News

Legal Challenge to Abortion Measure in Court Tomorrow

A challenge to the 2014-voter-approved abortion measure will be heard tomorrow in court. Amendment 1, approved by 53 percent of the vote, adds these words to Tennessee’s constitution: "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." The plaintiffs -- including Planned Parenthood of Middle & Eastern Tennessee -- are asking the federal court to order sate election officials to recount the vote, the Tennessean reports.

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Democrat Sydney Rogers to Challenge Harwell

Sydney Rogers, executive director of Alignment Nashville, announced she will run as a Democrat to challenge House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, for her seat. “Representative Harwell is in a position to make a difference, and she has become the protector of the status quo,” said Rogers, who is also an administrator at Nashville State Community College. The Tennessean reports Rogers will run for the seat in House District 56, which contains some of Davidson County’s most conservative neighborhoods.

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No Update on Durham Investigation

The Tennessean reports it is unclear if Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s investigation into Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, will be concluded by the end of the legislative session in April. Several lawmakers said they have not received updates from Slatery on the investigation. The probe was launched following allegations of inappropriate behavior and misconduct against Durham.

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House Approves Changes to Drug, DUI Penalties

The state House yesterday approved a measure (HB 1478) that would lower the legal penalties for repeated drug possession, WPLN reports. Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. William Lambert, R-Cottontown, drug possession would become a misdemeanor. The legislation also heightens the penalties for driving drunk in an effort to make people with numerous DUIs serve more time behind bars. The state Senate could vote on the proposal next week.

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178 Apply to Lead Davidson County Election Commission

The Tennessean reports 178 people have applied to be Nashville’s next election administrator. Kent Wall, who currently holds the position, announced in January that he will retire after this month. The Davidson County Election Commission named Deputy Election Administrator Joan Nixon as interim administrator.

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House Committee Fails to Pass Bill Eliminating Class Actions Against Nursing Homes

The House Civil Justice Committee yesterday failed to pass HB2558 by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, that would have eliminated a cause of action against nursing homes in the form of a class action in the Tennessee Adult Protection Act. The measure’s companion, SB2063, by Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, was removed yesterday from the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar.

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House Passes Measure Changing Grandparent Visitation

A measure that makes changes to grandparent visitation moved out of Senate Judiciary Committee today. The bill, SB1670, is sponsored by Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge.

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House Civil Justice Committee Forwards Bills

The House Civil Justice Committee this week sent several bills to the House floor before it closed for the year. Among those are: changes to the conservator law, HB2030 by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby; changes to the tolling statute for those persons who “lack capacity” were made with HB1651 by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greenville; and HB2033, also by Rep. Faison, as amended creates civil immunity for those property owners who do not post “no guns allowed” signs.

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Senate Committee Kills De-Annexation Bill

The Senate’s State and Local Government Committee today killed a measure seeking to allow communities to hold elections to reverse annexation by cities. The committee voted to study the measure after the legislation session ends, the Associated Press reports.

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House Committee Approves Refugee Act Lawsuit

The House State Government Committee yesterday approved a resolution (SJR 0467) that would require Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement. The resolution includes a provision that would allow the legislature to hire outside counsel. Proponents of the measure argue “the government failed to consult with Tennessee on the continued placement of refugees,” according to The Tennessean. The Senate last month approved the resolution. It now heads to the House finance committee.

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Bill Addressing Garnishments from Individual Debtor Approved

Legislation proposed by the TBA Creditor’s Practice Section to address garnishments to collect from an individual debtor, no matter whether the debtor is an employee or independent contractor, cleared committees in the House and Senate today. The bill (HB1775 / SB1969), sponsored by Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, as amended heads to the floor for final action.

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16 GOP Senators Support Meeting With Garland

Sixteen Republican U.S. senators say they will meet with President Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. NBC News reports the number is over 25 percent of the GOP Caucus. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, will be the first to meet with Garland in a meeting planned for today.

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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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