News

Lawmakers Change Policy to Allow Small Signs at Legislature

After a House representative asked Attorney General Herbert Slatery for an opinion on the issue, state lawmakers are backtracking on a decision to prohibit hand-held signs at the new legislative office building, The Tennessean reports. Despite forbidding such materials in a policy approved on Dec. 14, the director of legislative administration confirmed today that small letter-sized signs will be allowed. The December policy change was allegedly because the signs “represent a serious safety hazard.” Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, requested the opinion from Slatery, asking whether the rules violated the First Amendment.
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Election Officials Say Tennessee Voting Records Secure

State election officials told a panel of state senators yesterday that Tennessee’s voting procedures are safe, but they are nonetheless preparing preventative measures to protect the vote, WPLN reports. The officials, led by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, noted that while most votes are cast via electronic machine, those machines are not hooked to the internet. Last year, state officials found about 40 potential cases of improper voting out of more than 4 million votes cast.

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TLA Announces Officers

The Tennessee Lobbyists Association (TLA) announced its 2018 Officers and Board of Directors who will oversee the organization and services it provides to more than 280 members. As of Jan. 10, the board's new chair is Meagan Frazier with Smith Harris & Carr. The following directors, who are also attorneys, will serve on the TLA Board: Beth Berry of Berry Government Strategies LLC, Dan Haskell of Gullett, Sanford, Robinson, & Martin PLLC, Amy Smith Heaslet of the Tennessee Bankers Association, Trammel Hoehn of Butler Snow LLP and Fred (Tony) Thompson Jr. of Attorney-Government Relations.
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Lawmakers Crack Jokes During First Sexual Harassment Training

During the first-ever sexual harassment training for members of the Tennessee State House, lawmakers made jokes and blamed provocative clothing for harassment, The Tennessean reports. Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, said she “had to fight the urge to laugh” at the clothing of female lobbyists and interns, saying women have a “responsibility” to maintain decorum. Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, and Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, joked with each other, one claiming the other had harassed him and asking for his colleague to be removed. Former Rep. Jeremy Durham’s conduct was one of the triggers for the new training, and Rogers was one of only two House members to not vote for Durham’s expulsion. 
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Sumner County Rep. Courtney Rogers Will Not Seek Reelection

State Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, will not seek reelection in House District 45 this year, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Rogers has served three terms in the legislature. District 45 includes parts of Sumner County, including Goodlettsville, Millersville and portions of Hendersonville.
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Cancer Survivor to Challenge Kelsey in Senate District 31

Gabriela Salinas, a three-time cancer survivor who once gained media attention while being treated at St. Jude’s Hospital as a child, has announced her candidacy for the Tennessee Senate, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Salinas will seek the Democratic nomination for the District 31 seat, currently occupied by Republican Brian Kelsey of Germantown. District 31 covers parts of Shelby County, including Germantown, Collierville and Cordova.
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Jeremy Durham to Appeal Ruling Dismissing Lawsuit

Former Tennessee House Rep. Jeremy Durham will appeal the federal court ruling that dismissed his lawsuit against the state to provide him benefits after his ouster, The Tennessean reports. Durham’s attorney filed notice yesterday announcing the intent to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In December, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled Durham’s case should be dismissed because he sued the wrong entities.
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Today First Day for Candidates to Pick Up Petitions

Today is the first day for candidates for public office in 2018’s August primary ballot to pick up petitions. Individuals interested in running for office should pick up a nominating petition at their local election commission office. The deadline to submit petitions for the August ballot is April 5.
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Rep. Brooks Will Not Seek Reelection in 2018

State House District 24 Rep. Kevin Brooks announced he will not seek reelection for his seat, opting instead to run for mayor of Cleveland, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Current Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said he would not run again and endorsed Brooks’ candidacy. House District 24 includes parts of Bradley County.
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Rep. Forgety to Retire from State Legislature

State House Rep. John Forgety, R-Athens, has announced he will retire from the Tennessee General Assembly after the completion of his fourth term this year, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Forgety, a former teacher and veteran, currently serves as chair of the House Education Instructions and Program Committee. Forgety represents House District 23, which covers all of McMinn and parts of Monroe counties.
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16 New Laws Take Effect Next Week

Sixteen of the 493 new laws approved by the Tennessee General Assembly this year take effect on Jan. 1, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Included on that list is a $50 fine for using a cell phone while driving within a school zone, a law that requires new school bus drivers to go through a training program, and the transfer of authority over marijuana sale and use from the Alcoholic Beverage Commission to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Read a full list of the laws on the Legislature's website.
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General Assembly Policy: Guns Allowed, Hand-Carried Signs Prohibited

At the new home of the Tennessee General Assembly, citizens will be allowed to bring their guns into the building, but may not enter with hand-held signs, The Tennessean reports. The new policy, approved by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell on Dec. 14, states that such signs “represent a safety hazard.” The new rules also prohibit animals, with the exception of service animals.
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Mark Pody Wins Senate Special Election Victory

In an election decided by just 300 votes, Mark Pody has won the special election for Tennessee’s District 17 seat, The Tennessean reports. Pody, a current state House representative, defeated attorney Mary Alice Carfi to win the seat left vacant by Mae Beavers’ resignation. District 17 includes Wilson, Cannon, DeKalb, Smith, Clay and Macon counties.
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Miller Drops Out of 7th Congressional District Race

Songwriter Lee Thomas Miller of Williamson County has dropped out of the race for Tennessee’s 7th District Congressional seat, the Nashville Post reports. Miller was only active in the race for a month. Miller’s exit leaves Sen. Mark Green, R-Ashland City, as the sole Republican in the race. On the Democratic side, former Amazing Race contestant Justin Kanew, Green Beret and Congressional staffer Matt Reel and Franklin marketing professional Josh Penfold are all still active in the race.
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Moon Sworn In as Appointed State Representative for District 8

Blount County Commission Chair Jerome Moon was sworn in this week as the new state House representative for District 8, The Daily Times reports. Moon was appointed by the commission to replace Art Swann, R-Maryville, who was chosen to take over the District 2 state senate position from Doug Overbey. Overbey resigned earlier this year after he was nominated to become the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. District 8 includes most of Blount County. 
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Rep. Black Says She Was Sexually Harassed in State Legislature

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, says she was sexually harassed while she was a member of the Tennessee legislature, the Tennessean reports. Black, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor next year, says the “Good Ol’ Boy culture” in the legislature created an atmosphere where she was called “Nurse Goodbody” by one member and was forced up against the wall of an elevator by another.

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Andy Cole to Run for House District 82

Andy Cole, the Republican who challenged House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh in 2016, is again seeking to win the House District 82 seat, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Cole is a native of the district, which includes Crockett, Haywood and Lauderdale counties. Fitzhugh has held the seat since 1995 but is now seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of Tennessee.
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2nd Democrat Enters Race to Replace Blackburn

Hickman County native and U.S. Army Green Beret Matt Reel has announced his candidacy for the 7th district U.S. Congressional seat currently occupied by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, the Nashville Post reports. Keel will face former Amazing Race contestant Justin Kanew in the Democratic primary. State Sen. Mark Green, R-Ashland City, and songwriter Lee Thomas Miller are competing for the position on the Republican side. Blackburn is currently running for U.S. Senate.
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Maury County GOP Chair to Run for House District 64

Following the announcement that Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, will not seek reelection, Maury County Republican Chair Scott Cepicky announced he will run for the 64th House district seat, the Tennessee Star reports. In his announcement, Cepicky touted Butt’s endorsement of his campaign, and noted the “professional friendship” they share. Butt will retire from the House after six years in the seat.
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Sheila Butt to Retire from State House

Tennessee state House Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, announced this week that she will not run for reelection in 2018, The Columbia Daily Herald reports. Butt was first elected to the seat in 2010. She said that after her term is complete next year, she will devote her time to her ministry, called “Sisters, Servants and Soldiers.” Butt’s District 64 encompasses most of Maury County, but excludes downtown Columbia and a sliver of the western portion of the county. 
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Former Gov. Phil Bredesen to Run for U.S. Senate

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen will officially enter the race for the U.S. Senate seat that Sen. Bob Corker will be vacating after his term ends in 2018, The Tennessean reports. Bredesen is expected to make the official announcement tomorrow morning. He will first face a fellow Democrat, attorney and veteran James Mackler, in the Aug. 2 primary. If victorious, he will move on to the general election in November. Current candidates on the Republican side include U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher and Dr. Rolando Toyos.

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Former State House Rep. Spivey Enters Race for Senate District 14

A third Republican has thrown his hat into the ring for the Tennessee Senate District 14 special election, triggered by the resignation of Jim Tracy, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Former state Rep. Billy Spivey of Lewisburg today announced his campaign to serve a district that covers Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore and parts of Rutherford counties. Former state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas and Shane Reeves of Murfreesboro have already declared their candidacies. The primary election date is set for Jan. 25.

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Chattanooga Businessman to Run for Favors’ Seat

Following the retirement announcement of longtime House of Representatives member JoAnne Favors, Chattanooga businessman Brandon Woodruff has announced his plans to seek the seat in next year’s election, Nooga.com reports. Woodruff is the owner of Brainerd’s Scenic City T’s and is also a licensed sales producer for Allstate Insurance. Earlier this month, former Chattanooga city council member Yusuf Hakeem also declared his intentions to run for the District 28 seat.

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Special Election Dates Set for District 14 Senate Election

Gov. Bill Haslam has authorized a special election to fill the Tennessee State Senate seat recently vacated by Jim Tracy, who resigned to join the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office, The Tennessean reports. The primary for Senate District 14 will be held on Jan. 25, with the general election on March 13. Current candidates in the race include former state Rep. Joe Carr and Murfreesboro businessman Shane Reeves. The district includes Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore and parts of Rutherford Counties.

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Today First Day to Pick Up Petitions to Run in County Primaries

Today is the first day candidates for local office are eligible to pick up petitions to run in the May county primary elections. Petitions are available at county election commission offices. For a list of county election offices, visit the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website. For a calendar of important upcoming election dates, visit the TBA website.
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