News

Justice Thomas: Confirmation Process is ‘Broken’

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says the current Supreme Court confirmation process is an example of how the nation’s capital is “broken in some ways.” Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Thomas reflected on his 25 years as a justice, including his own bruising confirmation process and his fondness for Justice Antonin Scalia. Commenting on the state of discourse in America today, he said, “I think we have decided that rather than confront disagreements, we’ll just simply annihilate the person who disagrees with me. I don't think that’s going to work in a republic, in a civil society.” Yahoo has the Associated Press story.

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Rep. Carter to Run for House Majority Leader

State Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, announced Friday he will run for House majority leader, the Tennessean reports. “After much consideration and encouragement from House members across Tennessee, I have decided to formally seek the position of majority leader for the 110th General Assembly,” said Carter, who is an attorney and former county General Sessions Court judge. He will seek to replace Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who is stepping down from the post after five years. Others still considering a run are House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville. Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, initially expressed interest in running, but has bowed out of the race citing recent developments with her family. The caucus will vote on leadership races Nov. 17.

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Report: Spending Surges in State Judicial Races

Special interest groups, many of which do not disclose their donors, have invested heavily in state Supreme Court races this election cycle, including pumping more than $1.2 million in outside spending into six states over the past two weeks, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice. With three weeks to go to Election Day, the center estimates that television spending for judicial races has surpassed $25.6 million, with $11.3 million of that coming from outside groups. The center has data and early trends on races in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington.

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Grassley: GOP Has Responsibility to Consider Court Nominees

Republicans “can’t just simply stonewall” nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court even if the president making that choice is Democrat Hillary Clinton, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday. The senator, who is chair of the Judiciary Committee, was responding to comments from fellow Republican Sen. John McCain that Republicans would unite against any nominee Clinton puts forward if she becomes president. “I think we have a responsibility to very definitely vet…whoever nominee that person puts forward. We have the same responsibility for [Donald] Trump,” Grassley said. WRCB-TV has the Associated Press story.

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Tennesseans Get New Legislative Tool

A former Tennessean is hoping to change how residents interact with elected officials during this legislative session, Knoxnews reports. The creator of POPVOX, a for-profit, nonpartisan startup that connects users with bills coming before Congress, went live last week with a beta project in Tennessee. The pilot project allows voters to let their state representatives know what they think with a few clicks of the mouse. POPVOX/TN currently allows residents to weigh in on select legislative issues, including criminal justice reform, gas tax, medical marijuana, rural broadband and expansion of TennCare. The company hopes to roll out a similar service in other states throughout 2017.

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Senate Hires Michigan Legal Group for Refugee Lawsuit

The Tennessee Senate has hired the conservative Christian Thomas More Law Center to represent it in a federal lawsuit attempting to block refugee resettlement in the state after state Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III declined to take the case. The House is likely to approve the hire, but nothing has been formalized yet, the Tennessean reports. The Michigan-based legal group will represent the state for free in the nation’s first lawsuit to challenge the federal government for noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980 based on the 10th Amendment. The move comes after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a resolution earlier this year in support of a lawsuit.

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Advocate Proposes Domestic Violence Offender Registry

A domestic violence survivor and victim’s rights advocate is working with state lawmakers to help track repeat domestic violence offenders, News Channel 11 reports. Debbie Church says she was inspired to propose the registry after experiencing domestic violence at the hands of her now ex-husband. The Tri-Cities woman has spoken with the Sullivan County Family Justice Center, which indicated support for the idea. Church says the legislation is still in the initial stage but hopes local lawmakers will propose the bill next legislative session.

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Campaign Finance Officials Expand Durham Probe

State campaign finance officials are expanding their probe into former Rep. Jeremy Durham to include an examination of the money he made while working as an attorney, the Tennessean reports. Earlier today, the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance unanimously approved plans to expand its search to issues related to client money placed in trust accounts. The chair of the registry said the information was needed to investigate the full scope of any financial wrongdoing.

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Democrats Call on Legislator from Durham Report to Resign

House Democrats today called for the resignation of a lawmaker, who they say is accused of firing a staff member in retaliation for interactions with expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham, the Tennessean reports. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart and Rep. Bo Mitchell, both D-Nashville, said they believe the actions of Rep. Jane Doe #33, as she is referred to in the attorney general report on Durham, show she fired her staff member as a direct correlation to that staff member being sexually harassed by Durham. Stewart said she needs to confirm or deny the allegations.

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Baker Policy Analysts Form Lobbying Firm

Wendell Moore and Jeremy Nagoshiner are leaving their positions as policy analysts with Baker Donelson to join Tasha Alexander in forming the new consulting and lobbying firm MNA Government Relations, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Moore previously founded and ran the Capitol Group. Nagoshiner also was a member of the Capitol Group and had previously served as a legislative liaison for the governor’s office. Alexander will fold her consulting group into the new firm. She previously was vice president and deputy general counsel for the Tennessee Bankers Association. Baker Donelson’s legislative analyst M. Adam Jaynes also will join the new firm.

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McCormick: Open to Chattanooga Mayoral Run

Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, says running for Chattanooga mayor was not part of his calculation when he decided not to seek reappointment to the leadership post. And though he is running unopposed for his House seat, he says he has been surprised by the number of people who have suggested he consider challenging the sitting Democratic mayor. His initial response to questions from the Times Free Press was no, but then he said, “I don’t want to close out the door completely.”

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Federalist Society Hosts Electoral College Debate

The attorney and student chapters of the Federalist Society in Memphis will host a debate on the relevance of the Electoral College next week. The event will take place Oct. 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the University of Memphis School of Law. The debate will feature Memphis lawyer John L. Ryder with Harris Shelton and former Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr., now with Bass, Berry & Sims in Nashville. Ryder is general counsel to the Republican National Committee and litigation counsel to the Shelby County Election Commission. Cooper served as counsel to former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen. Both teach campaign finance and elections at Vanderbilt Law School. RSVP to Melanie Busch.

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Spivey Accuses House Clerk of Inappropriate Behavior

State Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, is calling for an investigation into allegations that House Clerk Joe McCord mentally and emotionally abused a Legislative Plaza employee. In a letter sent to the Tennessean yesterday, Spivey said McCord raised his middle finger at the staff member’s two-year-old granddaughter and called the employee vulgar names. Harwell responded by blasting Spivey and suggesting the move may be motivated by his displeasure with how Jeremy Durham’s case was handled. “It is disrespectful for him to attempt to play political football with our state employees and their jobs, all because he personally disagreed with Jeremy Durham's expulsion,” she said.

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Brooks Running for House GOP Caucus Chair

State Rep. Kevin Brooks of Cleveland tells Nashville Post Politics that he is running to chair the House Republican Caucus, anticipating the current chair, Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin, will vacate the seat to run for House majority leader. “I think Glen and I will be a great team, should leadership allow us to serve together,” Brooks said. “He recruited me to run for office in 2006, and it's a great feeling to think about serving with him now, together.” Brooks is the first House member to declare for the post.

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Matlock Pledges ‘Covenant’ to House Members

State Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, who last month announced a challenge to House Speaker Beth Harwell for leadership of the chamber, has sent out a “Covenant with the Caucus” to House Republicans. In an email Matlock said the document “addresses the guiding principles that have inspired me to seek the office of Speaker.” The one-page document does not offer specifics about Matlock’s legislative priorities, but instead lays out his commitment for how he would run the House. The Nashville Post has more on the story.

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Rep. Carter Weighs Bid to Replace McCormick

Tennessee state Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, says he is considering whether to seek the House majority leader position, the Times Free Press reports. Carter, an attorney and former county General Sessions Court judge, said he has been surprised by encouragement from constituents to seek the post. “While my priority between now and Nov. 8 will be helping fellow members win re-election, I’ve decided to listen to supporters and prayerfully consider running for Majority Leader,” he said. Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, has already announced she is running. Three others reportedly are considering a run: Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland; Republican Caucus Chairman Glenn Casada, R-Franklin; and Health Committee Chairman Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.

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Lawmakers Propose New Courthouse be Named for Fred Thompson

Nashville’s new federal courthouse, set to open in 2021, would be named for lawyer and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson under legislation introduced today by the state delegation. The Tennessean reports that Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander introduced a bill to name the courthouse after Thompson on the Senate side, while the entire House delegation, except for Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, introduced the bill in the House. Cooper declined to sign on to the bill saying he favors a “naming contest” that would allow Middle Tennesseans to choose the name.

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Federal Officials Accept DUI Fix

The National Highway Traffic Administration has confirmed that Tennessee is back in compliance with federal standards for drunken drivers under the legal drinking age, the Associated Press reports. A hastily-called special legislation session last week fixed a law that federal officials said would cost the state $60 million in federal road money. Humphrey on the Hill has the story.

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Another Bid to Advance Judicial Nominees Fails

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., urged the U.S. Senate on Tuesday to agree to vote on seven district court nominees who have been waiting the longest for full Senate consideration. But Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky objected and instead proposed a shorter list that included Ed Stanton from Tennessee but omitted a  nominee from New Jersey. Booker objected, proposed a vote on just Stanton and the New Jersey nominee -- who have been waiting the longest for votes -- and McConnell once again disagreed. It was the latest effort to break a partisan logjam and confirm judicial nominees, Gavel Grab reports.

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Commission Will Not Appoint Armstrong Replacement

The Knox County Commission will not appoint someone to fill the remainder of former state Rep. Joe Armstrong’s term, Knoxnews reports. Putting someone in office for a few weeks does not seem to be worth the effort required, according to several commissioners who discussed the issue during a work session this week. The county Democratic Party has already nominated Rick Staples to run. He faces Independent candidate Pete Drew on the Nov. 8 ballot. In addition, Rhonda Gallman has launched a grassroots and online campaign as a write-in candidate for the seat.

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State CASA Holds Annual Meeting, Presents Awards

Tennessee CASA this week recognized State Rep. Charles Sargent, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich and Nashville lawyer Meagan Frazier for their efforts to help abused and neglected children. Sargent, R-Franklin, received the President’s Award, while Hommrich received the Light of Hope Award for shepherding the department through an overhaul of the foster care system. Frazier received the Champion for Children Award for starting a CASA program in Dickson County. The group reported it served 5,250 children last year. “That sounds good,” said Executive Director Lynn Farrar. “But there are 20,000 children abused and neglected in Tennessee who could use a volunteer.” The Tennessean has photos from the event.

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Chamber, ACLU, Others Unite in Justice Reform Effort

The ACLU of Tennessee, the Beacon Center, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Association of Goodwills have launched the Tennessee Coalition for Sensible Justice, which will work at the state level for juvenile justice, sentencing reform and recidivism reduction. ACLU-TN Executive Director Hedy Weinberg says the coalition will be a “powerful advocate for smart-on-crime policies at the legislature,” the Nashville Post reports.

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Rep. McCormick to Step Down as Majority Leader

Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, will not seek re-election to his post of House majority leader, a position he has held since 2011, the Times Free Press reports. McCormick told fellow GOP caucus members in a letter that he is "incredibly proud of the work" of the House. Leadership elections will likely occur in late November or early December, and Rep. Shelia Butt today became the first lawmaker to officially throw her name in the race. Republican Caucus Chair Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, are also said to be considering a run, the Tennessean reports.

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State Rep.: Marijuana Decriminalization Could Cost Cities

If the Nashville and Memphis city councils move ahead with plans to modify marijuana laws, state Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, says he may try to withhold state highway funding from those areas. The Tennessean reports that Lamberth, chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee, is considering legislation to deny funds from cities that do not enforce criminal penalties as outlined in state law.

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Report: Opioid Lobby Spends Big in Tennessee

Tennessee politicians received more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions over the past decade from pharmaceutical companies and other members of the Pain Care Forum, a coalition that meets monthly to discuss opioid-related issues, according to an investigation by the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity. The groups examined the industry’s influence at statehouses around the nation. About $560,000 went to Tennessee state candidates and state political parties, and more than $1 million went to those running for federal office, the study found. The Tennessean has a breakdown of giving.

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