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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 24, 2023


All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.


We start with local news…

State Legislators Sum Up Session (CDH)

As the 113th General Assembly came to a close this week, Maury County legislators reflected on a turbulent session resulting in robust conversations about gun laws, enhanced school safety legislation and the quickly infamous ousting of two Democrat legislators, following their use of a bullhorn in the House chamber to address gun reform.

Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, along with other top Republicans, voiced his opposition to Gov. Bill Lee's previous gun proposal dubbed as a "red flag" law, that would require emergency removal of firearms from a supposedly dangerous person's possession. The proposal quickly fell flat with the Republican supermajority in the legislature.

"I do not support 'red flag' laws that allow guns to be arbitrarily taken away from citizens," Cepicky said. "The decision should involve due process. The person accused should be able to appear in court to defend themselves. We need to look at how due process can take place and not strip Constitutional rights."

Lee proposed legislation on Wednesday that would create a temporary mental health risk protection order, expanding an existing state code that would allow law enforcement to block certain individuals from legally possessing firearms for a temporary period, if they're found to have threatened substantial harm to themselves or others.

The House Republican Caucus released a statement Wednesday that "any red flag law is a non-starter for House Republicans," referring to Lee's proposal with the colloquial term the governor later withdrew in an earlier statement.

Rep. Kip Capley, R-Summertown, also opposed Lee's suggested emergency gun law proposal.

“The tragedy that occurred at Covenant was heartbreaking, and we must ensure that students are protected in their classrooms. That is why I was proud to support legislation earlier this month that includes significant funding to strengthen safety at public and private schools across our state," Capley said.

"As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I would oppose any red flag law in Tennessee.”

Though, Cepicky said he supports enhanced background checks and strengthening laws the state already has in place.

Gun control conversations in the legislature were sparked by the Covenant Schools shooting that killed six people, three children and three adults at the private Nashville Christian school.

"We already have laws in place that can be looked at and strengthened," Cepicky said. "We need to look at the mental health component. The people who are doing these things, who look down the barrel and squeeze the trigger to shoot children is a 100% mental health issue."

Cepicky also said the legislature needs to assess how violent individuals with mental health issues are slipping through the cracks of the system.

"We need to look at quicker referrals into mental health institutions like Pinewood Springs and enhance school safety. Let's not be reactionary, but let's continue improving and tweaking our laws," Cepicky said.

"We have to fix this."

Referring to Democrats, Reps. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, Justin Pearson, D-Memphis and Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, who raised their voices on the House floor in support of gun reform, some using a bullhorn, Cepicky said issues are not going to get solved through them "screaming at us."

"They haven't filed one bill addressing gun legislation," Cepicky said at press time. "They have a voice. There is process and procedure to file a bill. What do you want to do? The way you are effective is to propose an idea. You don't go to the well because you don't get your way."

The House expelled Jones and Pearson, while expelling Johnson failed by one vote. However, Jones and Pearson quickly won interim appointments back to the House.

The three, praised by some for their actions to support stricter gun laws, are invited to visit the White House this week to talk with President Joe Biden.


Maury County Republicans Elect Leadership (MainStreetMaury)

Two Maury County commissioners — Gabe Howard and Aaron Miller — and a Maury County Board of Education member were among a group of men and women turned away from the Maury County Republican Party meeting on Thursday night. The group were refused a vote in the reorganization of the party due to a lack of official credentials, according to several individuals involved.

The party’s annual reorganization meeting was held at the Ridley Park 4-H Center to choose a new executive committee, including chair and vice chair. Jerry Bridenbaugh was elected as the party’s new chair against incumbent Debbie Matthews, while Lona Heins was elected vice chair.

“What a way to be treated when you’ve served your community faithfully,” said Howard, who was elected along with Miller as a Republican in the August 2022 election. “I got word at 4:30 this afternoon that there was a short list of folks that Maury County off-duty deputies were turning people away.”

The building was rented in the name of an individual who is not on the executive committee, rather than the county party, and Howard said the individual used that information to keep those on the list from entering the building. The building is owned by the University of Tennessee.

Miller said he was eventually allowed to enter the building and participate due to his active military service restricting his ability to vote.

In order to be a bona fide member of the party, one of the qualifications is to have voted in three of the four previous primaries as a Republican, while another option is to be vouched for by another bona fide member of the party. According to one person who was ousted from the meeting, vouching was not an allowed method to earn voting privileges.

Miller, Howard and Laura Nutt — all of whom were vouched for ahead of the 2022 election — were all elected as Republicans in August. Miller said a representative from the state executive committee informed him those vouches were not recognized by the party because the county executive committee did not have proper authority.

Miller stated that, in an attempt to negate his status as an elected Republican, he and others have been labeled as libertarians attempting to take over the party.

During the 5th District Congressional race, candidates Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck and Baxter Lee were removed from the ballot for a similar reason, despite having been vouched for — a move Matthews claimed publicly on a number of occasions was against the party’s rules.

“For them to say I’m not a Republican is pretty rich,” Howard said. “I was one primary short of meeting their definition of being ‘bona fide.’ I spend hundreds of hours away from my four young boys serving this community with conservative values and to be treated the way I was treated today is disgusting.

“What they pulled tonight was voter suppression at its core.”


The Well Outreach Event (WKOM Audio 5:19)

On Friday, the Well Outreach held a ribbon cutting for an expansion of their services into a seven county initiative called “Our Chance” which will help people out of poverty. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the event and got a chance to speak to The Well’s leadership and learn more…


First Farmers Update (Press Release)

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation (OTC Pink: FFMH), the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, reported that shareholders elected a slate of 10 directors and ratified the selection of Plante & Moran, PLLC as the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2023.

In comments made at the annual meeting of shareholders, Brian K. Williams, First Farmers’ Chairman and CEO, said, “First Farmers achieved the highest level of earnings in our 113-year history, and I want to thank all our team members for their contributions in reaching this milestone. Our team is passionate about our mission and values as a community banking partner, and we look forward to continued progress in 2023.

“We are also pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Christa S. Martin and W. Eric Mayberry as new members of First Farmers’ Board of Directors. They add an additional depth of experience to our Board of Directors along with their close connections to the markets we serve. We look forward to their counsel and expertise in shaping the strategic direction of our company in the future.”

Dr. Martin serves as the Assistant to the President for Access and Diversity for Columbia State Community College. She is past Vice Mayor of the City of Columbia and the first African American woman elected to that position. She is the recipient of numerous awards including: Nashville Business Journal Women of Influence Trailblazer Award; Middle Tennessee State University Unity Award; President’s Medal from Columbia State Community College; Maury County NAACP President’s Award; and League of Innovation and Excellence in Community Colleges. She holds a doctor of higher educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University, Masters of Science from Middle Tennessee State University, and a bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University.

Mr. Mayberry is the ninth President of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest state Farm Bureau. He guides its board of directors and works with county, district, state, and national leadership, partners in the agricultural industry, lawmakers and other decision makers to ensure agriculture remains prosperous in Tennessee. He previously served as vice president of Farm Bureau and was past president of the Humphreys County Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Mr. Mayberry operates a full-time farming operation in Humphreys County, Tennessee raising corn, soybeans and beef cattle on more than 1,000 acres.

Shareholders also re-elected the eight incumbent Directors of First Farmers and Merchants Corporation for a one-year term, including:

Jeffrey L. Aiken, Deputy Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Agriculture

Jonathan M. Edwards, President and CEO, Edwards Oil Company

E. Marlee Mitchell, Partner, Holland & Knight LLP

Jeffrey L. Pannell, CEO, Tennessee Farmers Insurance Companies

Richard C. Perko, President and CEO, Lee Company

H. Alan Watson, Retired CEO, Maury Regional Health

Brian K. Williams, Chairman & CEO of the Company

Gina B. Wolfe, Co-Owner, Wolfe Enterprises

About First Farmers and Merchants Corporation and First Farmers and Merchants Bank

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation is the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, a community bank serving the Middle Tennessee area through 22 offices in seven Middle Tennessee counties. As of December 31, 2022, First Farmers reported total assets of approximately $1.9 billion, total shareholders’ equity of approximately $97 million, and administered trust assets of $5.7 billion. For more information about First Farmers, visit us on the Web at www.myfirstfarmers.com 


CSCC Spring Concert (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College’s Department of Music will present its spring concert on April 27 at 1 p.m. in the Cherry Theater on the Columbia Campus.

 

“Please come and enjoy some great music,” said Holli Scholz, Columbia State music instructor. “We are doing a mix of music and styles, but we are for sure singing some folk songs and a few musicals. The students have grown so much in the last year, and they are excited to perform." 

Columbia State Choir students and students from the music studios of Dr. Mark Lee, Dr. Darryl Miller, Christine Poythress and Scholz will come together to perform in the upcoming concert. There will be performances from the choir, private voice students, a flute student, the jazz ensemble and piano duets from both private piano lessons and the group piano class. 

A few pieces that will be performed are numbers from musicals such as “Wicked,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Newsies,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man.” Folk songs such as “Aura Lee” by G. R. Poulton and “All Join Hands” arr. by E. Crocker will also be performed. 

In addition, the choir will perform many pieces such as a medley from “The Phantom of the Opera” by Andrew Lloyd Weber and a folk medley called “I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy” by R. Hunter. Musicians will include Alex Laguna, Gary Kramer, Daniel Holbrook, Tyler Cochran, Serenity Neely, Kelsey Carter, Rachel Grad, Phoebe Perkins, Luke Dodd, Lance Hein, Monica Neely, Jayden Mcfatridge, Lorrel Sood, Walker Williams, Daniel Schoenholz, Amelia Greenwald and Monica Neely. The choir will be accompanied by Dr. Darryl Miller and conducted by Holli Scholz. 

The concert is free and open to the public. The Cherry Theater is in the Waymon L. Hickman Building on the Columbia Campus, located at 1665 Hampshire Pike.


And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Mrs. Nancy Carolyn Fitzgerald Jarratt, 75, employee of school nutrition department of Maury County Public School System and resident of Columbia, died Friday, April 21, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services for Mrs. Jarratt will be conducted Monday at 3:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Cave Springs Cemetery.

The family will visit with friends on Monday from 1:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.


…And now, news from around the state…

New Titans Stadium Deal Pending (Tennessean)

Nashville’s council is days away from its final vote on what could be the most consequential deal in the city’s history: a proposal to build a new, enclosed $2.1 billion Tennessee Titans stadium on Metro-owned East Bank land poised for redevelopment. 

The team, Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s administration and state legislators have negotiated the deal’s general outline for at least a year. Final documents and details were released to council members and the public over the past several weeks. 

The Titans and the NFL would contribute $840 million in private financing to the new stadium's construction. The state of Tennessee would contribute $500 million in bonds, and Nashville would shoulder $760 million in revenue bonds to be paid using diverted sales taxes from transactions in and around the new stadium. The council and state previously authorized a 1% hotel tax increase to help pay for the facility, which is expected to bring in more than $10 million annually and will go into effect if and when the finalized deal receives council approval. 

Should council members approve the deal Tuesday, the city and state's combined $1.26 billion contribution will mark the highest public subsidy for a stadium in NFL history. 

Cooper's administration has marketed the proposal as an escape from Nashville’s current financial obligations in its 1996 lease with the team. Cooper says the deal would shift Nissan Stadium upgrade and maintenance costs to taxes paid by tourists instead of Nashville property taxpayers, and allow Metro to untether about 66 acres of current stadium parking lots for use in the city's new East Bank Vision Plan. The Titans would foot the bill for upkeep not covered by tax diversions and other revenue streams.

"The stadium deal relieves an enormous taxpayer burden and puts Metro in a stronger position to invest in fundamental neighborhood priorities ... rather than putting good money toward a deteriorating stadium," Cooper spokesperson TJ Ducklo said Thursday.

Union-backed community groups and about a quarter of the city's council oppose the deal, citing opportunity costs and the unknown cost of developing dozens of acres of surrounding Metro-owned land that the stadium financing plan will partially rely on to bring in sales tax dollars for maintenance and upgrades. The deal, according to Metro projections, will restrict nearly $3 billion in projected hotel and sales tax revenue to stadium-related uses over the new facility's 30-year lease.

"It's too large of a subsidy with not enough benefit for Nashville," At-large Council member Bob Mendes, a consistent critic of the deal, wrote in a 10-page February memo detailing his reasoning for rejecting the agreement.

Council members voted 25-11 to advance the deal on April 18 after approving several changes backed by the Titans and Cooper's administration, leaving Tuesday's vote as the final hurdle. The Metro Nashville Sports Authority Board, which would ultimately issue the local revenue bonds, approved the proposal earlier this month.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Country Music superstar Brad Paisley will headline the Let Freedom Sing! Music City July 4th Celebration presented by Dr Pepper, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp announced today. The downtown event will present one of the country’s largest July 4th fireworks show, which will be synchronized to live music from the GRAMMY-winning Nashville Symphony, and will feature charitable partner The Store. A free Amazon Family Fun Zone will include inflatables and live music. The concert and fireworks show are free and open to the public.

This is the second time Paisley will headline Let Freedom Sing! with his last appearance in 2021. Paisley will be joined by The War And Treaty, singer-songwriter Langhorne Slim and rising Country artist Tiera Kennedy, who will also perform the national anthem.

The event has regularly drawn more than 200,000 attendees – and a record-breaking 350,000 in 2021. Last year, Let Freedom Sing! generated $11 million in estimated direct visitor spending and an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 in attendance.


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