News

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

Fantasy Sports Now Legal in Tennessee

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed the Fantasy Sports Tax Act, which legalizes and regulates fantasy sports betting, The Times Free Press reports. The legislation (SB 2109) will create an exemption from state anti-gambling provisions. Attorney General Hebert Slatery issued a legal opinion in April declaring that fantasy sports were illegal gambling in Tennessee under existing law. Fantasy sports giants DraftKings and FanDuel hired a Nashville lobbying firm and former House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner to lobby for the legislation on their behalf. 

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ACA Blasts Tennessee's Counseling Measure

The American Counseling Association said a new Tennessee law that allows counselors to deny service based on their own “sincerely held principles” is in direct violation of the ACA’s code of ethics. The association has also called the measure an “unprecedented attack” on the counseling profession. “(The measure) not only disproportionately affects LGBTQ Tennesseans seeking counseling, but will also have unintended consequences that will reach Tennesseans in all walks of life,” ACA spokesman Art Terrazas said. Read more from Associations Now

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Group Files to Join Abortion Amendment Vote Suit

The “Yes on 1 Campaign,” a group that supported the 2014 abortion ballot measure, today filed a notice to join a Williamson County case in which voters challenged the method by which votes were tabulated. The group, which says it spent millions of dollars to get the measure before voters, is seeking to appeal Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley’s recent ruling that upheld the state’s method of counting votes, but stopped short of determining that the count itself was right, The Tennessean reports. A federal judge later ruled that the state’s method of counting votes was not correct. Attorney General Hebert Slatery has said the state will appeal that ruling.

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Murfreesboro Attorney, Former Lawmaker Kent Coleman Dies

Former lawmaker and Murfreesboro attorney W. Kent Coleman died today (April 28). He was 61, the Daily News Journal reports. A graduate of Nashville School of Law, Coleman practiced mostly family law in Rutherford County for more than 30 years. He served the 49th district in the General Assembly from 2002 to 2010. He also served on the Tennessee Judicial Council from 2007-2010. A visitation is planned for tomorrow, 4-8 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, 210 North Spring St. in Murfreesboro. A memorial service will be held Saturday at the church at 3 p.m. 

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Haslam Signs Bill Permitting Counselors to Deny Service

Gov. Bill Haslam today signed into a law a bill that allows licensed counselors and therapists to deny service to clients whose "goals, outcomes or behaviors" conflict with the counselor’s “sincerely held principles.” The bill (SB 1556) shields counselors from civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution and sanctions by the state licensing board. The Tennessean reports Haslam said he felt comfortable signing the law, which as passed, requires a counselor to take a client who has an emergency and life threatening situation. The American Counseling Association condemned the measure, calling it a “hate bill.” 

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Health Care Task Force Holds Inaugural Meeting

A new legislate task force focused on expanding Tennessee’s health coverage held its inaugural meeting Tuesday. “The 3-Star Healthy Project” was established earlier this month by House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. The task force estimates there’s between 200,000 and 400,000 uninsured individuals in the state, largely consisting of employees in food service and construction industries, as well as veterans. Read more from The Tennessean

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4 Potential Veto Targets

The Times Free Press outlines four recently passed bills that may be targets for vetoes from Gov. Bill Haslam. The list includes one bill that would allow mental health counselors to reject clients based on counselors’ personal principles and a resolution ordering the state to file suit against the Obama administration over the federal government's refugee resettlement program in Tennessee. The article notes last week Haslam became the first governor since 1998 to survive a veto override attempt, this time coming on a bill that sought to make the Bible the state’s official book.

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Federal Judge Orders Recount on Abortion Ballot Measure

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp ordered election officials Friday to recount the votes on the 2014 abortion ballot measure Amendment 1, The Associated Press reports. Sharp said the the method used to count votes was “fundamentally” unfair to the eight Tennesseans who filed a lawsuit challenging the election results. Sharp gave the state 20 days to submit a recount plan. The Tennessean reports Vanderbilt University law professor Tracy George, one of the eight plaintiffs who brought the suit, said the amendment – which made it easier to put restrictions on abortions – would fail on a recount. The federal decision came late Friday, after a Williamson County judge had upheld the vote count. Sharp said that ruling has no impact on his decision. 

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State Legislature Wraps for the Year

The state legislature adjourned for the year earlier this afternoon. The Associated Press shares some of the winning and losing legislation from this year’s session. Winners include: permitting counselors to turn away patients based on counselors’ religious beliefs; calling for a national convention on amending the U.S. Constitution regarding federal power limits; and TBA-opposed legislation requiring people who sue the state to pay legal feels if they lose their lawsuits. Among the measures that didn't make it were designating the Bible as Tennessee’s official book; blocking the implementation of U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling in Tennessee; and eliminating the requirement to have a permit to carry handguns in public.

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Judge Upholds Vote Count on Tennessee Abortion Measure

Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley upheld the state's method of counting votes on the 2014 abortion measure Amendment 1, The Tennessean reports. Following its passage, eight voters and the chair of Planned Parenthood of Middle & Eastern Tennessee filed suit in federal court challenging the state's method of counting votes. In a 22-page order issued Thursday, Judge Binkley said the language in the state Constitution on how votes for amendments should be counted is “unambiguous.”  

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Lawmakers Pass Bill to Strip Funding from UT Diversity Office

Following a heated debate, the state legislature last night passed a bill stripping state funds from the University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion of funding for one year. The Associated Press reports the funds – a total of nearly $337,000 – will be used for minority scholarships instead. 

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Lawmakers Call for Investigation into Students' Arrest

WKRN reports the state Legislative Black Caucus and other lawmakers today called for a Department of Justice investigation into the handcuffing of students at Murfreesboro's Hobgood Elementary for allegedly not stopping a fight that happened off-campus. “The action by the police is an example of the over disciplining of children of color,” said caucus member Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville. 

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Bill to Legalize, Tax Fantasy Sports Heads to Haslam

The Fantasy Sports Tax Act, which would legalize, regulate and tax fantasy sports betting, is on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam. The Senate signed off on the measure (SB 2109) yesterday. The legislation follows a legal opinion issued by Attorney General Hebert Slatery that said fantasy sports contests are illegal gambling. The fiscal analysis of the legislation estimates $42 million is spent annually in Tennessee on fantasy sports, The Associated Press reports

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Haslam Can Veto Refugee Resettlement Lawsuit

The Tennessean reports Jennifer Donnals, spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Haslam, said the state constitution permits the governor authority to veto a resolution to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement. The Senate signed off yesterday on a change that would allow a private law firm to file a suit on behalf of Tennessee if the state attorney general refuses to sue. The House approved the joint resolution (SJR467) Monday. The Associated Press reports Haslam has previously raised concerns about the legislation. 

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