News

Former U.S. Attorney Kustoff Wins Congressional Seat

Germantown attorney David Kustoff won the Eighth Congressional District seat Tuesday night, defeating Democratic nominee Rickey Hobson of Somerville, the Memphis Daily News reports. The district covers 15 counties in West Tennessee including parts of Shelby County and Memphis. The seat has been held by Stephen Fincher, but he announced in February he would not seek another term. Kustoff is a former U.S. attorney and chair of the Shelby County Republican Party.

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Johnson Not Conceding in District 13 House Race

Former state Rep. Gloria Johnson, running to unseat incumbent Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, has filed an injunction against the Knox County Election Commission seeking access to names of provisional voters so her campaign can make sure they show up at the commission with a photo ID by the close of business today. Johnson made the move after saying the local election commissioner and state elections coordinator would not return her calls, Nashville Post reports. Johnson lost to Smith by 154 votes on Tuesday night. There are still 597 provisional ballots to be counted countywide, though it is not clear how many are for District 13. Knoxnews reports that 56 ballots were cast without photo ID. The remainder to the provisional ballots require verification of the voter’s registration.

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GOP Bolsters Control of General Assembly

Tennessee Republicans bolstered their “ironclad grip” on the General Assembly in yesterday's general election, dealing yet another blow to the minority party, which “continues to lose its relevancy at a rapid rate,” the Tennessean reports this morning. One bright spot for Democrats, however, was the pick up of state House seat from Shelby County, the Memphis Daily News reports. Get legislative election results here. See other election results by county in Tennessee and across the country.

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Get Judicial Election Results Tonight

Gavel to Gavel’s Bill Raftery will provide live election night coverage and results of more than 60 state supreme court races and four ballot items that could have a direct impact on state court systems. Voters in Oregon and Pennsylvania will be asked whether to extend or eliminate mandatory retirement ages for judges. Voters in Georgia will consider whether the legislature should take over the state’s judicial disciplinary commission. And voters in Arkansas will decide whether to extend the terms of office for clerks of court from two years to four years. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. EST.

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Court: Videos Do Not Meet Statutory Standard for Exploitation Conviction

The Tennessee Supreme Court today reversed and dismissed the conviction of a Knoxville-area man for “especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor” saying the videos he took of his 12-year-old daughter showed nudity but not sexual activity, both of which are needed to meet the requirements of the statute. The decision sends the exploitation convictions back to the lower court for a new trial on different charges with the justices suggesting the state might want to consider a charge of "attempt to commit especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor." The justices let other convictions related to the case stand. Read the decision

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Overbey Reappointed to Legal Task Force

State Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, has been reappointed to the Council of State Governments’ Legal Task Force, the Daily Times reports. The bi-partisan legal task force reviews litigation in federal courts that may potentially impact the states and the relationship between the federal government and states. Overbey is first vice chair on the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee and chair of the Ethics Committee.

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Challenger Accuses Rep. Mitchell of Slander

Nathan Massey, who is running for state House District 50 said today he plans to seek legal action against his opponent Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, for slander, WSMV reports. The allegations stem from a mailer the group “Friends of Bo Mitchell” recently sent out. The mailing referenced Massey’s previous marriages and divorces and featured photos suggesting he was outside of a hotel with a mistress. “Bo Mitchell is a bully and has a history of making baseless, reckless attacks on his opponents, and this time he has gone too far. I see his latest assault as an attack on my successful business and on my family personally, and for that very reason, I intend to see Mr. Mitchell in court,” Massey said in a release.

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Lawmakers, ACLU Blast Delay in Polk Release

A number of Tennessee lawmakers and the state chapter of the ACLU say a Nashville man in custody for two years on false allegations should be released immediately. The Tennessean reported this week that Robert E. Polk, 33, was still in custody even though his wife admitted she made up the charges that sent him to prison. The situation has also led some lawmakers to call for a study of the parole board to see if there are loopholes that allow appeals to take so long. A parole board spokeswoman said Polk will get a new hearing to review his case.

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Lawmaker to Try Again on ‘MaKayla’s Law’

State Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, says lawmakers should reexamine gun safety in the wake of deaths like MaKayla Dyer, a Jefferson County girl killed last year by her 11-year-old neighbor, reportedly because she refused to show him a puppy. Kyle says she will again attempt to get penalties in place for adults who do not secure their guns and a child gains access to the weapon and shoots someone. These cases are “often 100 percent preventable had the guns been stored safely. Safe storage does save lives,” Kyle said. In Dyer’s case, the young shooter was able to get his father’s shotgun from a closet, Nashville Public Radio reports.

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Hot Topics in Real Estate Coming Friday

This Friday the annual Hot Topics in Real Estate CLE – produced by the TBA and the Tennessee Land Title Association – will be held at the AT&T Building in downtown Nashville. The program will offer insight into commercial lending, a summary of the first year of the TILA-RESPA Integrate Disclosure Rule and an annual legislative report. Other sessions will cover advanced title issues, 1031 tax free exchanges and the recent February ALTA survey changes.

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5 Lawmakers Invested with GOP Donor Miller

Five Republican state lawmakers have invested in companies owned by “anti-Muslim” GOP donor Andy Miller, the Nashville Post reports. New campaign disclosures reveal that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Sens. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, have invested in various companies, including Omed Rx, QMedRx and Diatech Oncology of Franklin. The report comes after news last week that Reps. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, rented a house from Miller, who also has financial ties to expelled legislator Jeremy Durham and took several legislators on a trip to Europe in 2011.

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Harwell Could Face Ethics Hearing Next Week

State Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, who serves as chairman of the House Ethics Committee, tells the Tennessean that he will try to convene committee members late next week to take up a complaint filed against House Speaker Beth Harwell by Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale. The complaint questions Harwell’s handling of a variety of situations, including the case of Rep. Curry Todd, the expulsion of Jeremy Durham and the alleged actions of House Clerk Joe McCord. Womick says these incidents show that Harwell’s leadership has become “unpredictable and vindictive."

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Democrats Blast Calls to Block Clinton Court Picks

Three U.S. senators have mentioned the possibility of blocking any Supreme Court candidate nominated by Hillary Clinton if she were to become president. The comments from Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have angered the White House and Senate Democrats, Roll Call reports. Senate Judiciary ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont said such a move would amount to a “piecemeal evisceration of the Constitution.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said such calls threaten “the same kind of dysfunction that has infected Washington for the last six years.”

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All 3 Constitutional Officers Seeking New Terms

The state’s three constitutional officers – Comptroller Justin Wilson, Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Treasurer David Lillard – are all planning to seek new terms in office when the Tennessee General Assembly votes to fill the positions in January, Knoxnews reports. All three were elected to office in 2009 when Republicans first gained a majority of seats in the state legislature and are unlikely to face opposition according to the paper. Under the state constitution, the comptroller and treasurer serve two-year terms while the secretary of state serves a four-year term.

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Groups Seek Change in Voter Purging Practices

Citing a recent ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Tennessee League of Women Voters and the Demos Law Firm are calling on Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett to change the way the state purges inactive voters from registration lists. The federal appeals court ruled last month that the state of Ohio violated the National Voter Registration Act when it cancelled registrations of citizens who had not voted since 2008 and did not respond to a letter requesting confirmation of their addresses. The groups tell the Times Free Press they have not yet received a response from Hargett.

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Justice Thomas: Confirmation Process is ‘Broken’

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says the current Supreme Court confirmation process is an example of how the nation’s capital is “broken in some ways.” Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Thomas reflected on his 25 years as a justice, including his own bruising confirmation process and his fondness for Justice Antonin Scalia. Commenting on the state of discourse in America today, he said, “I think we have decided that rather than confront disagreements, we’ll just simply annihilate the person who disagrees with me. I don't think that’s going to work in a republic, in a civil society.” Yahoo has the Associated Press story.

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Rep. Carter to Run for House Majority Leader

State Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, announced Friday he will run for House majority leader, the Tennessean reports. “After much consideration and encouragement from House members across Tennessee, I have decided to formally seek the position of majority leader for the 110th General Assembly,” said Carter, who is an attorney and former county General Sessions Court judge. He will seek to replace Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who is stepping down from the post after five years. Others still considering a run are House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville. Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, initially expressed interest in running, but has bowed out of the race citing recent developments with her family. The caucus will vote on leadership races Nov. 17.

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Report: Spending Surges in State Judicial Races

Special interest groups, many of which do not disclose their donors, have invested heavily in state Supreme Court races this election cycle, including pumping more than $1.2 million in outside spending into six states over the past two weeks, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice. With three weeks to go to Election Day, the center estimates that television spending for judicial races has surpassed $25.6 million, with $11.3 million of that coming from outside groups. The center has data and early trends on races in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington.

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Grassley: GOP Has Responsibility to Consider Court Nominees

Republicans “can’t just simply stonewall” nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court even if the president making that choice is Democrat Hillary Clinton, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday. The senator, who is chair of the Judiciary Committee, was responding to comments from fellow Republican Sen. John McCain that Republicans would unite against any nominee Clinton puts forward if she becomes president. “I think we have a responsibility to very definitely vet…whoever nominee that person puts forward. We have the same responsibility for [Donald] Trump,” Grassley said. WRCB-TV has the Associated Press story.

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Tennesseans Get New Legislative Tool

A former Tennessean is hoping to change how residents interact with elected officials during this legislative session, Knoxnews reports. The creator of POPVOX, a for-profit, nonpartisan startup that connects users with bills coming before Congress, went live last week with a beta project in Tennessee. The pilot project allows voters to let their state representatives know what they think with a few clicks of the mouse. POPVOX/TN currently allows residents to weigh in on select legislative issues, including criminal justice reform, gas tax, medical marijuana, rural broadband and expansion of TennCare. The company hopes to roll out a similar service in other states throughout 2017.

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Senate Hires Michigan Legal Group for Refugee Lawsuit

The Tennessee Senate has hired the conservative Christian Thomas More Law Center to represent it in a federal lawsuit attempting to block refugee resettlement in the state after state Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III declined to take the case. The House is likely to approve the hire, but nothing has been formalized yet, the Tennessean reports. The Michigan-based legal group will represent the state for free in the nation’s first lawsuit to challenge the federal government for noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980 based on the 10th Amendment. The move comes after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a resolution earlier this year in support of a lawsuit.

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Advocate Proposes Domestic Violence Offender Registry

A domestic violence survivor and victim’s rights advocate is working with state lawmakers to help track repeat domestic violence offenders, News Channel 11 reports. Debbie Church says she was inspired to propose the registry after experiencing domestic violence at the hands of her now ex-husband. The Tri-Cities woman has spoken with the Sullivan County Family Justice Center, which indicated support for the idea. Church says the legislation is still in the initial stage but hopes local lawmakers will propose the bill next legislative session.

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Campaign Finance Officials Expand Durham Probe

State campaign finance officials are expanding their probe into former Rep. Jeremy Durham to include an examination of the money he made while working as an attorney, the Tennessean reports. Earlier today, the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance unanimously approved plans to expand its search to issues related to client money placed in trust accounts. The chair of the registry said the information was needed to investigate the full scope of any financial wrongdoing.

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Democrats Call on Legislator from Durham Report to Resign

House Democrats today called for the resignation of a lawmaker, who they say is accused of firing a staff member in retaliation for interactions with expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham, the Tennessean reports. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart and Rep. Bo Mitchell, both D-Nashville, said they believe the actions of Rep. Jane Doe #33, as she is referred to in the attorney general report on Durham, show she fired her staff member as a direct correlation to that staff member being sexually harassed by Durham. Stewart said she needs to confirm or deny the allegations.

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Baker Policy Analysts Form Lobbying Firm

Wendell Moore and Jeremy Nagoshiner are leaving their positions as policy analysts with Baker Donelson to join Tasha Alexander in forming the new consulting and lobbying firm MNA Government Relations, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Moore previously founded and ran the Capitol Group. Nagoshiner also was a member of the Capitol Group and had previously served as a legislative liaison for the governor’s office. Alexander will fold her consulting group into the new firm. She previously was vice president and deputy general counsel for the Tennessee Bankers Association. Baker Donelson’s legislative analyst M. Adam Jaynes also will join the new firm.

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