Associated Press

NASHVILLE,‭ ‬Tenn.‭ (‬AP‭) — ‬A constitutional amendment to ban an income tax in Tennessee has passed the House.

The measure was approved‭ ‬73-17‭ ‬Thursday.‭ ‬The companion legislation passed the Senate last year.‭ ‬The measure must now be approved by a two-thirds vote of both chambers in the next General Assembly before it's placed on the ballot in‭ ‬2014.

Opponents of the legislation say it's unnecessary because the state constitution already bans an income tax and that the measure is politically motivated.

NASHVILLE,‭ ‬Tenn.‭ (‬AP‭) — Tennessee's unemployment rate fell four-tenth to‭ ‬8.7‭ percent in December,‭ ‬the lowest rate in three years.

State officials say that just over‭ ‬11,000‭ ‬people gained employment last month over November when the rate was‭ ‬9.1‭ ‬percent.

From November to December,‭ the professional and business services sector added jobs, as did durable goods manufacturing,‭ ‬and the clothing and accessories sectors.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A state trade mission to China and South Korea in April will focus on Tennessee's medical device manufacturers and other health care companies.

The state announced yesterday that Commissioner Bill Hagerty of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development will lead the April trip.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge in Knoxville has ordered a man suspected in a $6.5 million prescription painkiller operation jailed until his trial in March.

The ruling came at a Tuesday detention hearing for Eric Christopher Hefner. 

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Drug Enforcement Administration agent Bethel Poston testified during the hearing that -by conservative estimate - Hefner brought 260,000 pills into East Tennessee in a single year.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers are proposing legislation that could affect Occupy Nashville protesters.

The measure says a person can’t live on publicly owned property that isn't designated or permitted as residential.

Protesters have occupied the plaza across the street from the state Capitol since early October. State troopers raided the encampment in late October and made 55 arrests, but the state has had to back down.

SMYRNA, Tenn. (AP) — The National Weather Service says an EF-0 tornado did touch down near Smyrna yesterday afternoon, causing some property damage but no injuries or deaths.

The tornado had relatively low wind speeds of between 80 and 85 miles per hour. That didn't stop it from overturning a recreational vehicle, uprooting trees and seriously damaging the roof of a house.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — House Speaker Beth Harwell is voicing opposition to efforts to water down Tennessee's open meetings laws. She’s calling on a Republican colleague to drop a bill that seeks to make changes to the current rules.

Spokeswoman Kara Owen said in an email yesterday that Harwell doesn’t support efforts to allow members of local governments to meet behind closed doors as long as a quorum isn't present.

Owen says Harwell has spoken to Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin and that Casada agreed not to pursue the bill this year.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A measure that seeks to ban Tennessee public schools from teaching about gay issues is once again before lawmakers.
The proposal, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, is sponsored by Republican Rep. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald and is scheduled to be heard today in the House Education Subcommittee.

The companion bill passed the Senate last year. It limits all sexually related instruction to, as the measure reads "natural human reproduction science" in kindergarten through eighth grade.

MEMPHIS, Tenn (AP/WMOT) --  Two Tennessee newspapers have teamed up to launch PolitiFact Tennessee, part of a national organization that works to hold politicians accountable by fact-checking their statemenst and claims.

The Commercial Appeal of Memphis and the Knoxville News Sentinel will examine claims made by local, state and national officials. PolitiFact Tennessee will also track Gov. Bill Haslam's progress in meeting his campaign promises.

The papers that participate research statements by elected officials and others and rate their accuracy.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's highway deaths in 2011 stayed below 1,000 for just the third time in 48 years.

Preliminary figures released by the Tennessee Department of Safety show the state had 947 traffic-related deaths last year. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, that could make 2011 the safest year on Tennessee roads in nearly a half century.

Last year's preliminary figure is six more than the total in 1963, when the state was less populated and fewer cars were on the road.

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