News

TBA Members Speak at Indigent Task Force Meeting in Cookeville

Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville today hosted the sixth meeting of the Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force’s statewide listening tour. TBA members Bridget Wilhite and Lisa Cothron attended the meeting and shared their personal stories of practicing in rural communities and appointments of juvenile and criminal indigent clients. It was noted that in McMinn County, less than two dozen attorneys are available for appointments and there is often a caseload burden in addition to costs not being covered by the current compensation rate and caps. About 30 people from the judicial system attended today’s meeting along with task force members: Nashville School of Law Dean William Koch, DarKenya Waller, Susan Matson, Dwight Tarwater, Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Lela Hollabough. The task force wraps up its statewide tour in Nashville on July 29 at the Nashville School of Law.

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Indigent Representation Task Force Holds Hearing in Cleveland

The state Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force held a public meeting today at the Cleveland State Community College as part of the group’s statewide listening tour. Members of the private bar shared their thoughts on Tennessee lawyers being the lowest paid in the court room. According to one practitioner, her calculations showed that with the $40 out-of-court and $50 in-court rate per hour, she made less than a minimum wage after overhead. Task force members attending today's meeting were: Nashville School of Law Dean Bill Koch; DarKenya Waller, Legal Aid Society; Judge Barry Steelman, Criminal Court Judge in Chattanooga; Susan Matson, State Comptroller’s Office; Chief Justice Sharon Lee; and special guest state Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville.

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State Election Officials to Investigate Durham's Finances

The state registry of election finance board voted to audit and investigate the finances of state Rep. Jeremy Durham, The Tennessean reports. Attorney General Herbert Slatery, who is already investigating the Franklin Republican for alleged inappropriate conduct, believes Durham moved money between the title company he owns and his campaign committee. The board will also ask for subpoenas to be issued for Durham, his campaign, his business and various bank accounts.

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Sen. Alexander Acts to Block New Overtime Rule

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., today filed legislation that would nullify the new federal overtime rule that allows full-time salaried employees to qualify for overtime if they make up to $47,476 a year. Alexander argued the change – set to take effect later this year – would reduce work hours and inhibit flexible work schedules. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, joined Alexander in the filing. 

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2016 Legislation Summaries Available Online

The Tennessee Department of Revenue has posted brief summaries of 2016 legislation on its website. Legislation is summarized by categories.

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Health Care Task Force to Present Plan to Federal Authorities

House Speaker Beth Harwell's 3-Star Legislative Task Force is weeks away from showing federal Medicaid officials some of its plan for improving insurance access for Tennesseans. According to WPLN, the group is favoring giving more support to clinics, over offering residents insurance through Medicaid. As many as 300,000 Tennesseans cannot afford insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but still do not qualify for Medicaid.

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AG Opinion Outlines Authority Over Durham Investigation

Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion on May 26 that outlines his authority to investigate embattled state Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin. State Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, requested the opinion. Slatery cites permission from a House Committee granted in February as providing authority over the investigation into sexual harassment claims against the lawmaker. Slatery’s investigation of Durham remains ongoing, The Tennessean reports

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AG Opinion Outlines Authority Over Durham Investigation

Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion on May 26 that outlines his authority to investigate embattled state Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin. State Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, requested the opinion. Slatery cites permission from a House Committee granted in February as providing authority over the investigation into sexual harassment claims against the lawmaker. Slatery’s investigation of Durham remains ongoing, The Tennessean reports

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Cities to Pay Millions in 'Jock Tax' Settlements

The city of Memphis will soon return over $2.38 million to more than 900 NBA players as part of a 2015 settlement in a suit challenging the city’s “jock tax.” The National Basketball Players Association sued the state over the tax and claimed some players paid more in the tax than what they earned from the games. The National Hockey League Players' Association also sued the state over the tax and settled in 2015 for $3.27 million. Read more from The Commercial Appeal

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Lawmaker Burns Traffic Ticket in Viral Video

State Rep. Andy Holt posted a video to his Facebook page yesterday that shows the Dresden Republican burning a traffic camera ticket. Holt, who unsuccessfully attempted to outlaw all speed and red light cameras in Tennessee during the 2015 legislative session, argues cities and traffic camera dealers are violating state law. He encourages others on his website to throw their traffic camera tickets in the trash or – like him – light them on fire. 

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State Sues Obama Administration Over Bathroom Directive

Tennessee has joined 11 states in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice over a recent guidance issued regarding which bathrooms transgender students may use, according to the Office of the Attorney General. “As the complaint describes, it is a social experiment implemented by federal departments denying basic privacy rights and placing the burden largely on our children, not adults,” said Attorney General Herbert Slatery. 

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Abortion Ballot Measure Recount Total: $1M

The Tennessean reports the total cost of a court-ordered recount of a 2014 abortion ballot measure could be $1 million. But election officials and attorneys for the state have asked U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp, who ordered the recount, to delay the recount process as election officials prepare for elections in August and November. State attorneys appealed Sharp’s ruling; no court date for the appeal has yet been set. 

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Haslam Signs 1 Bill, Sends 2 On Without Signature

Gov. Bill Haslam today returned the Refugee Resolution unsigned, a measure (SJR 0467) that directs the Attorney General to initiate legal action regarding refugee placements in Tennessee. Haslam has asked the Attorney General to clarify if the General Assembly has the authority to hire outside counsel if the Attorney General fails to pursue action. According to a news release from the governor’s office, Haslam also announced a bill (HB 2248) that will redirect administrative funding for the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion will become a law without his signature. The Tennessean reports Haslam signed into law today a bill (SB 0047) that reduces the state’s Hall income tax on some dividend and interest this year and eliminates the tax in 2022.

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Durham Calls Police on Reporter; AG Investigation Questioned

Controversy continues to follow State Rep. Jeremy Durham, who on Tuesday called police on Nashville Post reporter Cari Wade Gervin when she attempted to question him on recent campaign finance reports at his house in Franklin, the Post reports. An investigation of alleged improper behavior by Durham also came under question, when State Rep. Rick Womick today requested an opinion from Attorney General Herbert Slatery regarding his authority to conduct investigations of legislators.

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Report Questions Legality, Tactics of Durham Investigation

A Breitbart News post claims “the scope and legal authority of an ongoing investigation by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery into the conduct of State Rep. Jeremy Durham is being questioned by a number of Tennessee political insiders, attorneys and individuals.” House Speaker Beth Harwell asked Attorney General Herbert Slatery to investigate Durham, R-Franklin, following allegations that Durham had an affair with a former representative. 

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Lawmakers Consider Special Session Over Bathroom Directive

Republican lawmakers are considering holding a special session in an effort to direct Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government over the recently announced federal directive to public schools over transgender restrooms, The Tennessean reports. More than two dozen state lawmakers have contacted Slatery and Gov. Bill Haslam to express concern about the directive, according to another report from The Tennessean

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Law Establishes Ward's Right to Communicate with Family

Gov. Bill Haslam signed yesterday into law the “Campbell Falk Act” that establishes a ward’s right to visit and communicate with family and close friends. Previously, state law allowed a conservator to restrict visitation and communication with the ward without going to court, even when it involved communication or visits by a family member. Under the Republican-sponsored measure, a conservator cannot restrict communication unless specifically authorized by the court. The law is named in recognition of country artist Glen Campbell and actor Peter Falk, according to a news release from Senate Republican Caucus.

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Haslam: Obama's Bathroom Directive 'Heavy-Handed'

Following a U.S. Department of Education memo offering to school districts guidance on transgender students, Gov. Bill Haslam today said he “disagree(s) with the heavy-handed approach the Obama administration is taking.” The news release from Haslam’s office also said the governor believes the emerging area of law will be settled by the courts. USA Today reports the federal government’s letter, issued Friday, was released in an effort to provide clarity on what the law requires regarding transgender students, bathroom policies and more. 

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Report: Ethics Committees Have Not Met in Years

The Tennessean takes a look at what it calls the General Assembly’s “lax” system for handling ethics complaints, noting that the state House and Senate’s respective ethics committees have not met in years. The article outlines the complicated system in Tennessee for filing a complaint, pointing out that the system is unlike many others. 

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Therapist Law to Impact Travel to Tennessee

The Tennessean reports the American Counseling Association canceled its Nashville conference next year, citing concerns about a new state law that allows licensed counselors or therapists to deny service based on counselor’s “sincerely held principles.” Also citing concerns over the new law, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney yesterday announced a ban on publicly funded, non-essential travel by city workers to Tennessee. Read more from the Associated Press.

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Health Care Task Force Meets in Memphis

The health care task force, created by House Speaker Beth Harwell in April, held its third meeting yesterday in Memphis. The Commercial Appeal reports task force chairman Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said the group will re-evaluate which parts of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee Plan can be supported by the General Assembly after the full plan failed to win legislative approval. Sexton added the group, dubbed the “3-Star Healthy Project,” could attempt to ease restrictions on faith-based health care organizations. 

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Roundup of Bills That Alter or Reverse Earlier Actions

The Tennessean outlines five examples of bills the legislature approved this year that will alter or reverse their earlier actions. Legislative topics include wine in supermarkets, spiritual treatment and horse racing in Tennessee. 

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Poverty Scorecard: Most Tennessee Lawmakers Earn 'F' Grade

“Congress did not do enough to help the more than 47 million Americans living in poverty,” according to the Shriver Center’s Annual Poverty Scorecard released this week. The scorecard identifies important poverty-related legislation considered by Congress in the past year and provides a comprehensive look at how each representative voted. Of Tennessee’s 11 lawmakers, nine received a grade of ‘F’. Representatives Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, and Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, received an ‘A’ for their efforts to fight poverty. 

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Haslam Will Allow 'Guns-on-Campus' Bill to Become Law

Gov. Bill Haslam said today that he will allow the guns-on-campus bill – which permits full-time faculty and staff of state public colleges and universities with handgun-carry permits to carry their guns on campus – to become a law without his signature. Under the bill, employees are required to notify the local law enforcement agency with primary responsibility for security on their campus. Read more from The Tennessean

Haslam Will Allow 'Guns-on-Campus' Bill to Become Law

Gov. Bill Haslam said today that he will allow the guns-on-campus bill – which permits full-time faculty and staff of state public colleges and universities with handgun-carry permits to carry their guns on campus – to become a law without his signature. Under the bill, employees are required to notify the local law enforcement agency with primary responsibility for security on their campus. Read more from The Tennessean