New Law Simplifies Clerk Fees, Strengthens Courthouse Security
A new state law, effective Jan. 1, could generate millions of dollars to bolster courthouse security in 94 counties without costing taxpayers a penny. Knox County opted out of the bill, which was enacted by the General Assembly during the 2005 legislative session.
The statute also simplifies the system used by court clerks to collect fees in civil and criminal cases. Under the new law, most fees will become uniform across the state, shifting to flat fees applying to categories of judicial proceedings.
The existing law, adopted in 1974, includes 120 different dollar amounts or percentages to be collected for various services performed by court clerks. Fees for the same services also vary from county to county.
“This legislation was the result of months of study and work by a Tennessee Judicial Council committee and others who were committed to coming up with a revenue neutral uniform system of clerk fees,” said Elizabeth Sykes, interim administrative director of the courts. “As they are now, there is an incredible lack of uniformity from one county or court to the next.”
The bill adopted this year was amended as it worked its way through the legislative process to add $2 to continuance fees, raising the state-mandated fee to $7. Beginning with the New Year, the additional $2 will be collected for every continuance in every court. The money will remain in the counties where it is collected and must be used for courthouse security.
“A number of tragic incidents across the country in recent years have put the spotlight on the critical need to make our courthouses safe and secure,” Sykes said. “But, it has been difficult for some counties to come up with money to buy the equipment and pay personnel to make sure that the public, judges, lawyers, parties in court cases and everyone who uses our courthouses can be assured they are safe facilities. This is going to make it possible for counties provide courthouse security without relying on taxpayers to foot the bill.”
TDOT map details
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is debuting a new electronic road conditions map as part of its TDOT SmartWay Information System on the department’s website.
“This is an exciting advancement in the level of information we can provide to the public,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “It is a much more sophisticated map that can provide specific road condition information like we were never able to do before, plus it is now easier and faster to use.”
This is the first major improvement to the map since the late 1990s. In its early form, the map provided road conditions only on a county by county basis.
“This advanced SmartWay system allows people to log on and pinpoint specific roadways rather than just a county to find out the current driving condition in that spot,” added Judy Steele, Director of TDOT’s Community Relations Division. “We sincerely hope that people will use the map frequently and begin to depend on it as an important travel tool when planning their driving trips any time of the year.”
Weather related road conditions displayed on the map includes snow, ice and flooding.
Users of the map can view information on a statewide, regional or local scale. Options include information about construction, roadway incidents, traffic flow and road conditions. The map will also allow the user to view TDOT SmartWay cameras and message signs in the cities where those systems have been established. Those cities include Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis.
To access the map go to the TDOT home page at www.tennessee.gov/tdot.