News

Bill Would Redirect Funds from UT to Pay for Decals

The Nashville Post reports a bill advancing in the state House would redirect money from the University of Tennessee's diversity office to pay for "In God We Trust" decals for law enforcement vehicles. Bill sponsor Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, estimates eliminating funding for the office would free up about $100,000. The state Senate has amended the governor's proposed budget to pull $8 million from the university.           

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House Committee Kills 'MaKayla's Law'

A state House committee today killed “MaKayla’s Law,” a bill stemming from the death of an 8-year-old White Pine girl by her 11-year-old neighbor. The measure (SB 2294 / HB 2058) would have penalized adult gun owners who leave loaded guns unlocked and accessible to children under age 13. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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McNally to be Speaker Under Norris 'Transitional' Plan

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is working on an agreement among Senate Republicans in which Sen. Randy McNally will succeed Sen. Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker and lieutenant governor for at least the next two years. Norris, R-Collierville, said the “transitional” speakership is to avoid a “distraction” in this year’s legislative elections, The Commercial Appeal reports. McNally, R-Oakridge, announced last week that he is running for the speakership.

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Group Files Ethics Complaint Against Sen. Corker

The Campaign for Accountability, based in Washington D.C., filed its second ethics complaint against U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Chattanooga. The complaint, filed with both the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, alleges Corker “concealed information" about his financial stakes in two Chattanooga-based funds, as well as one based in Memphis. The Times Free Press reports Corker’s office said the filing is “another baseless accusation.”

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Harwell Finalizes Trial Court Vacancy Commission

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, named her five appointees to the state's Trial Courts Vacancy Commission tasked with nominating judges to fill vacancies to the state's lower courts. The Nashville Post reports Harwell’s appointees are: Ed Lancaster, a Columbia attorney; Kim Helper, District Attorney General for the 21st Judicial District; Bradford Box, equity member with the Jackson firm of Rainey Kizer Reviere & Bell; Bill Koch, dean of the Nashville School of Law; and DeWayne Bunch, magistrate judge in Cleveland. Harwell’s appointees join Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s five appointees who were named earlier this month. Nashville attorney Tom Lawless will chair the commission.

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Proposed Amendment to Tennessee's Adoption Law

Legislation amending Tennessee’s adoption law will be heard Tuesday in the House Civil Justice Committee. Proponents of the amendment (HB1389) that would amend 24 code sections say it represents technical changes. The measure is sponsored by Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston. TBA members may comment on the bill via TBAImpact under the Famiily Law section of state bills. Read a summary of the bill provided by proponents.

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Lawful Employment Act Heads to Senate Floor, House Committee

The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act is on its way to House Finance, Ways and Means Committee and the Senate floor. HB1830 by Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, and SB1965 by Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, as amended requires employers with 50-200 employees to enroll in E-Verify when hiring.

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Insurance Costs Reduction Act Deferred to Summer Study Committee

The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee today deferred to a Summer Study Committee a bill (HB546) referred to as the Insurance Costs Reduction Act, sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin. The bill is the vehicle for the creation of the Patient Compensation System, a workers' comp-like system for medical malpractice.

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Ramsey Will Not Seek Re-election to Senate

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey will not seek re-election this November, WSMV reports. Ramsey’s term as Speaker of the Senate will expire in January 2017. "After a lot of prayer and many sleepless nights, I have determined that I simply cannot commit to another four years in office," Ramsey, R-Blountville, said. Ramsey, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 1992 as a member of the House, said he wants to spend more time with his family and grandchildren.

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House Thanks U.S. Senators for Opposing Action on SCOTUS Nominee

The state House last week passed a resolution thanking Tennessee’s U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker for stating they will not vote for anyone nominated by President Barack Obama as a U.S. Supreme Court nominee. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville criticized the measure (HR178) as "engaging in these partisan games." Read more from The Knoxville News Sentinel.

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Bill Would Repeal 'Spiritual Treatment' Exemption to Child Neglect Law

The state Senate last week unanimously approved a bill that would repeal the "spiritual treatment" exemption to the state's child abuse and neglect statute, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The measure (SB 1761 / HB 2043) is sponsored by Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, a cardiac surgeon. The exemption was at the center of a case involving the 2002 death of a Loudon County girl after her mother refused medical care in favor of “spiritual treatment” and prayer. The state House Criminal Justice Committee is scheduled to consider the bill Wednesday.

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Bill Would Restrict Who Can Perform Marriages

Judges, clerks and other officials would no longer be authorized to solemnize marriages under a bill scheduled to be heard next week in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. The bill (HB 2379 / SB 2462), sponsored by Rep. James Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, and Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, says that after July 1 only "regular ministers, preachers, pastors, priests, rabbis, and other spiritual leaders of every religious belief, more than 18 years of age, having the care of souls, may solemnize the rite of matrimony.”

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Bill Could Help Defendants Work Off Court Costs

State lawmakers are expected to vote today on a bill that would allow Knox County judges to offer chronic offenders community service to pay off their court costs. A WBIR investigation last year found that some indigent defendants were responsible for court debts of more than $750,000. Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign off on the bill, which will serve as a pilot program before potentially moving into other counties. 

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Senate Passes Bill Allowing Pharmacists to Provide Birth Control

A Tennessee bill (SB 1677 / HB 1823) that would allow women to obtain contraceptives from pharmacists cleared the Senate today and now heads to the House, The Tennessean reports. According to the bill, interested pharmacists would have to enter into a collaborative agreement with a physician, who would oversee a series of protocols for the pharmacist to follow. 

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Tennessee Local Government Forum Planned for March 18

The Tennessee Local Government Forum 2016 will be held March 18 from 9 a.m. – 3:15 p.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Topics include the Tennessee Open Records Act, recent changes in laws related to whistle blower protection and ethical considerations for government lawyers. The forum is approved for five CLE credits.

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Haslam Says Outsourcing Plan Will Save $35.8M a Year

Gov. Bill Haslam said his plan to outsource management and operation of all state-owned buildings and real estate will save the state $35.8 million a year. The Times Free Press reports that the figure includes state property and protection for all existing state jobs. Haslam also told the state legislature and the public that $10.6 million of the amount is projected for University of Tennessee's statewide campuses, with current employees protected. The plan has drawn criticism from lawmakers and UT employees.

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Bill on Witness Signatures for Wills Moves to Senate Floor

The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed SB1560 by Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, with an amendment. The bill as amended provides that any will executed prior to July 1 will be considered executed if the witnesses to the will signed a self-proving affidavit incorporated in a will and other existing statuary requirements are met. The bill will go to the Senate floor next. Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, passed the companion bill, HB1472, on the House floor last week.

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Bill Would Require Losers of Suits Against State Workers to Pay Legal Costs

The Senate Judiciary Committee will on March 15 consider SB2377 by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, that would require losing parties in lawsuits brought against state officials in their individual capacity to pay legal costs. The House of Representatives passed its companion HB1679 by Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown. The TBA does not support this change in policy by the legislature because it chills legitimate claims. Take action today by contacting your legislator via TBAImpact.

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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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