News

AG Joins Call for Fentanyl to Remain Schedule I Drug

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III recently joined a bipartisan coalition of all 56 attorneys general calling on Congress to permanently classify fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs. Such drugs are defined as having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a temporary scheduling order in 2018 but that action is set to expire in February 2020. Legislation pending in Congress would make the Schedule I classification permanent. Read the letter sent to legislators.

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State Rep. Joins Freeman Webb Real Estate Company

State Rep. Bob Freeman has joined his father’s real estate company, Freeman Webb Co., as executive vice president, the Nashville Post reports. The younger Freeman represents Tennessee’s 56th House district, which includes parts of Davidson County. He previously was vice president of real estate investment and development at Forestar Group, an Austin-based real estate and natural resources firm. He also once served as the co-founder and president of Freeman Applegate Partners, a Nashville-based construction and development consultancy firm.

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Help Eliminate the Professional Privilege Tax

 
The Tennessee Bar Association is joining with the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA), and other organizations to ask Governor Lee and the legislature to eliminate the Professional Privilege Tax.  
 
To help with this effort, we need more information from you. Please take this short two-minute survey to help us better relay real information and statistics to our elected officials about how paying this tax is affecting Tennessee attorneys. 
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House Bill Would Restore Parts of Voting Rights Act

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill Friday that would restore sections of the Voting Rights Act that once required officials in all or parts of 15 mostly Southern states to receive federal approval before making changes to their voting processes, the New York Times reports. The bill essentially reverses a 2013 Supreme Court decision that tossed out a “pre-clearance” provision that determined which jurisdictions needed federal oversight of elections. The White House opposed the bill arguing it was an unjustified expansion of government power.

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Field Set for March Presidential Primaries

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett last week certified the names for the statewide ballot for March 3, otherwise known as Super Tuesday when 14 states conduct presidential primaries. Three Republican and 16 Democratic contenders will be on the ballot in Tennessee. The Daily Memphian has the list of candidates who qualified. Voters participating in the Republican primary will select their preferred presidential candidate as well as delegates to the summer national convention. Democratic primary voters will cast their ballots for presidential contenders only, as convention delegates are chosen by an internal party method.

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Memphis Democrat Eyes Legislature Again

Gabby Salinas, a Memphis Democrat who nearly defeated Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey in 2018, is eyeing the state legislature again, the Nashville Post reports. Salinas has registered to run in the Democratic primary in House District 97, currently represented by Bartlett Republican Jim Coley, who is retiring. Allan Creasy, a Democrat who ran against Coley in 2018, also has indicated he will run for the post again.

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The Ethical Campaign CLE Set for Monday

This advanced level program covers all aspects of election law and ethics and is designed for state and local lawmakers; judges; candidates for executive, judicial or legislative positions; campaign chairs; campaign treasurers; and campaign legal counsel. This year’s Ethical Campaign program features William “Bill” Young, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance; Lucian Pera; Stephen Zralek; and Gif Thornton. Earn up to three hours of dual CLE credit.

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Lawmaker Wants to Rename State Building for Winfield Dunn

Rep. Ron Gant of Rossville, the House Republican Caucus’s assistant majority leader, says he will file legislation to change the name of the Cordell Hull state office building to that of former Gov. Winfield Dunn. Gant says the name change will honor “a hero” who established the state departments of Economic and Community Development and General Services, implemented a statewide kindergarten program and passed infrastructure legislation. Democrats called the move a “partisan” ploy and distraction from real problems, the Tennessean reports. Hull served in the Tennessee House of Representatives and both the U.S. House of Representative and Senate. He was named secretary of state by President Franklin Roosevelt and was pivotal in establishing the United Nations, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for that effort. 

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Government Operations Chair: No Hearing on ‘Slush Fund’

Tennessee State Rep. Martin Daniel, a Knoxville Republican who chairs the Joint Government Operations Committee, is declining to hold hearings on a $4 million rural grants pool some lawmakers are calling a “slush fund," the Daily Memphian reports. In a letter released last week, Daniel said the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee, not his committee, should be the one to “determine if the funds are being used for the intended purpose.” The $3 million fund was created in part by the governor’s supplemental budget and in part by a legislative initiative to bolster the governor’s rural development executive order. Critics of the fund, however, say it was intended to reward lawmakers who voted for the governor’s education savings account bill.

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Former Mayor Purcell Picked to Lead Nashville Housing Board

Nashville Mayor John Cooper is tapping former mayor and Nashville attorney Bill Purcell to head the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency’s board of directors. Purcell will replace attorney Charles Robert Bone, CEO of Bone McAllester Norton, who has chaired the board since October 2018. The Nashville Business Journal reports that Bone led the agency during a tenuous time, with the housing authority facing scrutiny over its use of tax-increment financing.

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Ford Files for General Sessions Court Clerk

Former Tennessee lawmaker John Ford filed a petition to run for Shelby County General Sessions Court clerk this week, Local Memphis reports, but it may be difficult for him to get on the ballot. Ford previously served as clerk from 1992 through 1996, and as a state senator for more than 30 years before becoming ensnared in the Operation Tennessee Waltz scandal. He was convicted of taking more than $55,000 in bribes and spent five years behind bars. Though Ford’s citizenship rights have been restored, an order by a circuit court judge bars him from seeking political office. In addition, Tennessee's coordinator of elections said today that Ford is ineligible to seek or hold elected public office in Tennessee.

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Memphis Legislators Call for Investigations into NCAA

Amid upheaval over the eligibility case of University of Memphis basketball star James Wiseman, state Rep. G.A. Hardaway wants to open a legislative investigation into the relationship between the NCAA and higher education institutions and the connection between the association’s finances and amateur student-athletes. The Memphis Democrat said he has bipartisan support for bringing the university in for hearings about NCAA matters, the Daily Memphian reports. In addition, Republican U.S. Rep. David Kustoff says he is investigating the NCAA because of its “history of injustice” toward student-athletes. And Democrat U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen says he is seeking to revive the Congressional Collegiate Sports Caucus to provide an informal forum to look into student-athlete compensation issues.

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AG: Legislators Can Expel Lawmaker But Not Advisable

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is advising legislators that expelling a lawmaker for conduct that took place before entering office is inadvisable but also not prohibited, the Tennessean reports. The opinion comes in response to a House request on whether lawmakers could expel Rep. David Byrd from office over decades-old sexual assault allegations. "Historical practice, sound policy considerations, and constitutional restraints counsel against, but do not absolutely prohibit, the exercise of the legislature’s expulsion power to oust a member for conduct that occurred before he was elected and that was known to the member’s constituents when they elected him," Slatery wrote in the opinion issued Tuesday.

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Take Part in Survey to Help Eliminate Professional Privilege Tax

Tennessee lawyers today received a survey from the Tennessee Bar Association requesting they take part in a short survey regarding their practices. Information from the survey will be used in an effort to help eliminate the state Professional Privilege Tax. That effort has also been joined by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) and other organizations, who today joined the TBA in sending a letter to Gov. Lee and legislators. If you did not receive a link to the survey, you can access the survey here.

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Impeachment Inquiry to Be Televised This Week

When the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump begins its public phase on Wednesday, people will have more ways to get the information than in 1973 during Nixon's impeachment hearings, Fox News reports. "People now have a far greater variety of options as to how to consume this," said professor Tobe Berkovitz, a former political media consultant who teaches communications at Boston University. "Everyone might watch the same hearing, but then people are going to divide into camps in terms of how they want to engage with the analysis," he said. "You're going to pick who you want to interpret and propagandize."  U.S. charge d’affaires in Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent are set to testify before Congress in a public hearing Wednesday, CNBC reports. The officials will testify together at 10 a.m. ET. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is scheduled to testify in public at 9 a.m. ET Friday.

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Eddie Jones Files for Sessions Court Clerk

Within days of Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton indicating he would not seek re-election, one county commissioner has filed a petition for the job and another is considering a run, the Daily Memphian reports. Shelby County Commissioner Eddie Jones filed his qualifying petition Wednesday while Commissioner Reginald Milton said he is thinking about a run for the post. Jones said if elected, he would like to lead the court through a reform of the bail system. The race to replace Stanton begins with the March 3 county primaries with winners advancing to the August general election.

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Feds Investigating State Sen. Kelsey’s Campaign Finance Transactions

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Memphis, is facing a grand jury probe concerning campaign finance transactions during his failed 2016 congressional bid, the Tennessean reports. Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey confirmed he’d been interviewed by a federal agent earlier this year, who asked if Kelsey gave Ramsey money with a request to “move it” to the West Tennessee lawmakers’ congressional campaign committee. Ramsey denies this happened. Nashville At-large Councilman Steve Glover and an unnamed lawmaker were also interviewed by federal agents. Glover gave money to Kelsey’s federal PAC months after receiving money from Kelsey’s state PAC. Kelsey says he welcomes any investigation because “all donations were made in compliance with the law and on the advice of counsel.”

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Judge Reduces Durham’s Campaign Finance Penalty

Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell on Friday called for the state Registry of Election Finance to reduce the fine it imposed on expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham after reviewing the registry’s actions and the fine it imposed in 2017. Darnell ruled that the $465,000 fine should be reduced to $110,000, the Tennessean reports. He also found that the registry failed to prove that Durham spent campaign money inappropriately on a number of expenses and that some of those expenses (e.g., investments, sunglasses, dry cleaning, a handgun carry permit and continuing education fees) were not at the time or are still not explicitly prohibited by state campaign finance law.

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Memphis State Rep. Takes Job at Lipscomb, Will Keep House Seat

State Rep. Mark White, a Republican from East Memphis, is taking a new job as director of Lipscomb University’s College of Leadership & Public Service. He will continue to live in East Memphis and retain his legislative seat in District 83, the Daily Memphian reports. White chairs the House Education Committee and with the new job will travel the state, primarily to rural areas, to develop leadership programs for public service. White earned a master of arts degree in conflict management from Lipscomb in 2018. He previously was a principal at Harding Academy in Memphis.

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House to Hold Budget Hearings Before Session Starts

At the direction of new House Speaker Cameron Sexton, the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee will move its 2020-2021 budget hearings to a November-December schedule, away from the long practice of holding them during the regular session. Explaining the move, Sexton told the Daily Memphian this week that holding the hearings in February and March "logjam the committee system" but holding them before the session gives lawmakers a better understanding of the budget plan and frees them up to concentrate on legislation once the session starts.

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Back by Popular Demand: ‘The Ethical Campaign’ Set for Dec. 2

This advanced level program covers all aspects of election law and ethics and is designed for state and local lawmakers; judges; candidates for executive, judicial or legislative positions; campaign chairs; campaign treasurers; and campaign legal counsel. This year’s program features William “Bill” Young, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance; Lucian Pera; Stephen Zralek; and Gif Thornton. Earn up to three hours of dual CLE credit.

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Former Nashville Mayor Returns to Law Firm

Former Nashville Mayor David Briley will return to his previous law firm of Bone McAllester Norton on Nov. 1, the firm announced today. Briley practiced at the firm from 2007 to 2018, focusing on civil, commercial and class-action litigation. He will resume his past practice areas and also advise clients on administrative and regulatory matters. Briley was elected vice mayor in 2015 and mayor in 2018. During his tenure, he helped bring Amazon and Alliance Bernstein jobs to the city, obtain final approval for a major league soccer expansion team, increase recognition for LGBT-owned businesses in government procurement, and push forward initiatives on affordable housing, community college and domestic violence prevention.

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Former House Speaker Launches Fundraising Firm

Former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada has started a new business, Right Way Consulting, providing fundraising services for Republican lawmakers, the Tennessean reports. Casada resigned from his leadership post in August after sexually explicit text messages to and from his chief of staff came to light.

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Nashville Consultant Is 3rd Democrat to Enter Senate Race

Diana Onyejiaka, a Nashville-based consultant and professor, has joined the Democratic field seeking to succeed Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Nashville Post reports. Onyejiaka graduated from Southern University Law Center — though she is not a practicing attorney — and runs DC Consult International, which focuses on international business and government relations. Onyejiaka also has taught law and government as an adjunct professor at Tennessee State University and Middle Tennessee State University and has worked as a mediator. She joins Nashville attorney James Mackler, who entered the Democratic primary back in January, and Memphis environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw, who announced earlier this month she is running.

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Former Memphis Senator Reggie Tate, 65, Dies

Former Memphis state senator Reggie Tate has died. He was found dead in his home this morning, the Commercial Appeal reports. The Shelby County Democrat, who was defeated in an August 2018 primary, was 65. Ken Jobe, spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus, said it appeared Tate had died of natural causes. "We carried meaningful legislation together that made a difference in the lives of many across the state of TN," tweeted Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a fellow Memphis Democrat who described Tate as a friend. "He always made us smile when he was around. He will be missed."

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