News

Legislature Named 'Most Conservative' in the Country

The Tennessee General Assembly has been named the most conservative legislature in the country by the American Conservative Union. Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, and Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, accepted the award Saturday at the group’s Conservative Political Action Conference. Read more from Humphrey on the Hill.

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Sen. Norris Will Not Run for Congress

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said he will not run for the Eighth District Congressional seat, The Commercial Appeal reports. The seat is being left open by the retirement of Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn. "I have my own re-election to run and have pulled my petition to run for re-election to the state Senate," Norris said. He is seeking a fifth four-year term. At least eight Republicans have announced they will run for Fincher’s seat, including state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, and former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff.

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Ramsey Names 5 to Trial Court Vacancy Commission

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey named the first five appointees to the newly created Trial Court Vacancy Commission, which will screen candidates and send three finalists to Gov. Bill Haslam for appointment. The appointees are: Gilbert McCarter II, a Murfreesboro attorney; David Golden, chief legal officer and senior vice president of Eastman Chemical Company; J. Bartlett Quinn, a Chattanooga attorney; Jesse Cannon Jr., an internist in Tipton County; and Beverly Nelms, a partner in Knoxville's Frantz, McConnell & Seymour. Speaker of the House Beth Harwell joined Ramsey to appoint Nashville lawyer Tom Lawless to serve as chair of the commission. Harwell, R-Nashville, will appoint the remaining five members of the commission, the Nashville Post reports.

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Attorney Offers Advice on New Sexual Harassment Policy

Waller partner Marcus Crider focused on the importance of training when speaking with a state legislative panel tasked with creating a new sexual harassment policy. Crider, who works with companies on developing and implementing such policies, spoke at the panel’s second meeting. The Tennessean reports that the panel did not mention Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, by name during the meeting, but there were a few references to his reported inappropriate behavior.

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House Resolution Criticizes Same-Sex Marriage Decision

The Tennessee House of Representatives today passed a resolution expressing disagreement with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to legalize same-sex marriage. The chamber said it disagrees with the constitutional analysis used in Obergefell v. Hodges. Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Old Hickory, sponsor of the measure, called the High Court’s action “very dangerous.” She added, “Our law does not say that, it’s never said that, and it was never the intent of the General Assembly to do that.” Read more from The Tennessean.

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Bill Would Give Judges Discretion in 'Peeping Tom' Cases

As the $75 million “Peeping Tom” suit brought by TV personality Erin Andrews continues in Nashville, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow judges more discretion in cases where someone unlawfully photographs someone. The bill would allow judges to order convicted defendants to register as a sex offender, WKRN reports. The act is currently considered a misdemeanor.

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Senate Panel Votes to Remove Funding for UT Diversity Office

The state Senate Education Committee unanimously voted Wednesday to strip state funding from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, The Tennessean reports. The decision comes after two controversial posts on the office’s website.

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Armstrong's Role as Lawmaker to Stay in Indictment

U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley today denied a request by Gregory P. Isaacs, attorney for State Rep. Joe Armstrong, to remove language of Armstrong as a lawmaker from his indictment. Armstrong, D-Knoxville, pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and tax evasion charges in connection to an increase in the state's cigarette tax. Isaacs argued prosecutors are “trying to poison jurors” because they are already skeptical of politicians. Shirley barred both sides from talking political ethics, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

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Two Measures Pass Out of Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed a bill (SB 2484) that would extend the statute of limitations for civil actions based on an injury resulting from child sexual abuse. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, extends the statute to seven years beyond the victim’s age of majority. The measure’s House companion last week passed out of the House Civil Justice Committee. The committee also signed off on a measure that would make Tennessee one of the first states to adopt the Asbestos Trust Bankruptcy Claims Transparency Act (SB 2062), sponsored by Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon.

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Bill Enacts Revised 'Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act'

Legislation introduced last year that would provide guidance and authority for executors, guardians, conservators, powers of attorney, trustees and others to access a deceased individuals’ digital assets has been sent to Gov. Bill Haslam. Digital property and electronic communications are included among assets. SB0326 by Sen. Norris, R-Collierville, and HB0774 by Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, passed its final hurdle but will not take effect until July 1. The bill’s final version (Senate Amendment 1 and Senate Amendment 2) includes revisions from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and has been dubbed the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA). 

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Bill Would Change Civil Forfeiture

State lawmakers are debating a bill (HB 1096 / SB 1001) that would allow police to seize items only after an arrest has been made and would bar forfeiture of property until after a criminal conviction, the Kingsport Times-News reports. Under the measure, a defendant could petition the court to access seized assets to pay for his or her defense and would replace civil forfeiture with criminal forfeiture. Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus disagrees with the measure. “The current procedures we have in place on civil forfeiture in Tennessee protects sufficiently due process,” he said.

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Proposal Would Require Public Vote on AG

Legislation that would require the state Supreme Court to make its selection of a new attorney general in open session could come up for review in the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, Gavel to Gavel reports. The bill (SB 1269/HB 1306) is sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston.

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Bill Aims to Deter Loaded Guns Left Around Children

“MaKayla’s Law” (SB 2294 / HB 2058) would make it a violation for a Tennessee resident to leave a loaded firearm unattended and readily accessible to a child under 13. The measure, introduced today by Democratic lawmakers, is named after MaKayla Dyer, an 8-year-old Jefferson County girl killed in October by her 11-year-old neighbor. The juvenile, who killed Dyer with his father’s shotgun, was found guilty earlier this month of first-degree murder. The Knoxville News Sentinel summarizes the proposed violations, which range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony.

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Updated Rosters for Attorney-Related Commissions

The Tennessee Supreme Court appointed TBA President Bill Harbison to serve another three-year term on the Board of Law Examiners. The term began the first of year and will expire Dec. 31, 2018. The Court also announced additional appointments to the Board of Law Examiners, along with appointments to the Advisory Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure, TN Lawyer's Fund for Client Protection, Board of Professional Responsibility and CLE Commission. The state Supreme Court last month announced appointments to the Access to Justice Commission. The Court yesterday also announced newly-appointed Justice Roger A. Page will serve as the Circuit Justice for 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 31st Judicial Districts. 

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Bill to Reduce Some Drug Punishments Moves Forward

A House subcommittee today unanimously approved a bill that would reduce the punishment for those found guilty of carrying a small amount of drugs. The bill would make three or more convictions for simple possession of any drug a misdemeanor, The Tennessean reports. The bill now heads to the full House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

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Bill Would Allow Opioid Antagonist Therapy in Pharmacies

The Senate passed SB2403 by Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, authorizing the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health to implement a state-wide collaborative pharmacy agreement specific to opioid antagonist therapy. The agreement would apply to any pharmacist licensed and practicing in the state. Tennessee leads in the number of prescription painkillers per person, and saw a record number of deaths from opioid overdoses in 2014, according to The Tennessean. The companion bill will be heard on the House floor tomorrow.

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Bill Addressing Witness Signatures Moves Out of Committee

Legislation from Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, permitting until July 1, 2016 the combined signatures of witnesses and those executing a self-proving affidavit to validate a testators signature moved out of the House Judiciary Committee today. The bill (HB 1472) is intended to address a situation like that addressed in the Court of Appeals case IN RE Estate of Bill Morris.

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Changes to Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative package making changes to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act in SB2553/HB2572 includes clarifying the effective date and clarifying the definition of initiating tribunal. Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, passes the bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today, and Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, passes its companion out of the House Civil Justice Committee. The bill now heads to the Senate floor and the House Calendar and Rules Committee for consideration. 

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Page Sworn In Last Night in Private Ceremony

Tennessee Supreme Court appointee Roger Page was sworn in last night by Justice Jeffrey Bivins in a small private ceremony following his confirmation by the General Assembly, the Nashville Post reports. Michele Wojciechowski, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said a more formal swearing-in will happen at a later date. “It’s typical for judges, especially sitting judges that are appointed to a higher court, to have a quick swearing-in so that they can begin the work, which are later followed up by more ceremonial proceedings,” she said.

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Senate OKs Push for Refugee Act Suit

Despite opposition from protestors, the state Senate on Monday approved a resolution (SJR 0467) requiring Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government over a federal refugee resettlement program. The move comes after Gov. Bill Haslam last week expressed “concerns” over the need for the measure, the Associated Press reports. Sponsor Sen. Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, argued the state has a right to control its own money. He said the General Assembly will hire its own lawyer if Slatery declines to get involved. Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, voted against the measure, saying, "(It) is misguided and really betrays the values of who we are." 

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Bill Would Extend Statue of Limitations for Child Abuse Civil Actions

The House Civil Justice Committee today passed HB2593 by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Nashville.  As amended, the bill extends the statue of limitations for civil actions based on an injury resulting from child sexual abuse that occurred when the person was a minor but was not discovered until after the person became an adult. The bill would extend the period to seven years from the discovery of the abuse. The bill, supported by the TBA, has also been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate version is sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville.

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Senate Votes to Nullify Nashville Local-Hire Bill

The state Senate on Monday passed a bill to nullify a local-hire rule that requires at least 40 percent of work hours on certain Nashville construction projects go to Davidson County residents. Nashville residents in August approved the measure, and the move to nullify it drew criticism from Nashville Democrat Sen. Jeff Yarbro. “I think that we should be a little more reluctant than this to go in and overturn the will of the voters,” he said. Attorney General Hebert Slatey issued an opinion in October stating that the rule violates state law. Read more from The Tennessean

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Page Confirmed as Tennessee Supreme Court Justice

The Tennessee House and Senate in a joint session this evening unanimously confirmed Roger Page to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Page received recommendations last week from the House Judicial Confirmation Ad Hoc Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. His confirmation in a joint session is the first under the General Assembly’s newly adopted judicial confirmation process

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Scalia's Death Could Impact Judicial Confirmations

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could complicate the confirmation of two Tennessee attorneys nominated to federal judgeships, according to Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. and U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III have both won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but have yet to be scheduled for a full Senate vote. “…I think (his death) will be another excuse that could be used by the Republicans," Tobias said, according to the The Knoxville News Sentinel. The Senate confirmed just 11 nominees in 2015; the pace is the slowest in 60 years.

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School Funding Lawsuit Moving Forward

Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman denied on Friday the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the school districts in Hamilton and six nearby counties over the state’s Basic Education Program funding formula. However, the Nashville judge did dismiss the requested class-action status for the suit, which would have brought all 141 school systems into the lawsuit. If the school districts win the challenge, the state government may be required to spend at least half-billion dollars more each year, according to the Times Free Press

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