News

Judge: Williamson Strong Not a PAC

An unregistered political group that was fined by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance for its engagement during the 2014 Williamson County school board elections is not a PAC, according to Judge Michael Begley. The Tennessean reports that the group, called Williamson Strong, faced a complaint from former school board member Susan Curlee for its expenditures towards a website, domain hosting and social media presence. The registry found those expenditures to count as political and issued a fine, but the ruling by Judge Begley overturns that finding.
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Probate Omnibus Bill Ready for House Floor Vote

TBA-backed HB 567 has passed through its final House committee and is ready to be scheduled for a House floor vote. That is expected no later than next week. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, is referred to as the Probate Omnibus Bill. It will update the Tennessee Code to reflect the elimination of the inheritance and estate tax. Two amendments are traveling with the legislation, deleting sections to avoid any negative impact to court orders on bank accounts, land titles and insurance policies. The companion bill, SB 769, sponsored by Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, is expected to go before the Senate Judiciary committee as soon as next week.

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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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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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