News

Report Says Crenshaw Vote Will Come Monday

The U.S. Senate today reached an agreement to vote on confirmation of Waverly Crenshaw as a U.S. District Court judge in Tennessee's Middle District, according to a post from Knoxville News Sentinel Washington reporter Michael Collins. Crenshaw was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2015 and was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee eight months ago. 

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Harwell Moving Durham's Office to 'Protect All Parties'

State Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, will be moved to offices away from the Capitol complex as an investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior continues, House Speaker Beth Harwell announced today. Durham’s access to committee rooms and the House chamber will be limited to when meetings are taking place, the Nashville Post reports. "Although the Attorney General's investigation is ongoing," Harwell, R-Nashville, said, "I feel compelled to take proactive steps to protect all parties concerned until the conclusion of the investigation." The move comes as Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced he found Durham’s “alleged behavior may pose a continuing risk to unsuspecting women" at the Capitol complex. 

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Bill Permitting Video Testimony Fails in House Committee

A bill, which as amended would have permitted live video transmission of testimony in criminal cases, failed to move forward today. The measure (HB0400) by Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer, was placed on the summer study calendar of the House Criminal Justice Committee. The TBA opposed the measure on the grounds that it contravened the Confrontation Clause of the Tennessee Constitution, which grants the accused the right to "face to face" confrontation. Nathan Ridley, representing the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, testified against the legislation.

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House Approves Bill That Permits Counselors to Deny Service on Religious Grounds

The Associated Press reports a bill that would allow counselors to turn away patients based on their personal beliefs has passed in the state House. The Senate already approved the measure (SB1556 / HB1840), but must approve an amendment adopted by the House before the bill can head to Gov. Bill Haslam. The American Counseling Association has condemned the measure.

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AG: Fantasy Sports Are 'Illegal Gambling' in Tennessee

An opinion released today from Attorney General Hebert Slatery said all fantasy sports contests amount to “illegal gambling” in Tennessee. “The participants do not control how selected athletes perform in actuality on a given day …Thus, absent legislation specifically exempting fantasy sports contests from the definition of 'gambling,' these contests constitute illegal gambling under Tennessee law,” Slatery writes. The Tennessean reports the opinion was requested by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

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Challenge to Abortion Amendment Vote in Court Today

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp today said he will rule as soon as possible in a case challenging the way the state tabulated votes for a 2014 constitutional amendment, which clarified the state does not protect abortion. Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter, arguing for the state, said there is no proof that voters participated in a voting scheme that asked voters to “double your vote” by skipping the governor’s race and approving Amendment 1. Amendments must be passed by “a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor, voting in their favor.” Nashville attorney Bill Harbison, who is representing the plaintiffs, said the state is incorrectly interpreting the way the amendment votes should be counted. Read more from The Associated Press

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Bill Altering DUI, Drug Penalties Heads to Governor's Desk

The bill that would lower the legal penalties for repeated drug possession and increase penalties for repeat DUI offenders is now headed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk. The Tennessean reports the state Senate yesterday approved the measure (HB 1478) with a 32-0 vote after the House signed off on it last week. 

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State Senate, House Sign Off on Bible as State Book

The state Senate on Monday voted to make the Holy Bible the state’s official book by a 19-8 margin, The Tennessean reports. The state House approved the measure (SB1108 / HB0615) last year, and now the speakers of the House and Senate must sign off on the legislation before it can officially head to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk. A spokesperson for Gov. Haslam today said the "governor has constitutional questions and personal reservations about this legislation," the Associated Press reports

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Record Number of Women Seek GOP-Held Seats in Legislature

The Tennessean reports at least 23 women from across the state are running as Democrats in hopes of entering the male-dominated Tennessee legislature. Most of the women, whose ages range from 28 to 77, are running for public office for the first time. Sydney Rogers is running for the seat of House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and communications professional Holly McCall is seeking the seat of Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin.

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Sen. Dickerson Writes About Evidence Preservation Bill

Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville wrote an op-ed for The Tennessean about his bill, SB 2342, which would preserve biologic evidence until the defendant is executed, dies or is released from prison. “…The cost and effort to maintain biologic evidence is minimal when compared with our duty to ensure that our criminal justice system provides every possible safeguard when dealing with issues of life and death," he writes. 

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Legal Challenge to Abortion Measure in Court Tomorrow

A challenge to the 2014-voter-approved abortion measure will be heard tomorrow in court. Amendment 1, approved by 53 percent of the vote, adds these words to Tennessee’s constitution: "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." The plaintiffs -- including Planned Parenthood of Middle & Eastern Tennessee -- are asking the federal court to order sate election officials to recount the vote, the Tennessean reports.

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Democrat Sydney Rogers to Challenge Harwell

Sydney Rogers, executive director of Alignment Nashville, announced she will run as a Democrat to challenge House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, for her seat. “Representative Harwell is in a position to make a difference, and she has become the protector of the status quo,” said Rogers, who is also an administrator at Nashville State Community College. The Tennessean reports Rogers will run for the seat in House District 56, which contains some of Davidson County’s most conservative neighborhoods.

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No Update on Durham Investigation

The Tennessean reports it is unclear if Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s investigation into Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, will be concluded by the end of the legislative session in April. Several lawmakers said they have not received updates from Slatery on the investigation. The probe was launched following allegations of inappropriate behavior and misconduct against Durham.

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House Approves Changes to Drug, DUI Penalties

The state House yesterday approved a measure (HB 1478) that would lower the legal penalties for repeated drug possession, WPLN reports. Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. William Lambert, R-Cottontown, drug possession would become a misdemeanor. The legislation also heightens the penalties for driving drunk in an effort to make people with numerous DUIs serve more time behind bars. The state Senate could vote on the proposal next week.

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178 Apply to Lead Davidson County Election Commission

The Tennessean reports 178 people have applied to be Nashville’s next election administrator. Kent Wall, who currently holds the position, announced in January that he will retire after this month. The Davidson County Election Commission named Deputy Election Administrator Joan Nixon as interim administrator.

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House Committee Fails to Pass Bill Eliminating Class Actions Against Nursing Homes

The House Civil Justice Committee yesterday failed to pass HB2558 by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, that would have eliminated a cause of action against nursing homes in the form of a class action in the Tennessee Adult Protection Act. The measure’s companion, SB2063, by Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, was removed yesterday from the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar.

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House Passes Measure Changing Grandparent Visitation

A measure that makes changes to grandparent visitation moved out of Senate Judiciary Committee today. The bill, SB1670, is sponsored by Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge.

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House Civil Justice Committee Forwards Bills

The House Civil Justice Committee this week sent several bills to the House floor before it closed for the year. Among those are: changes to the conservator law, HB2030 by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby; changes to the tolling statute for those persons who “lack capacity” were made with HB1651 by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greenville; and HB2033, also by Rep. Faison, as amended creates civil immunity for those property owners who do not post “no guns allowed” signs.

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Senate Committee Kills De-Annexation Bill

The Senate’s State and Local Government Committee today killed a measure seeking to allow communities to hold elections to reverse annexation by cities. The committee voted to study the measure after the legislation session ends, the Associated Press reports.

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House Committee Approves Refugee Act Lawsuit

The House State Government Committee yesterday approved a resolution (SJR 0467) that would require Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement. The resolution includes a provision that would allow the legislature to hire outside counsel. Proponents of the measure argue “the government failed to consult with Tennessee on the continued placement of refugees,” according to The Tennessean. The Senate last month approved the resolution. It now heads to the House finance committee.

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Bill Addressing Garnishments from Individual Debtor Approved

Legislation proposed by the TBA Creditor’s Practice Section to address garnishments to collect from an individual debtor, no matter whether the debtor is an employee or independent contractor, cleared committees in the House and Senate today. The bill (HB1775 / SB1969), sponsored by Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, as amended heads to the floor for final action.

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16 GOP Senators Support Meeting With Garland

Sixteen Republican U.S. senators say they will meet with President Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. NBC News reports the number is over 25 percent of the GOP Caucus. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, will be the first to meet with Garland in a meeting planned for today.

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Bill to Seal Police Bodycam Videos Dies

A measure that would have sealed Tennessee police body camera recordings from the public died today in a House committee. The Associated Press reports the matter was sent to be studied after the legislative session.

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Adopted Bill Will Require Public Records Policies

The state legislature last week passed a bill (SB2033 / HB2082) that will require nearly every government office across the state to have a written public records policy by July 17, 2017. The policy cannot be less open than state law allows, the Associated Press reports. The measure requires the state comptroller's office to come up with a model public records policy that agencies can adopt.

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ABC Executive Director Abruptly Resigns

Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission Executive Director Keith Bell announced his sudden departure from the commission last week in an email to lawmakers and lobbyists. The Tennessean reports Bell will be temporarily replaced by Commission Assistant Director Gina Winfree, who is set to join the Nashville firm Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin in April. Bell’s resignation comes as the ABC is processing hundreds of applications for retailers to begin selling wine this summer, as permitted by a 2014 state law

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