News

AG: 'In God We Trust' License Plates Constitutionally Suspect

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said in a legal opinion that a bill requiring “In God We Trust” on license plates is “constitutionally suspect,” the Tennessean reports. Slatery’s opinion, released Friday, said despite the historical context of the phrase, it “clearly has religious overtones” and would violate the Constitution if it was added to all license plates. He adds, however, that having the option to include it on a plate would be more defensible. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) and Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta). The AG’s office issued the opinion at the request of Sanderson.
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Public Radio Reporter Fired After Legislator Complains

A 32-year-old journalist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s public radio station WUTC-FM was reportedly fired after a legislator complained about her, the Nashville Scene reports. Jacqui Helbert was traveling with the Cleveland High School Gay-Straight Alliance as they attended the Tennessee Equality Project’s Day on the Hill. The group met with Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), who both later complained to Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) that they didn’t know they were being recorded for a story. Gardenhire complained to the UTC chancellor’s office about Helbert, who was later fired. Helbert said she was wearing full gear and had visible press credentials for the entire day.
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State House Approves Bill to Block Local Marijuana Laws

The Tennessee House approved a bill today that would block marijuana decriminalization measures recently passed by the Nashville and Memphis councils, the Tennessean reports. The bill would repeal any local law pertaining to drugs that is inconsistent with state statutes. The local ordinances would give police the option to hand out lighter civil citations for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
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Former Nashville Employee Claims Firing Violated Civil Rights

A former Metro Nashville worker filed suit against the city in federal court today, claiming her civil rights were violated in her firing, the Tennessean reports. Danyelle Bennett is seeking $2 million in damages over her termination, which she said was tied to a November Facebook post in which she posted a graphic in support of President Donald Trump’s victory. In comments about the post, Bennett’s response to one statement included the use of a racial expletive.
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Dean Announces Campaign Team

Gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean made several major selections for his campaign staff, the Tennessean reports. Included on the team are Nashville attorney and former mayoral candidate Charles Robert Bone as finance chairman, and longtime Democratic operative Courtney Wheeler as campaign manager.
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TBA Joins Efforts to Save LSC

Details of the Trump administration budget have generated strong opposition to the proposed elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The Tennessee Bar Association is mobilizing to save legal aid services by encouraging Tennessee representatives in Congress and the White House to restore LSC funding. Learn more about the threat to LSC and show your support for vital legal aid programs via TBAImpact. National advocacy groups including The Shriver Center, Pro Bono Institute and National Legal Aid & Defender Association have joined in efforts to mobilize support for LSC. The Shriver Center notes historic bipartisan support for LSC, and its role as a “barometer for our country’s commitment to supporting basic fairness and access to equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of one’s income.”

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Do Fired U.S. Attorneys Have Future in U.S. House?

Federal prosecutors abruptly fired last week by President Donald Trump may show up next year as congressional candidates, Roll Call reports. Campaign consultants in both parties have long identified prosecutors as top flight candidates, and the 42 who were given just hours to clear out their offices may have been given an additional motive for running. For decades, when the Oval Office changed partisan hands, U.S. attorneys installed by the previous president were permitted to stick around and keep the wheels of justice moving until successors from the new president’s party were ready to take over.

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10 Candidates Line Up to Fill West Tennessee House Seat

Ten candidates — including two attorneys — have qualified to seek the Tennessee House of Representatives District 95 seat held by Mark Lovell until he resigned amid accusations of sexual misconduct, The Commercial Appeal reports. The heavily Republican district includes parts of Collierville, Germantown and Eads. Voters there will choose Lovell's replacement in a special primary election April 27 and special general election June 15.

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Former State GOP Officials Lobby for Congressional Term Limits

Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairmen Chris Devaney and Bob Davis are lobbying state legislators to advocate for term limits for U.S. Congrees, Knoxnews reports. A resolution currently in the legislature would declare Tennessee’s support for a national constitutional convention to create an amendment to impose term limits. The proposed limits are three two-year terms for U.S. House representatives and two six-year terms for U.S. senators.
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Mourners Pay Respects for Sen. Henry

More than 300 friends, family and political figures of both parties attended a memorial service in Nashville today for the late Sen. Douglas Henry, the Tennessean reports. Henry died Sunday at the age of 90. The conservative Democrat served 44 years in the state legislature and many praised his work there. "There’s really no way else to say it: We lost an exceptional man this week, a giant," Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said. "Senator Henry was great in not only what he attained and accomplished in this life, he was great in character." Henry lay in state at the Capitol on Thursday, the first person in decades to hold that honor. 
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Durham Could Face $7 Million in Fines

A show cause notice issued Feb. 28 shows that former legislator Jeremy Durham could face $7 million in fines for at least 690 campaign finance violations, the Tennessean reports. The notice details nearly $76,000 in improperly disclosed expenditures as well as the names of unreported donors who gave Durham money. Additionally more than $10,000 in illegal purchases were uncovered in the report. 
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AG: State Parks Outsourcing Legal

Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office issued an opinion determining that the planned outsourcing of facilities management at state parks is legal under state law, the Nashville Post reports. The opinion did include one caveat, stating that outsourcing must be approved by the State Building Commission.

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Uniform Limited Partnership Bill Passes Committee

The Tennessee Uniform Limited Partnership Act of 2017, drafted by a joint committee of the Tennessee Bar Association’s business and tax law sections, passed its first committee today with unanimous support in the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee. This legislation coordinates the limited partnership statute with those governing corporations and limited liability companies, updates the law for limited partnerships to operate in the modern business environment while allowing current limited partnerships to operate under existing law. This bill is the first of the TBA’s legislative package to be on a legislative calendar and is sponsored by Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, in the House and Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Brentwood, in the Senate. You can learn more and show your support via TBAImpact.

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Fewer Lawyers in Cabinet Than Previous Administrations

President Donald Trump’s cabinet currently includes only two lawyers, lower than any of the previous four administrations, the Wall Street Journal reports. Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are the only lawyers in the cabinet so far. A third, R. Alexander Acosta, is awaiting confirmation as Secretary of Labor. In previous administrations, lawyers accounted for 40 to 70 percent of 16 cabinet positions.
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State Leadership Considers Open Records Exceptions

At a recent Tennessee Press Association meeting, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell both said they would consider reviewing the hundreds of exemptions to the Open Records Act that are allowed, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Since the law was first passed, more than 350 exceptions have been enacted.

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Knoxville Businessman Announces Gubernatorial Run

Knoxville businessman and former Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd announced his bid for the Republican nomination for governor today, the Nashville Post reports. Boyd has already named several seasoned Republican political operatives as staff. Sen. Mark Green announced his candidacy in January, and other GOP politicians are expected to also join the race.
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LAW Chapter Opposes Judicial Elections Bill

Following previous announcements by the Tennessee Bar Association and the Nashville Bar Association, the Lawyers’ Association for Women, Marion Griffin Chapter in Nashville has come out in opposition to a bill requiring non-partisan judicial elections in Shelby and Davidson counties. “LAW strongly opposes SB135/HB98 due to its selective application to only two counties in Tennessee and its effect of diminishing the authority of local jurisdictions in state and county judicial elections,” the group’s statement reads.
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Longtime Legislator Douglas Henry Dies at 90

Tennessee’s longest serving legislator Douglas Henry died yesterday in Nashville. He was 90. Henry, a conservative Democrat, was first elected to a House seat in 1954 and to the Senate in 1970. Educated at Vanderbilt Law, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II. As a legislator, he spent many years as chair of the Senate’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee and was considered an “expert” on the state’s budget. Henry is remembered fondly by Democrats and Republicans alike, and was a mentor to many. “There will never be anybody else like Senator Henry in the Tennessee legislature,” Nashville attorney Bobby Thomas told the Tennessean. “He had no personal agenda and no personal ambition. He just wanted to do what all of our elected officials ought to do, and that's what's good for the public.” A public visitation is scheduled for Thursday on at Tennessee State Capitol from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and again at 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. A memorial service will take place Friday at 11 a.m. at the Downtown Presbyterian Church at 154 Fifth Avenue North.
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Beavers Calls for Attorney General Elections

A Tennessee lawmaker wants the state attorney general to be elected by voters by 2024, the Lebanon Democrat reports. Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, has sponsored a joint resolution to amend the state’s Constitution to make the change, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it. In Tennessee the attorney general is appointed by the state Supreme Court for an eight-year term.
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Shelby County Sets Timeline to Replace Lovell

The Shelby County Commission announced this week the timeline to replace Rep. Mark Lovell, WREG-TV reports. Lovell resigned in February amid allegations of inappropriate sexual contact. Applications for the District 95 seat will be available on the Shelby County Commission website March 21-27, interviews will be conducted March 29 and an official selection will be made during the commission’s April 3 meeting. District 95 voters will eventually vote in a special election in 2017 to decide a permanent replacement.
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AG: Heartbeat Bill is ‘Constitutionally Suspect’

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III wrote in an opinion that the core of a proposed bill banning abortions after a fetal hearbeat is detected is “constitutionally suspect,” the Tennessean reports. Slatery sited one part of the bill -- SB0244/HB0108, sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet and Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough -- as defensible: a provision that would require pregnant women to hear or view a fetal heartbeat before going through with an abortion.
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AG: Heartbeat Bill is ‘Constitutionally Suspect’

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III wrote in an opinion that the core of a proposed bill banning abortions after a fetal hearbeat is detected is “constitutionally suspect,” the Tennessean reports. Slatery sited one part of the bill -- SB0244/HB0108, sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet and Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough -- as defensible: a provision that would require pregnant women to hear or view a fetal heartbeat before going through with an abortion.
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Services This Weekend for Former Nashville Vice Mayor

Former Vice Mayor of Nashville John “Jay” West died on Wednesday at the age of 65. West served for 12 years on the Nashville Metro Council and was a prominent lobbyist on the Hill. He received his law degree from Nashville School of Law and for a time served as a legislative assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visitation with the family will be Saturday (March 4) from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Spring Hill Funeral Home. A celebration of life will be on Sunday (March 5) at 2 p.m. with visitation prior to the service from noon to 2 p.m. Memorial donations can be made to Faith Methodist Church.
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Tenn. Among 16 States With Anti-Protesting Bills

Tennessee is one of 16 states with bills seeking to regulate protestors and public demonstrations, the ABA Journal reports. Tennessee’s bill removes liability from drivers who hit protestors with their car if the demonstrator was blocking the road. The bills, HB0668/SB0944, are sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough. Other states have legislation that allows lawsuits against protestors to cover the cost of police response, increases penalties for rioting, and makes committing a crime while wearing a hoodie an extra misdemeanor charge.
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Hearing Today on Bill to Tighten Asset Forfeiture Standards

Legislation to reform the asset forfeiture process in Tennessee got a hearing today that lasted more than two hours in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. Watch a video of the proceedings. The bill, HB428 by Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, would establish more stringent standards for seizure and make return of assets easier. The Tennessee Bar Association supports substantial reforms in this area.

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