News

SCOTUS Holds Caps on Political Contributions

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday affirmed a lower court’s decision upholding limits on direct contributions to political parties, the ABA Journal reports. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch voted in dissent, indicating that on campaign finance cases, Gorsuch might lean as conservative as Thomas, who believes that all campaign finance limits should be subject to strict scrutiny.  
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Supreme Court Strikes Down N.C. Voting Maps

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional district maps in a ruling today, holding that the state had engaged in racist gerrymandering, CNN reports. Read the full opinion by Justice Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court's website. The N.C. legislature will now have to redraw the districts. The decision comes after a SCOTUS ruling last week held a lower court’s decision that the state passed a voter ID law that would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
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State Legislature Adjourns Until 2018

The Tennessee legislature adjourned last week concluding the first part of the 110th General Assembly. Out of the nearly 1,500 bills filed by legislators, many passed both the House and Senate and have either been assigned a public chapter or are in process of being assigned a public chapter. TBA members can look at the status of legislation by the category. The Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes January 2018 to wrap up the second half of the 110th General Assembly.
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SCOTUS Will Not Reinstate N.C. Voter ID Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has again declined to reinstate North Carolina’s voter ID law, NPR reports. The law, considered one of the strictest in the nation, was found by a lower court to have been intentionally designed to stop African-Americans from voting. The appeals court said the law would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” This is the second time that North Carolina Republicans have attempted to have the Supreme Court revisit the case.
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White House Panel to Investigate Voter Fraud

President Donald Trump signed an executive order today launching a commission that will review voter fraud, the Washington Post reports. The president’s “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” would examine allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration. It will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Trump has alleged in the past that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the commission, saying it would lead to increased voter suppression into Republican-controlled state governments.  
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White House Panel to Investigate Voter Fraud

President Donald Trump signed an executive order today launching a commission that will review voter fraud, the Washington Post reports. The president’s “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” would examine allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration. It will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Trump has alleged in the past that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the commission, saying it would lead to increased voter suppression into Republican-controlled state governments.  
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TBA Limited Partnership Bill Adopted By Legislature

The TBA’s Tennessee Uniform Limited Partnership Act (TULPA) was adopted by unanimous vote of the House this week, clearing its last legislative hurdle. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton), modernizes and harmonizes provisions of the limited partnership law with other forms of business organization. The 110th General Assembly adjourned today and will reconvene on Jan. 9, 2018. 
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Senate Gives Final Approval to State Budget Bill

The Tennessee Senate signed off last night on a $37 billion state budget, which will now head to Gov. Bill Haslam for approval, the Tennessee Journal reports. Only Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and Sen. Lee Harris (D-Memphis) voted against the proposal. The House approved the budget last week
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Bill Provides for Triple Legal Fees in Gun Rights Lawsuits

A proposal that would put cities and counties that ban guns in public buildings at risk of lawsuits passed the state House yesterday, the Times Free Press reports. The bill asks local authorities to choose between allowing those with handgun permits to bring guns to public locations or else buy metal detectors, hire security and check bags at those locations. It would also offer expanded protections for gun-rights groups to sue on behalf of those who feel slighted by gun restrictions, including being eligible for triple attorney’s fees. The Tennessee Journal reported that in House floor debate, Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, and other critics said the provision for lawyers receiving triple the fees they are due for work on a lawsuit is unprecedented in Tennessee. Dunn's amendment to delete the fees provision was killed, 60-32.
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State House Halts After Bipartisan Insurrection on Budget

The legislature came to a halt this morning after a group of frustrated Republican House members held a meeting with Democrats to advance last-minute changes to the state’s budget, the Tennessean reports. The House did not take a vote on the budget bill and adjourned until tomorrow morning. The Senate, which had been awaiting House approval before taking up the measure, adjourned until Monday. Earlier today after going through a series of bills during a floor session, the House went into recess before taking up the various budget bills. A flurry of amendments to the budget were filed in the last 24 hours, many of them multi-million dollar changes to the $37 billion budget proposal. Read more about discussed amendments at The Tennessee Journal.
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TNGOP Names New Executive Director

The Tennessee Republican Party has named a new executive director, five months after electing a new chairman, the Nashville Post reports. Former TNGOP political director and deputy executive director Michael Sullivan will take the reins, after serving as the state director for the Republican National Committee in Iowa in 2015 and 2016.
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Obergefell to Visit Tennessee to Urge ‘LGBT Erasure’ Veto

Jim Obergefell, the primary plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark same-sex marriage case, will visit the Tennessee state Capitol tomorrow to urge Gov. Bill Haslam to veto the so-called “LGBT erasure” bill, the Tennessean reports. The legislation requires undefined terms in state law to be given their “natural and ordinary meaning.” The measure includes terms such as “husband,” “wife,” “mother” and “father,” which are not explicitly defined in state law. It heads to Haslam’s desk after passing the Senate last week and the House last month.
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TBA Limited Partnership Bill Recommended for Passage

The TBA’s Tennessee Uniform Limited Partnership Act (TULPA) cleared its last major Senate hurdle today when the Senate Finance Committee recommended it for passage. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton), modernizes and harmonizes the provisions of the limited partnership law with other forms of business organization. The bill had to win Finance Committee approval because of a small fiscal note associated with filing fees. With the Finance Committees in both houses appearing to be close to wrapping up the budget, the General Assembly is expected to adjourn for the year early next week.

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May 'Journal' Now Available Online

“The withdrawal of the Legal Services Corporation funding would be a crippling blow to our access to justice community at a time when need for their services has never been greater,” writes TBA President Jason Long in the June Tennessee Bar Journal. Long speaks out for the LSC in the face of a proposed budget that would obliterate it, asking lawyers to contact their representatives. Also read about how more than 300 years ago when pirates terrorized the Caribbean it appeared to be a free-for-all on the high seas. But there was a certain form of democracy being carried out among them, as the pirates operated their own form of the Rule of Law. It's detailed in this month’s Journal.

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House Members Spar After Accidentally Honoring Klan Leader

Tennessee House members sparred yesterday after they unwittingly voted in favor of a resolution honoring the achievements of Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Tennessean reports. Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyra), apologized to members of the black caucus after sponsoring the resolution to honor Shane Kastler, the author of a book about Forrest. “I passed this not trying to hurt anybody's feelings,” Sparks said. Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar) said he thought Sparks “pulled a fast one,” adding that he would take his vote back if he could.
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Bill Assigning ‘Natural, Ordinary Meaning’ to Terms Heads to Haslam’s Desk

The Tennessee Senate voted 23-6 yesterday to assign “natural and ordinary meaning” to terms in state law, drawing criticism from LGBT groups who view the bill as discriminatory, the Tennessean reports. The bill fails to define what terms it seeks to clarify, but resembles a similar previous measure that singled out terms like “husband” and “wife.” Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) said the bill was designed to compel courts to side with Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion in the landmark same-sex marriage ruling. The House approved the measure last month, so it now heads to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk for approval.

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Longtime Bankers Association General Counsel to Step Down

Tim Amos, longtime lobbyist for the Tennessee Bankers Association, will leave the group at the end of the year to launch his own legal and government affairs firm, the Nashville Post reports. Amos joined the organization as general counsel in 1985. Prior to that, he was an attorney for the Tennessee General Assembly, where he worked with the Senate and House Commerce committees and the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
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New Law Would Toughen Penalties, Fines for Elder Abuse

Legislation that increases penalties and fines for elderly abuse and creates a new offense for those who do not report it passed out of the House Criminal Justice Committee today and will now go to the House Finance Committee. Sponsored by Rep. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, and Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, the bill (HB0810/SB1230) is supported by the District Attorneys General Conference, which was acting on findings provided by a governor’s task force. The Senate version of the bill, which is set to go before the Finance, Ways and Means Committee, differs some from the House version. It applies the protection to those 80 and older, while the House version applies it to those 70 and older. A fiscal note attached to the bill says there would be a $4.2 million cost for additional incarceration if the bill is passed.

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Asset Forfeiture Bill Delayed in House, Moves Forward in Senate

A bill which would change state law to require a conviction before a criminal’s assets are seized has moved forward with amendments in the Tennessee Senate, but was taken off-notice in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, effectively delaying it until next year. The bill was taken off-notice without discussion by its sponsor, Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville). In the Senate, the bill will head to the floor with an amendment that requires the seizing law enforcement officer to mail a Notice of Forfeiture Warrant Hearing to the owner within five days of the seizure and allows the property owner to be present at the probable cause hearing.
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Williamson County Businessman Joins Governor’s Race

Williamson County businessman Bill Lee, former CEO of Lee Company, will seek the Republican nomination for governor of Tennessee, the Tennessean reports. Lee, a political novice, will face former Tennessee Economic and Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and likely several others in the GOP primary. On the Democratic side, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has announced his candidacy as well.
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Williamson County Businessman Joins Governor’s Race

Williamson County businessman Bill Lee, former CEO of Lee Company, will seek the Republican nomination for governor of Tennessee, the Tennessean reports. Lee, a political novice, will face former Tennessee Economic and Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and likely several others in the GOP primary. On the Democratic side, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has announced his candidacy as well.
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ASAE Opposes Tennessee Bill Aimed at Association Codes of Ethics

The American Society of Association Executives has released a statement against a Tennessee bill that would require state licensing boards to create unique ethics rules for each profession, thus undermining ethical codes established by professional associations. “This bill potentially puts additional unnecessary burdens on all state licensed professionals in Tennessee, and may cause Tennessee professionals to be out of compliance with nationally recognized standards for their vocation,” the organization wrote in a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam on April 19. The bill was created to allow mental health counselors and therapists to disregard sections of the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics in order to deny services to LGBT individuals. ASAE argues that the legislation gives "rise to state sanctioned discrimination."
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Tennessee AG Says Bill Could Conflict with Gay Marriage Ruling

Attorney General Herbert Slatery says in a new opinion that legislation requiring the use of the “natural and ordinary meaning” of undefined words in Tennessee code -- including “husband,” “wife,” “mother” and “father” -- could conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling as well as state laws about interpreting gender-specific words as inclusive, the Times Free Press reports. The Senate could vote on the bill next week. The House passed it last month.
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Tennessee AG Says Bill Could Conflict with Gay Marriage Ruling

Attorney General Herbert Slatery says in a new opinion that legislation requiring the use of the “natural and ordinary meaning” of undefined words in Tennessee code -- including “husband,” “wife,” “mother” and “father” -- could conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling as well as state laws about interpreting gender-specific words as inclusive, the Times Free Press reports. The Senate could vote on the bill next week. The House passed it last month.
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Gilmore Announces Run for State Senate

Tennessee Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, announced her intention to run in 2018 for the state Senate seat now held by Sen. Thelma Harper, the Tennessean reports. Gilmore was first elected to the state House in 2006, and previously considered challenging Harper in a Democratic primary in 2014. It is unclear whether Harper will seek reelection next year.
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