News

Wamp’s Son Tries Second Congressional Run

Weston Wamp, son of former congressman Zach Wamp, announced Monday that he will make another run for the U.S. Congress, Nooga.com reports. Wamp came in third in the 2012 Republican primary and again will face Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah.

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Knoxville Lawyer Launches Campaign Against Alexander

Knoxville lawyer Terry Adams today launched a campaign to secure the Democratic nomination to take on Republican incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander. Adams runs a seven-attorney law firm and owns a title company in Knoxville. He said he already has secured support from the current and four prior heads of the Tennessee Democratic Party. Former Tennessee Democratic Party chair Bob Tuke, who lost to Alexander in 2008, has been named his campaign treasurer. Nashville counseling company executive Larry Crim has also declared plans to seek the nomination.

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Nashville Rep. Introduces Medical Marijuana Bill

State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, introduced legislation this week that would allow qualified patients authorized by their physicians to engage in cannabis therapy, the Johnson City Press reports. The bill outlines medical use under the Safe Access program, which would be regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and the state Board of Pharmacy. Under the program, caregivers could give patients a card that qualifies them to purchase medical marijuana at selected pharmacies or “dispensaries.” Qualifying medical conditions include cancer, glaucoma, immune-deficiency diseases, chronic pain, nausea and seizures.

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Wilkins, Others Pull Petition for Memphis Offices

Memphis attorney Ricky E. Wilkins has pulled a qualifying petition to run in the August Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District against incumbent Representative Steve Cohen. Wilkins has been considering the run for some time though polls show strong support for Cohen. In another local race, Memphis City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon and Juvenile Court Chief Magistrate Dan Michael picked up qualifying petitions for juvenile court judge. They would face off to replace current judge Curtis Person Jr. who is not seeking re-election. The Memphis Daily News reports.

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Bailey Named to Fill Term of Rep. Curtiss

The White County Commission voted this week to appoint Paul Bailey, a Republican candidate for the state Senate seat now held by Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, to serve out the unexpired term of Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, who resigned from office on Jan. 1. White is a member of the commission but abstained from the vote. He said he would not seek election to the House seat following his appointed term as he remains “100 percent committed” to seeking election to the District 15 seat now held by Burks, who has announced she will not to seek reelection. Humphrey on the Hill has more.

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Reeves, Lipman Re-nominated for Judicial Posts

Two Tennessee attorneys nominated for the federal bench were re-nominated by President Obama on Monday, along with 52 other nominees who had not received Senate confirmation before the holiday break. The renominations were necessary because Republican Senators refused to allow the pending nominees to be “held over” to the new session as in the past, the Blog of Legal Times reports. That means that Knoxville lawyer Pamela Reeves, who won Judiciary Committee support in November for her nomination to the Eastern District of Tennessee court, will now face another committee vote before her nomination can be considered by the full Senate. Memphis attorney Sheryl Lipman, who was nominated in May for the Western District of Tennessee court, had appeared at a hearing before the committee in September, but had not yet come up for a committee vote.

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Cobb Running Again Against Travis

Former District 31 state Rep. Jim Cobb plans to try to regain the seat he lost in 2012 by 105 votes in the Republican primary. He took the first step Friday by picking up papers to run against Rep. Ron Travis, Chattanoogan.com reports. In other news from Rhea County, John L. McCullough of Dayton picked up papers to run for the Fourth Congressional District seat. In area judicial races, Steve Blount picked up papers to run for circuit court judge; Carol Barron, J. Shannon Garrison and Larry Roddy picked up papers to run for general sessions judge; Jamie Holloway, Cheryl Cashman and Pam Peavyhouse picked up papers to run for circuit court clerk; and Mike Taylor pulled papers for district attorney general.

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Tennessee Senate Race Draws Interest

One of two statewide races on the 2014 Tennessee ballot drew immediate interest as the filing period opened late last week, the Memphis Daily News reports. Democrat Gary Gene Davis of Nashville, Republican Joe Wilmoth of Baxter and independent candidate Joshua James of Murfreesboro all picked up petitions to challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander. April 3 is the filing deadline for state and federal primaries set for August. The winners of the primaries along with independent candidates then will advance to the November general elections.

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Rep. Curtiss Resigns from House

Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, officially resigned from the state House of Representatives on Jan. 1, ending a 19-year career. The 66-year-old pro-business Democrat and religious conservative announced in October that he would not seek re-election to House District 43, which includes Grundy, Warren and White counties, after a rough 2012 campaign. Curtiss has been hired as executive director of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, which lobbies on behalf of counties’ interests at the Capitol, and had to give up his seat to take the job, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

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DesJarlais Fighting For Another Term

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, has been on a wild political ride: from dark-horse candidate, to surprise tea party winner, to GOP standard-bearer and finally to political outcast -- all in the span of about 36 months. Now, the second-term congressman is trying on one last label -- incumbent -- in his bid to secure a third term. The Tennessean looks at his campaign.

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Lawyer Who Survived Rape Spearheads Law Change

As the issue of dealing with the backlog of testing some 12,000 rape kits in Shelby County moves into federal court, observers predict another attempt will be made to change Tennessee law so that the statute of limitations begins running when kits are processed. One of those rape victims, Meaghan Ybos, has been active in the effort, drafting model legislation and speaking out publicly about the situation in Memphis. Ybos is now a lawyer and is using her training to bring attention to the state’s current statute of limitations for rape cases, which runs for about 15 years depending on the offense, the Memphis Daily News reports.

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Gilmore Elected State Director for Women in Government

State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, has been elected a state director within Women in Government, a group advocating for women serving in state legislatures. WDEF News 12 reports that Gilmore was elected by her female colleagues in the Tennessee General Assembly to identify key issues, policies and priorities on which the national group should focus. Gilmore said yesterday in a press release that she is humbled to have been chosen, and that she wants to work to ensure more women are elected to public office in Tennessee.

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Gun Group Slams Top Republicans for Lack of Enthusiasm

The Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA) is slamming top Republican leaders for displaying insufficient enthusiasm for changing the “guns in parking lots” law enacted earlier this year to address the state attorney general's opinion that the bill does not protect employees from being fired for having guns in their cars. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said they expect the issue to come up but do not intend to take the lead in introducing legislation. In a letter to members, TFA Executive Director John Harris called it “shameful” that Republican leaders “continue ignoring the constitutionally protected rights of law-abiding gun owners."

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McNally Seeks Re-election, Outlines Legislative Priorities

Oak Ridge Republican Randy McNally, first elected to the state Senate in 1986, says he has decided to seek re-election to another four-year term, believing “there are a number of things sort of left undone” including “reform of our state judiciary.” Humphrey on the Hill reports today that McNally says the system is “more for the protection of criminals and the enrichment of trial lawyers and not for protection of the public.” With respect to particular issues, McNally previously proposed drug testing of all judges. He now says he will revise his bill to allow either party in a case to request that the judge take a drug test before presiding. He also says he wants to push for new restrictions on state funding of criminal defense lawyers and hold attorneys financially responsible if a court later finds they provided inadequate counsel.

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AOC Makes Appointments for 2014

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) recently released updated rosters for a variety of boards and commissions that fall under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Supreme Court. New appointments will take effect Jan. 1, 2014. New members named to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission are Mary Ann Zaha and Virginia Story, who replace Glenna Ramer and Edward Silva. At the Board of Law Examiners, the court appointed Rhynette Hurd and Jeffrey Ward to replace Jimmie Carpenter Miller and Ricky Wilkins. New members named to the CLE Commission are Cynthia Hall and Sarah Creekmore Woodall, who replace Thomas Clifton Greenholtz and John Stanley Rogers. The court also named Ed Lancaster as chair. At the Board of Professional Responsibility, the court appointed Odell Horton to replace Clarence Halmon and named Russell Parkes as chair and Michael King as vice chair. New members named to the Tennessee Lawyers’ Fund For Client Protection are Rep. Vance Dennis, Jonathan Guthrie and Spencer Chinery, who replace Laura Keeton, Katherine Wilson Singleton and Mary Ann Zaha. Fund leaders include Chair Dawn Deaner, Vice Chair Marty McAfee and Secretary/Treasurer Kim Helper.

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Turner Decides to Remain in House Leadership

State House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner has reversed course after announcing plans to quit his leadership post, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. He now says he will remain at the helm through the 2014 election. In early November, the Nashville lawmaker said he planned to step down, citing differences with Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron over political philosophy and campaign strategy. In making the announcement, Turner said colleagues in the House urged him to reconsider, while a talk with Herron cleared the air. “He's going to do what he does, and I'm going to do what I do and we're moving on,” Turner explained.

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Alexander Blocks Approval of Judicial Nominations

Knoxville lawyer Pamela Reeves’ nomination to become a federal judge for East Tennessee stalled Monday night after U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander blocked a vote on dozens of appointments, Knoxnews reports. Alexander’s objection did not appear to be directed at Reeves or any particular nominee, but instead at Democrats’ decision to change Senate rules to prevent Republicans from filibustering certain court appointments. Reid had attempted to move the nominations as a group. Now he has begun scheduling votes on individual nominees. Today, that strategy worked with the Senate approving the nomination of Patricia Millett to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Blog of Legal Times has that story.

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Poll Finds Support Strong for Cohen

A new poll shows U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, with a large lead over potential challenger Ricky Wilkins. The poll, conducted by the Memphis polling firm Yacoubian Research, showed the incumbent receiving 76 percent of support among likely Democratic primary voters to 11 percent for Wilkins, who is an attorney in private practice. Thirteen percent were undecided. The poll, involving some 204 respondents in the 9th Congressional District, also found that Cohen led Wilkins in all age, race, gender and geographic groupings, with his greatest strength among African-American males and white females. The Memphis Flyer has more on the poll results.

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Cities Set to Hire Law Firm Lobbyists

Franklin and Brentwood are poised to have their own lobbyists when the General Assembly convenes in January. The Tennessean reports that the cities are reviewing a $35,000 contract to hire lobbyists at Frost Brown Todd who would track legislation and meet with leaders about issues pertaining to both cities. Since being selected by the cities through a bidding process, Frost Brown Todd has formed CivicPoint, a lobbying, government relations and public affairs entity, and has hired former state legislator and Republican Caucus Chair Debra Maggart as its senior vice president.

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Holleman Drops out of State Senate Race

Metro Nashville Councilman Jason Holleman announced today that he is dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination for a state Senate seat. The campaign has “given me the opportunity to take stock, to understand the demands that would be placed on me as senator and to recognize that those demands, while necessary for the progress of the state, would be shared by my children and family,” Holleman wrote in an email to supporters. Holleman, an attorney and second-term councilman representing the Sylvan Park area, had been expected to compete in Senate District 21 and face political activist Mary Mancini and attorney Jeff Yarbro for the Democratic nomination to succeed longtime state Sen. Douglas Henry, who plans to retire. The Tennesseean has more.

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Senate Rewrites Filibuster Rules to Move Judicial Nominees

The Democratic-controlled Senate today voted 52-48 to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees, the New York Times reports. Democrat leaders moved forward with this option over frustration that Republicans were blocking President Barack Obama's nominees. The most recent incident, according to Business Week, was the filibuster earlier this week that blocked a third nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The new rule will apply only to executive and lower court judicial nominees. Consideration of Supreme Court nominees will still require a 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster.

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State Budget Hearings Start Next Week

Gov. Bill Haslam will hold state budget hearings for Fiscal Year 2014-2015 starting Tuesday and running through Nov. 25, Chattanoogan.com reports. Hearings will be held in the Executive Conference Room on the ground floor of the Capitol. Haslam, Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin and State Budget Director David Thurman will preside. The proceedings also may be viewed on the state website. See a schedule online.

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Former State Senator Charged with Insurance Fraud

Former Democratic state senator Eric Stewart, who ran for Congress against Republican Scott DesJarlais last year, has been indicted on charges of theft and insurance fraud, WATE reports. He is accused of selling a worker's compensation policy to a contractor and using the $750 premium for his personal use. Stewart turned himself in Tuesday night at the Franklin County jail and posted $5,000 bond. His arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 15.

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Early Voting Opens in Memphis in Sales Tax Referendum

Early voting opened today in Memphis in the citywide referendum on a half-percent sales tax hike and the Tennessee House District 91 general elections. The citywide sales tax hike ballot question includes in its wording a provision for $30 million of the estimated $47 million in revenue the increase would generate to be used for an expansion of pre-kindergarten services in the city of Memphis. The general election for state House District 91 is a contest between Democratic nominee Raumesh Akbari, who won the October primary special election, and Libertarian candidate Jim Tomasik. The Memphis Daily News has more.

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GOP Blocks Obama Nominees, Hopes to Reduce D.C. Court Size

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked President Barack Obama’s picks of Patricia Millett to become a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Rep. Melvin Watt, D-North Carolina, to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency, prompting Democrats to threaten curtailing the GOP's ability to derail nominations. The defeats immediately subjected Democratic leaders to pressure from liberal groups and newer Democratic senators to change Senate rules that let the minority — currently Republicans — force the majority to muster 60 votes on controversial nominations, instead of a simple majority. WKRN News 2 has more from the Associated Press. A Republican-sponsored bill would also eliminate three seats on the D.C. Circuit Court, reducing the total number of authorized judgeships from 11 to eight. Learn more from Gavel Grab.

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