Feb wrap: Dems; recycling fire; anti-vaxxers sue church

Betty BeanInside 640, Knox Scene, West Knox

The early voting numbers are in for the 2020 party primaries, and Democrats are smiling.

Although Republicans will point out that Donald Trump is unopposed for re-election while the Democrats have a hotly contested race going on, the numbers are doubtless making Democrats happy. Compare and contrast attached numbers for the 2016 (3-1-2016 Early Voting Spreadsheet) and 2020 primaries here, paying particular attention to primary ballots requested by party.

Johnson, Briggs introduce bill to regulate recycling facilities

Nobody who lives or works along the Central Avenue corridor is going to forget last May 1 anytime soon. That morning, a forklift backfired and set a pile of cardboard ablaze at the recycling plant off Morelia Avenue. Soon the flames were licking skyward as if trying to compete with the thick plume of black smoke that was climbing up the side of Sharp’s Ridge and hovering over Oakwood Lincoln Park. The neighbors would learn that the multiple explosions they were hearing were propane tanks blowing up.

There was much confusion and panic. First, residents were told not to turn on their air conditioners; then they were told to go ahead and plug them in. Streets were barricaded and those who lived closest to Ft. Loudon Waste and Recycling were ordered to evacuate – some on foot to get around the barricades. Anger grew when the neighbors learned that the recycling plant owners were delinquent on their city taxes and virtually unregulated by the state.

Ten months later, the plant appears to be conducting business as usual, and the neighbors hadn’t had much good news until they learned that there could be some help coming in the form of a bill sponsored by state Rep. Gloria Johnson and Sen. Richard Briggs.

Johnson said the bill requires recycled materials processing facilities (RMPFs) to get permits to operate.

“The commissioner will promulgate rules for the permitting process, and with a permit, we will be able to enforce stricter penalties for bad actors. The waste (disposal) folks are already permitted. The RMPF folks don’t have to have permits. They would like to keep it that way.”

House bill HB2793 (Senate bill SB2521) are moving through the process.

Anti-vaxxers sue Cedar Springs

There seems to be some confusion in West Knoxville about a state law requiring children to be vaccinated before they can be enrolled in schools or childcare centers. Jason and Lindsay Wynne are suing Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church for refusing to enroll their child in the Weekday School’s Administered Child Care Program. The Wynnes say the state-mandated immunizations violate their religious beliefs.

Although the state maintains a list of diseases against which children must be immunized before they may enroll in such programs, the issue gets thorny because the law also says that “… In the absence of an epidemic or immediate threat of an epidemic, this section shall not apply to any child whose parent or guardian files with school authorities a signed, written statement that the immunization and other preventive measures conflict with the parent’s or guardian’s religious tenets and practices, affirmed under the penalties of perjury.”

The Wynnes, through a lawsuit filed in Chancery Court on Feb. 13, said that Cedar Springs based its decision on its own enrollment policy, not state law. They are asking the court to order Cedar Springs to admit the child and “…to recognize the Wynnes’ religious beliefs as an exemption to the religious requirement.”

Cedar Springs has not filed an answer yet, but it’s not a bad bet to predict that they’ll cite the need to protect students from a plethora of illness circulating this winter.

Betty Bean is a veteran reporter for Knox and Sevier counties. Reach her at bbeanster@aol.com.

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