaign, in order to continue torturing and maiming horses.

Whitfield's bill, endorsed by the nation's leading veterinary organizations and animal-protection groups, has 267 sponsors in the House, 47 co-sponsors in the Senate — and still we are far from complacent about its prospects.

What will U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker have to say about Whitfield's and Blackburn's legislation? So far — silence.

Soring is very much alive, and the bad actors in the walking horse industry are hardening their position instead of backing away from it, hoping to gut the laws that forbid them to do what they love: torment animals.

Online:

http://www.tennessean.com

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March 11

Knoxville (Tenn.) Sentinel on giving school boards leeway on when to replace, fix buses:

A proposal to lift the age limit for school bus use in Tennessee recognizes that different school systems place different demands on their buses, but one aspect has been missing from the discussion — the effect on areas under federal watch for air pollution.

Tennessee's current law allows the vehicles to be used for up to 17 years and requires at least two inspections a year. Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, would allow buses to stay in use regardless of their years of service or mileage as long as they pass their safety inspections.

The bill calls for two annual inspections after a school bus has been in service for 15 years and allows the Tennessee Department of Safety to charge a fee to districts for the reviews.

According to figures from the state Department of Education, there were nearly 9,000 school buses used across the state in the 2012-13 school year. Of those, fewer than 200 buses were 17 years old.

The issue is not unique to Tennessee.

Diesel engines can run hundreds of thousands of miles if properly maintained. Bowling said her bill allows school systems to come up with their own policies for how long they will use their school buses.

The bill acknowledges that districts vary in the demands placed on the vehicles. Wear and tear can differ from a flat, rural area in West Tennessee such as Haywood County to large cities such as Metro Nashville to mountainous Scott County.

Bus operators believe they will save money. New buses can cost more than $80,000, so even expensive repairs to existing buses can make financial sense.

But school systems in the Knoxville area have another consideration — air pollution.

Buses older than a decade emit twice as much pollution per mile as a semi-truck, according to the EPA. Replacing older buses with newer models that meet more stringent EPA emissions limits would help improve air quality, and school systems in the area should consider upgrading their fleets.

Much of the discussion about Bowling's proposal properly concerns safety. As long as student safety is not sacrificed, the Legislature should grant local school boards some latitude in managing their bus fleets.

Online:

http://www.knoxnews.com

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