News

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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Bill Would Declare 'Moratorium' on Police Bodycam Videos

The House State Government Subcommittee last week approved a bill (HB0876 / SB0910) that would prohibit public disclosure of most body camera recordings made by Tennessee law enforcement officers for at least a year, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, would allow the public release of the recordings after “any investigation” into the case, trial or disciplinary proceeding involving the recordings. Casada said he is currently working on revisions to the bill.

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Amendment Would Deny Unemployment Benefits to Pregnant Women, Others

A little-noticed amendment to unrelated legislation, if adopted, would mean that workers with medical conditions and women who are pregnant would be denied unemployment benefits. The bill, SB2481 by Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and its companion, HB2512 by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, cleared the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday but was re-referred to the House Finance Subcommittee yesterday. To learn more and voice your views, visit TBA Impact.  

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Legal Fees Bill Headed to Governor

A bill that requires those who bring suit against the state to pay attorneys fees if the case is dismissed for any reason is headed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk after passing the Senate 20-9 this morning, the Tennessean reports. The bill (SB 2377/HB1679) was requested by Attorney General Herbert Slatery. Supporters said it would protect state employees from attempts by lawyers to "bully" them into settling lawsuits. Opponents argued the bill adds another burden to someone considering suing a state employee or elected official over sexual harassment.

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House Committee Kills Guns in Arenas Bill

A bill that would have let Tennessee cities ban guns from being carried at ticketed events has failed in a House subcommittee, WCYB.com reports. The Republican-controlled Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 3-2 along party lines on Wednesday to kill the measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons and supported by the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.

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Reviewing the Ramsey Reign in Tennessee Politics

When Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey leaves office this year, he will be leaving a much different General Assembly than he joined almost 25 years ago. The Nashville Scene looks at his legacy, both inside the chambers – where he has been a renaissance man for the GOP – and in the public arena, where he’s known for controversial pronouncements and a willingness to pick fights with the state’s judiciary and others.

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DHS Agencies Accused of Misappropriating Funds

Nashville Academy for Kidz and Cherry Tree Food Program in Clarksville, two agencies under the oversight of the Department of Human Services, are under a criminal probe following investigations by the Tennessee Comptroller. The two agencies are accused of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds intended to provide food to low-income children. Read more from The Tennessean.

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Bill Requiring Biologic Evidence Preservation Advances

The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed a bill (SB 2342 / HB 2377) that would require biologic evidence collected in cases involving a death sentence to be preserved for the duration of defendant's life or incarceration, Nashville Scene reports. Senate committee members previously heard testimony from a man who was sentenced to death and spent more than 10 years in an Arizona prison for murder before biological evidence proved his innocence. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, is scheduled for a vote in a House subcommittee today.

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Bill Would Redirect Funds from UT to Pay for Decals

The Nashville Post reports a bill advancing in the state House would redirect money from the University of Tennessee's diversity office to pay for "In God We Trust" decals for law enforcement vehicles. Bill sponsor Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, estimates eliminating funding for the office would free up about $100,000. The state Senate has amended the governor's proposed budget to pull $8 million from the university.           

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House Committee Kills 'MaKayla's Law'

A state House committee today killed “MaKayla’s Law,” a bill stemming from the death of an 8-year-old White Pine girl by her 11-year-old neighbor. The measure (SB 2294 / HB 2058) would have penalized adult gun owners who leave loaded guns unlocked and accessible to children under age 13. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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McNally to be Speaker Under Norris 'Transitional' Plan

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is working on an agreement among Senate Republicans in which Sen. Randy McNally will succeed Sen. Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker and lieutenant governor for at least the next two years. Norris, R-Collierville, said the “transitional” speakership is to avoid a “distraction” in this year’s legislative elections, The Commercial Appeal reports. McNally, R-Oakridge, announced last week that he is running for the speakership.

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Group Files Ethics Complaint Against Sen. Corker

The Campaign for Accountability, based in Washington D.C., filed its second ethics complaint against U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Chattanooga. The complaint, filed with both the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, alleges Corker “concealed information" about his financial stakes in two Chattanooga-based funds, as well as one based in Memphis. The Times Free Press reports Corker’s office said the filing is “another baseless accusation.”

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Harwell Finalizes Trial Court Vacancy Commission

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, named her five appointees to the state's Trial Courts Vacancy Commission tasked with nominating judges to fill vacancies to the state's lower courts. The Nashville Post reports Harwell’s appointees are: Ed Lancaster, a Columbia attorney; Kim Helper, District Attorney General for the 21st Judicial District; Bradford Box, equity member with the Jackson firm of Rainey Kizer Reviere & Bell; Bill Koch, dean of the Nashville School of Law; and DeWayne Bunch, magistrate judge in Cleveland. Harwell’s appointees join Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s five appointees who were named earlier this month. Nashville attorney Tom Lawless will chair the commission.

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Proposed Amendment to Tennessee's Adoption Law

Legislation amending Tennessee’s adoption law will be heard Tuesday in the House Civil Justice Committee. Proponents of the amendment (HB1389) that would amend 24 code sections say it represents technical changes. The measure is sponsored by Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston. TBA members may comment on the bill via TBAImpact under the Famiily Law section of state bills. Read a summary of the bill provided by proponents.

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Lawful Employment Act Heads to Senate Floor, House Committee

The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act is on its way to House Finance, Ways and Means Committee and the Senate floor. HB1830 by Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, and SB1965 by Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, as amended requires employers with 50-200 employees to enroll in E-Verify when hiring.

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Insurance Costs Reduction Act Deferred to Summer Study Committee

The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee today deferred to a Summer Study Committee a bill (HB546) referred to as the Insurance Costs Reduction Act, sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin. The bill is the vehicle for the creation of the Patient Compensation System, a workers' comp-like system for medical malpractice.

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Ramsey Will Not Seek Re-election to Senate

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey will not seek re-election this November, WSMV reports. Ramsey’s term as Speaker of the Senate will expire in January 2017. "After a lot of prayer and many sleepless nights, I have determined that I simply cannot commit to another four years in office," Ramsey, R-Blountville, said. Ramsey, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 1992 as a member of the House, said he wants to spend more time with his family and grandchildren.

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House Thanks U.S. Senators for Opposing Action on SCOTUS Nominee

The state House last week passed a resolution thanking Tennessee’s U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker for stating they will not vote for anyone nominated by President Barack Obama as a U.S. Supreme Court nominee. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville criticized the measure (HR178) as "engaging in these partisan games." Read more from The Knoxville News Sentinel.

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Bill Would Repeal 'Spiritual Treatment' Exemption to Child Neglect Law

The state Senate last week unanimously approved a bill that would repeal the "spiritual treatment" exemption to the state's child abuse and neglect statute, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The measure (SB 1761 / HB 2043) is sponsored by Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, a cardiac surgeon. The exemption was at the center of a case involving the 2002 death of a Loudon County girl after her mother refused medical care in favor of “spiritual treatment” and prayer. The state House Criminal Justice Committee is scheduled to consider the bill Wednesday.

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Bill Would Restrict Who Can Perform Marriages

Judges, clerks and other officials would no longer be authorized to solemnize marriages under a bill scheduled to be heard next week in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. The bill (HB 2379 / SB 2462), sponsored by Rep. James Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, and Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, says that after July 1 only "regular ministers, preachers, pastors, priests, rabbis, and other spiritual leaders of every religious belief, more than 18 years of age, having the care of souls, may solemnize the rite of matrimony.”

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Bill Could Help Defendants Work Off Court Costs

State lawmakers are expected to vote today on a bill that would allow Knox County judges to offer chronic offenders community service to pay off their court costs. A WBIR investigation last year found that some indigent defendants were responsible for court debts of more than $750,000. Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign off on the bill, which will serve as a pilot program before potentially moving into other counties. 

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Senate Passes Bill Allowing Pharmacists to Provide Birth Control

A Tennessee bill (SB 1677 / HB 1823) that would allow women to obtain contraceptives from pharmacists cleared the Senate today and now heads to the House, The Tennessean reports. According to the bill, interested pharmacists would have to enter into a collaborative agreement with a physician, who would oversee a series of protocols for the pharmacist to follow. 

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Tennessee Local Government Forum Planned for March 18

The Tennessee Local Government Forum 2016 will be held March 18 from 9 a.m. – 3:15 p.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Topics include the Tennessee Open Records Act, recent changes in laws related to whistle blower protection and ethical considerations for government lawyers. The forum is approved for five CLE credits.

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