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Gas prices seemed to find level ground over the weekend after increasing for more than two weeks. Before the weekend, gas prices rose an average of 12 cents in 19 days nationwide, and 14 cents in 20 days in Tennessee. AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said gas prices rode the wave of rising oil prices last week, pushing pump prices slightly higher in some regions before eventually stalling out over the weekend. Jenkins said motorists should expect more volatility at the pump throughout the next couple of months, as prices are poised to gain another 30 cents by the summer. The national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.40. Tennessee's average is $2.17, up 3 cents from a week ago and an increase of 13 cents from a month ago.
Tennessee is joining more than a dozen other states in urging an appeals court to reinstate President Donald Trump's revised travel ban. State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, a Collierville Republican considering a bid for governor next year, lauded Attorney General Herbert Slatery's office for filing a brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The states argue the ban falls within the president's authority to block foreigners from the U.S. They also reject the argument that it targets Muslims.
Norris last year sponsored legislation to allow the General Assembly to hire its own attorneys to file a legal challenge seeking to halt the federal refugee resettlement program in Tennessee after Slatery and Gov. Bill Haslam declined to sue over the issue.
Tennessee's attorney general has agreed that the state will drop two abortion limits similar to Texas laws struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The attorney general's office decision was contained in federal court filings Thursday. One requirement mandated that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges. The other forced abortion clinics to meet hospital-level surgical standards. The Supreme Court struck down similar Texas laws in June 2016. The Tennessee case has been on hold since December 2015 while awaiting the Supreme Court ruling. Thursday's filing says stopping enforcement will avoid continued litigation. In the lawsuit, the state will continue to defend another restriction that requires counseling and a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.
The Tennessee House has passed a bill that lets older adults without a college degree or certificate attend community college free of charge. The bill, which was pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam, comes three years after Tennessee became the first state in the nation to allow new high school graduates to receive free community college. The state currently offers free tuition to all adults at Tennessee's technical schools. The bill, which still has to clear the Senate, passed 87-6. The program is expected to cost the state $11 million after it is fully implemented. Officials say lottery proceeds will pay for the program. If the bill becomes law, both full and part-time students would be eligible to participate as early as fall 2018.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department will be partnering with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) to promote the third annual “Thumbs Down to Texting and Driving” campaign in April. This month is recognized as Distracted Driver Awareness Month. Agencies participate in the campaign by promoting safe driving habits and increase awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Throughout April, the THSO will use #ThumbsDownTn to promote the campaign via social media. “Texting and driving requires motorists to take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off the task of driving. This is a recipe for a crash, and that is a scary thought. It is arrogant and selfish to think that your dangerous and illegal behavior is acceptable. No one has the right to put another person’s life at risk like that,” said Cumberland County Sheriff Casey Cox. In 2016, Tennessee saw its highest number of known distracted driving crashes at 24,743. Those crashes resulted in the deaths of 58 people. Across the state, 28 individuals are injured a day in a crash caused by texting and driving.
For more information or to learn more about texting and driving, visit ww.tntrafficsafety.org/distracteddriving. (Photo courtesy Cumb. Co. Sheriff's Office)