News

Durham Sues AG, House Speaker Over Investigation

Tennessee state Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, filed suit Friday against House Speaker Beth Harwell and Attorney General Herbert Slatery to block release of an investigative report into his conduct. The AG's ad hoc committee created to investigate Durham is scheduled to meet Wednesday. A hearing on Durham’s motion will take place Tuesday afternoon. Slatery’s office is expected to respond to the motion today. Durham’s political opponent has called on him to drop the suit, saying he should not delay the release of the report. The Tennessean has more on both stories.

read more »

Trump Taps Blackburn for RNC Convention Speech

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., will take the stage to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this month, reports the Tennessean. Blackburn was selected by presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, and has referred to herself as a "very unlikely candidate" for Trump's vice president pick. Gov. Bill Haslam, Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker, considered a VP candidate himself prior to removing himself from contention earlier this week, will also attend the convention.

read more »

Brennan Report Highlights 'Gray' Political Funding

A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice highlights the rise of "dark money" spending in local political elections, and how it relates to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010. One issue of concern is the phenomenon of “gray money," described as Super PACs that claim to disclose their donors receiving money from other PACs, thereby further complicating the identification of the source of funding. The Brennan Center’s findings include the analysis that only 29 percent of outside spending in 2014 was fully transparent in the states examined in the study, which is down from 76 percent in 2006.
read more »

Durham Investigation Expected to Wrap Up Soon

Tennessee state Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, who chairs the ad hoc committee investigating alleged misconduct by Franklin Republican Jeremy Durham, says he expects Attorney General Herbert Slatery to have a report to the panel “in the near future,” the Tennessean reports. The conclusion of Slatery’s investigation is expected to factor into whether the House of Representatives moves forward with possible expulsion proceedings over allegations of misconduct and disorderly and inappropriate behavior.

read more »

Corker Withdraws As Potential Trump VP

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, told the Washington Post today that he has withdrawn from consideration as a potential running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Corker said he informed Trump of his decision while campaigning with him yesterday. “There are people far more suited for being a candidate for vice president, and I think I’m far more suited for other types of things,” Corker told the paper. But he praised Trump during the interview and said he remains eager to serve as an informal adviser to the candidate. According to WKRN, a tweet from Corker’s office today clarified that the senator would still be open to a cabinet position.

read more »

Fetal Assault Law Expires

A controversial law that charged new mothers with assault if they took opiates during pregnancy and their babies were born addicted has expired. Critics of the measure, including the ACLU and Addiction Campuses, argued that the law made women afraid to reach out for help. News Channel 5 has more.

read more »

Panel Approves Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would provide key protections to innocent persons whose property is seized under federal civil asset forfeiture laws, the ABA Journal reports. The legislation represents the most significant reform of the forfeiture laws since 2000, according to the ABA, which backed the measure. Among its provisions, the bill raises the government’s standard of proof to “clear and convincing” evidence, provides counsel for indigent property owners, institutes a new early hearing process, and allows for easier recovery of legal fees for property owners who prevail in their cases.

read more »

2016 Legislative Wrap Up

While most of the public attention has been focused on the new law that allows wine to be sold in grocery stores, there are dozens of other new laws that impact lawyers. Read a wrap up of legislation enacted in the current session. Laws that take effect July 1 are highlighted in yellow.

read more »

State Lawmakers Meet with Federal Health Officials

A group of Tennessee lawmakers were in Washington, D.C., today to meet with federal regulators as part of an effort to improve access to health care coverage for the uninsured. The group – formally known as the “3-Star Healthy Project” – were to meet with officials from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and present a plan to address the needs of uninsured veterans and those struggling with behavioral health issues, the Tennessean reports. The group includes Reps. Karen Camper, D-Memphis; Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough; Roger Kane, R-Knoxville; Steve McManus, R-Cordova; and Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville; as well as Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville.

read more »

Health Department Names New Legislative Lead

The Tennessee Department of Health has named Jeremy Davis as its new assistant commissioner for legislative affairs, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Davis comes to this new role after serving as a legislative liaison for the department and as a policy assistant for Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris. He succeeds Valerie Nagoshiner, who has been promoted to chief of staff.

read more »

New UT Diversity Adviser to Work with Lawmakers

The head of the University of Tennessee system has appointed an adviser to focus on increasing diversity across the school’s multiple campuses and serve as a liaison to state lawmakers. Noma Anderson, who most recently was a dean at the school’s health sciences center, says she will represent the school on Capitol Hill “in a more consistent way, not waiting for a general hearing” or a controversy to erupt. This past session, the legislature defunded the UT Diversity Office over its instructions on using gender-neutral pronouns and inclusive language about holiday parties. Nashville Public Radio reports.

read more »

Black Caucus to Hold Criminal Justice Forum

The Tennessee legislature’s Black Caucus will hold a public forum in Memphis on July 10 to discuss criminal justice reform issues. The event will run from 3 to 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church-Broad. According to the Commercial Appeal, the caucus won legislative approval this year for several bills aimed at reforming criminal justice laws, including one making it easier to have a criminal record expunged in cases of mistaken identity and another preventing the state from asking a job applicant about a criminal history early in the interview process. 

read more »

Law Allowing Guns on Campus Goes Into Effect July 1

A new state law that permits full-time faculty, staff and other employees of Tennessee's public colleges and universities who have handgun-carry permits to carry their guns on campus will go into effect July 1. The Tennessean reports that police at the University of Tennessee on Monday will start registering employees who want to carry guns on the Knoxville campus.

read more »

Holt Will Pay for Handgun Carry Permits

State Rep. Andy Holt today announced that he will personally pay for the first five people that contact his office to get their handgun carry permits. “I want people to arm themselves,” said Holt, R-Dresden. “I think members of the LGBT community are starting to realize how crazy it is that Democrats want to leave them completely defenseless.”

read more »

Spivey: Durham Investigation 'Reeks of Political Witch Hunt'

The Tennessean reports Rep. Bill Spivey, R-Lewisburg, has joined other Republican lawmakers who are calling for an end to Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s investigation of Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin. In a letter to the head of the committee that initiated the investigation, Spivey cited concerns over some of Slatery’s actions in the investigation and said that the probe "reeks of a political witch hunt.” State election officials announced earlier this month that they are also investigating Durham’s finances. 

read more »

Minorities Underrepresented in 47 Legislatures, Including Tennessee

A new analysis by The Associated Press finds minority residents are underrepresented — in terms of the numbers of seats they hold relative to their shares of state populations — in 47 state legislatures across the country, including Tennessee's. White residents comprised 74.5 percent of Tennessee's estimated 2014 population, but white lawmakers held 84.7 percent of the total 132 seats in the state Legislature. The Knoxville News Sentinel takes a closer look at the issue and argues that a more diverse legislature could be in the state’s future based on recent elections.  

read more »

Nashville Schools to Sue State for Education Funding

The Metro Nashville Public Schools board voted yesterday to sue the state for a larger share of education funding, The Tennessean reports. The board claims Nashville is not receiving the adequate amount of funds for English language learners, despite reportedly having the highest ELL population in the state. Shelby County Schools and seven Hamilton County-area districts are already suing the state for education funding. 

read more »

Rep. Holt Giving Away AR-15s at Fundraiser

The Tennessean reports that Rep. Andy Holt said he is standing behind his decision to give away a semi-automatic rifle, similar to the one used in the Orlando shooting, at his upcoming fundraiser. "It has nothing to do with the style of weapon. It has everything to do with who’s behind the weapon," said Holt, R-Dresden. The Nashville Post later reported that Holt is doubling the prize, giving away two of the AR-15 assault rifles.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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. 

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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

read more »