News

Immigration Activists Call for Unified Resistance

Immigration reformers must coordinate their efforts to combat threatening policies from the incoming administration, Democratic federal lawmakers told attendees at the National Immigrant Integration Conference in Nashville. Among those making the case was Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Nashville’s Rep. Jim Cooper also made an appearance, during which he called Tennessee a “special state” because both of its senators voted in favor of comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. That measure, which would have offered a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, was never taken up for a vote on the floor of the House. Read more from the Tennessean.

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Legislative Panel Meets Thursday on Internet Sales Tax

A Tennessee lawmaker says it is unclear what action a legislative panel will take this week on Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed rule to require out-of-state retailers with no physical presence in the state to collect state and local sales taxes on Internet purchases. “What happens Thursday is anybody’s guess right now,” Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, told the Times Free Press. The Department of Revenue’s proposed rule would apply to out-of-state Internet retailers and catalog sellers with sales exceeding $500,000 annually. 

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Democrats Re-elect Harris, Yarbro to Senate Posts

State Sens. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, and Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, were re-elected to leadership positions in the 110th General Assembly, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Harris was re-elected Senate minority leader, while Yarbro was re-elected Democratic Caucus chair. The pair say their party will be more active in "getting the word out” on issues such as health care, outsourcing and public transit issues during the next legislative session.

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ABA Revises ‘Model Business Corporation Act’ Book

The American Bar Association (ABA) Business Law Section has published the 2016 version of the “Model Business Corporation Act,” offering the first complete revision of the book since 1984. The model act is a free-standing business corporation statute that can be enacted in its entirety by a state legislature. It is the basis for business corporation statutes in 32 states and Washington, D.C., and the source for many provisions in the general corporation statutes of other states, according to the section.

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Durham Documents ‘Irretrievable’ after Devices Reset

Tennessee legislative staff have destroyed “files, documents, photographs, emails and other information” that were on computers and tablets used by Jeremy Durham while he was a member of the House of Representatives, the Tennessean reports. The paper learned of the move after it requested information related to Durham’s activities. Connie Ridley, director of legislative administration told the paper that Durham’s electronic devices have been set back “to factory default settings” and all documents are “irretrievable."

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Winton to Lead BlueCross Government Relations

Dakasha Winton has been promoted by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee to the newly created position of chief government relations officer, Chattanoogan.com reports. In this position, Winton will be responsible for leading all government relations efforts in Nashville and Washington, D.C. Prior to the promotion, Winton served as director of state government relations and associate general counsel. 

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Harwell Plans More Changes Following Durham Saga

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, plans two policy changes directly related to the downfall of lawmaker Jeremy Durham, the Tennessean reports. In a statement Friday, Harwell said she will propose that the House Ethics Committee hear allegations of sexual harassment and then recommend action to the full chamber. Under current rules, the committee may not hear these cases. Harwell also said she would push for changes in the rules to allow the reporting of raw numbers of violations or complaints filed under the House’s discrimination and harassment policy.

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Report: Medical Marijuana Returning to Legislature

A pair of Republican lawmakers will be making another go at legalizing medical marijuana this coming legislative session, Nashville Public Radio reports. Sen. Steve Dickerson, a Nashville doctor, and Rep. Jeremy Faison of East Tennessee plan to unveil details of the legislation this week. The two have argued for several years that marijuana can help people with chronic and terminal conditions manage pain. This past fall, Rep. Faison travelled to Colorado to meet with Tennesseans with chronic pain now living there.

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Sessions Confirmation Hearing Set for January

The U.S. Senate confirmation hearing for attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, will run for two days starting Jan. 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Friday. Committee Democrats had asked for four days to dig into the background of their colleague, Roll Call reports. Committee Chair Charles E. Grassley cited hearings for previous nominees that lasted one or two days with three to nine outside witnesses each day. Grassley also said that Sessions had completed the committee’s questionnaire and that the 33-page document is available on the committee’s website.

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Congress Renews Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Review

As one of its last acts on Saturday before adjourning the current legislative session, Congress approved and sent to President Barack Obama legislation that would continue reviews of racially motivated killings from the civil rights era that are now considered cold cases. The legislation, passed by voice vote, extends indefinitely a 2007 law that calls for a full accounting of race-based deaths, many of which have been closed for decades. It also extends the cut-off date to include any cases occurring before Dec. 31, 1979. The Associated Press reports that more than 100 cases from the 1960s and earlier have been reviewed so far, with one resulting conviction.

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Nathan Ridley is NBA's New President

Nathan Ridley was elected president of the Nashville Bar Association (NBA) Thursday during the group's annual meeting and banquet at the Music City Center. Erin Palmer Polly is the new president-elect; Robb Bigelow is first vice president; Marnie Huff is second vice president; Stephen Young is treasurer; and Lela Hollabaugh is general counsel. Jocelyn Stevenson, who served as president in the previous bar year, is now immediate past president. Lauren Paxton Roberts is the Young Lawyers Division president. The NBA previously announced the results of contested board elections.

Awards also were presented. The YLD Enterprise Award went to Mollie Gass and Peter Malnchuk. The YLD President's Award was given to Kelly Donley and Lauren Spahn. The Nashville Bar Journal Award was presented to Jim Thomas, Kimberly Faye and Caroline Hudson; the CLE Excellence Award was given to Judges Philip Smith and Phillip Robinson. Pro Bono Awards were given to James A. Beaks and Waller LLP. And the John C. Tune Public Service Award went to Bill Harbison and Abby Rubenfeld.

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Task Force Suggests 6 Initial Juvenile Reforms

The state Juvenile Justice Task Force has come up with six initial and tentative recommendations to help rehabilitate juvenile offenders, Fox Chattanooga reports. The list, provided by Senate Majority Leader and task force Chair Mark Norris, calls for (1) reviewing the structure of the current juvenile justice system; (2) ordering treatment instead of jail time for some offenders; (3) collecting data on juvenile crime to determine trends; (4) creating a special group to review juvenile crime data; (5) exploring how probation works; and (6) encouraging partnerships between juvenile courts and schools.

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Trump to Tap Tennessee Fast Food CEO for Labor Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate restaurant chain executive Andy Puzder to be Labor Secretary, the Tennessean reports. Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns fast food restaurants Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, worked as a Trump campaign adviser and is a major critic of what he calls unnecessary federal regulations. A second story highlights five things to know about Puzder, who worked as a corporate lawyer before making his name as a turnaround specialist. Puzder recently relocated to the Nashville area and is in the process of moving the company’s headquarters to Williamson County.

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Stand for Children, Candidates Cleared of Wrongdoing

Stand for Children and four pro-charter school candidates have been cleared of all alleged campaign finance violations, the Tennessean reports. Tennessee Registry of Election Finance board members said yesterday they did not see enough evidence to show there was illegal coordination between Stand for Children and the Nashville-area candidates, voting unanimously to dismiss the case. The complaint had alleged illegal coordination between the organization and the candidates – Miranda Christy, Thom Druffel, Jane Grimes Meneely and Jackson Miller.

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New Information Delays Durham Probe

Investigators will not reveal the findings of a probe into former state representative Jeremy Durham’s campaign finances until February, because “new information” is requiring additional investigation. Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Registry of Election Finance, said Wednesday the agency has collected all the materials it needs pertaining to Durham’s finances, but it will take more time than expected to conclude the inquiry. Tom Lawless, chairman of the registry, characterized the new information as troublesome. Durham has consistently denied any wrongdoing. The Tennessean has more.

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California Set to Get its 1st Latino AG

California Gov. Jerry Brown has picked U.S. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, to be the state’s next attorney general, the Los Angeles Times reports. If confirmed by both houses of the state legislature, Becerra would be the state’s first Latino attorney general and would succeed Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate. Becerra, 58, has served 12 terms in Congress. He previously worked in the civil division of the state attorney general’s office.

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Former Tennessee Politician Dies in Georgia

Lloyd Hal Blevins Sr. died last Friday (Dec. 2) after a brief illness. After serving four years in the U.S. Navy, seeing service in Japan, the Philippines, South Vietnam and Taiwan, Blevins earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law. Following graduation, he took over as owner and operator of the Jonesboro Nursing Home, raised cattle and became active in East Tennessee politics, running as the Democratic nominee for the First Congressional District in 1974 and 1976. Blevins moved to Atlanta in 1976 and later to Houston, before returning to Georgia in retirement.

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Criminal Justice Reform Group Hosts Event

The Tennessee Coalition for Sensible Justice will host “Stopping the Revolving Door: A Conversation on Safety, Savings and Our Criminal Justice System” on Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in West Knoxville. Jack McElroy, editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel, will moderate the discussion, which will focus on problems with the current criminal justice system and strategies for change. Panelists will include Lindsay M. Boyd, director of policy for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and Thomas H. Castelli, legal director for the ACLU of Tennessee. The event is free and open to the public.

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Juvenile Justice Task Force Working Toward Report

The state Juvenile Justice Task Force is working toward a final report and is expected to make a number of recommendations to lawmakers on how juveniles should be treated in the legal system. That makes it likely that the legislature will consider some form of juvenile justice reform in the next session, the Tennessean reports. The task force, chaired by state Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, is focused on a number of issues, including the youth probation system, inconsistent court practices across the state and use of valid court orders, which put the weight of the court behind directives for school attendance and curfews.

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Trump Advisor: Corker is Finalist for Secretary of State

Sen. Bob Corker is one of four finalists to become President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state, one of Trump’s senior advisers said Friday, the Tennessean reports. Kellyanne Conway, who managed Trump’s presidential campaign, confirmed the Tennessee Republican is on short list. “We publicly have said there are probably four people right now that have been the narrowed down choices,” Conway said. “That includes Gen. [David] Petraeus and Sen. Bob Corker from Tennessee.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani are also still in the mix, according to Conway. 

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Senators Planning Bill to Give ‘DREAMers’ Legal Status

Two U.S. senators are working to give young undocumented immigrants legal status, possibly before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, Roll Call reports. Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, reportedly are drafting legislation to protect the so-called “DREAMERs” – undocumented immigrants who came to the states as children and meet the requirements of federal law. The pair decided to act after President Barack Obama said he would not pardon the young people.

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Cohen Files Measure to Eliminate Electoral College

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, has filed a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College and provide for direct election of the president and vice president, USA Today reports. “For the second time in recent memory, and for the fifth time in our history, we have a President-elect, who lost the popular vote,” said Cohen, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. “The Electoral College is an antiquated system that was established to prevent citizens from directly electing our nation’s president, yet that notion is antithetical to our understanding of democracy,” he argues. The amendment would need two-thirds approval in both the House and the Senate and would then have to be ratified by 38 of the 50 states.

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AOC Director Speaks to TISL Students

Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Director Deborah Taylor Tate recently joined more than 500 Tennessee college students for the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature (TISL) Day on the Hill. The TISL program offers college students the opportunity to learn about state government and the political process, while the Day on the Hill provides an opportunity for students to meet their legislators and learn about current policy issues. Tate recounted the number of state officials who are TISL graduates – including Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Treasurer David Lillard, Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins and Justice Holly Kirby, and eight other current and former judges – to challenge the students to take advantage of the opportunities they are given.

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Legislation Would End All Medical Malpractice Suits

The Georgia-based nonprofit advocacy group Patients for Fair Compensation again this year plans to seek legislation that would ban all malpractice suits in the state, the Nashville Post reports. The group’s proposal will be introduced by Sen. Jack Johnson and Rep. Glen Casada, both Republicans from Franklin. The proposed plan would create a patients’ compensation system funded by annual fees charged to doctors. Instead of filing a lawsuit, an aggrieved patient would apply for compensation to an administrative law judge who would assess the claim. The bill, which surfaced last year for the first time, is opposed by a number of legislators and the Tennessee Medical Association.

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House Votes to Name Nashville Courthouse for Thompson

The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to approve legislation naming Nashville’s new federal building and courthouse the Fred D. Thompson Federal Building and United States Courthouse. The bill, introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, passed on a voice vote. Get details on floor consideration of the bill, H.R. 6135.

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