Government Affairs Update

Follow the TBA's efforts to influence federal and state policy as it fulfills one of the core missions of the association – advocacy for the profession and for our system of justice.

GOP Leaders Ask for AG Review of Metro Immigration Proposal

House Speaker Beth Harwell and state Sen. Jim Tracy are asking Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery to issue an opinion on a proposal before the Nashville Metro Council that they say goes against a state ban on “sanctuary cities” passed in 2009, the Tennessean reports. Council sponsors Bob Mendes and Colby Sledge say that’s not the intent of their measure, which would prevent Metro from using public funds and facilities to enforce federal immigration law. "This bill would have us send a message to our immigrant communities that it is safe to engage with Metropolitan government for all the basic local government services that we provide," Mendes said.

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FEC Complaint Filed Against Kelsey, Other State Lawmakers

A complaint was filed today with the Federal Election Commission over the campaign finance practices of Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and five other state lawmakers, The Tennessean reports. The complaint comes after reports of potential wrongdoing involving money flowing in and out of Kelsey’s unsuccessful 2016 congressional campaign. Funds were allegedly funneled through what a Campaign Legal Center attorney called a “dark money daisy chain and straw donor reimbursement scheme” involving other state lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Glen Casada (R-Franklin). Kelsey denies any wrongdoing, calling the complaint a “frivolous attack.”
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Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Gerrymandering Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, The Washington Post reports. Should the Court find partisan gerrymandering in violation of the Constitution, it could have a revolutionary impact on the next reapportionment, which comes after the 2020 election cycle. The case comes from Wisconsin, where a federal court ruled that the state’s Republican leadership created a map so partisan that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections.
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Republican Kevin Vaughan Wins Tennessee House Special Election

In the special election to replace Mark Lovell, Republican Kevin Vaughan has beat Democrat Julie Byrd Ashworth to represent State House District  95, The Commercial Appeal reports. Vaughan, a member of the Collierville School Board, received 62 percent of the vote. Only 9.7 percent of the district’s registered voters showed up to cast their ballots.

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Rep. Scalise Critical After Shooting; Rep. Fleischmann Calls Scene a 'Madhouse'

House Majority Whip and Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition following surgery for a gunshot wound suffered at a congressional baseball practice earlier today, the Associated Press reports. Tennessee’s Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was at the field finishing practice with the rest of the team when the gunman began shooting. The Ooltewah Republican was not hit. “It’s just a madhouse here,” he said during a phone call from the scene. “It’s horrible. I’ve never experienced anything like that.” Read more of Fleischmann's account from The Tennessean.

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Nashville Lawyer Anne Davis to Focus on Dean's Campaign

Anne Davis, Southern Environmental Law Center’s Nashville office managing attorney, is leaving the position “to focus her energies on her husband Karl Dean’s campaign to become the next governor of Tennessee,” the Nashville Post reports. As SELC looks for a new local managing attorney, the head of SELC’s Asheville, North Carolina, office, D.J. Gerken, will serve as acting Nashville director. Dean, former mayor of Nashville, launched his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in February.

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Sen. Mark Norris Being Vetted for Federal Judgeship

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, is being vetted for a federal judgeship in the Western District of Tennessee, The Tennessean reports. Norris has served in the General Assembly since 2007 and has also been “more than mulling” a gubernatorial bid. Were Norris to be named to the position, Sen. Bill Kentron, R-Murfreesboro, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, are seen as potential replacements as the Senate majority leader.
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Durham Receives Record $465k in Fines

Former state representative Jeremy Durham will pay more than $465,000 in fines for his hundreds of campaign finance law violations, The Tennessean reports. The fine is the largest in the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance’s 26-year history. Durham’s attorney, Peter Strianse, said he plans to appeal the action in front of an administrative law judge and called the fines “clearly excessive.” (Strianse was profiled today by The Tennessean for his role in many high-profile cases defending clients like Durham, Casey Moreland and Cory Batey.)
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Tennessee Congressional Races in 2nd, 3rd, 7th Districts Shape Up

Two Tennessee Democrats announced bids against Congressional incumbents this week, with a third mulling a potential run, the Nashville Post and Nooga.com report. A 64-year-old Knoxville psychologist, Joshua Williams, has announced his plans to seek the 2nd District Congressional seat currently held by Rep. Jimmy Duncan. Dr. Danielle Mitchell, a primary care and sports medicine physician in Chattanooga, will challenge Rep. Chuck Fleischmann for the 3rd District spot. Seventh District incumbent Marsha Blackburn of Franklin confirmed today her plans to seek reelection, while a Williamson County-based former Amazing Race contestant, Justin Kanew, has filed to run for Blackburn’s seat but hasn’t officially confirmed he will campaign against her. 
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State Lawmaker Under Fire for Potential Campaign Donor Issues

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, is under scrutiny for potentially reimbursing donors from his failed Congressional campaign using cash from his state campaign account, The Tennessean reports. Kelsey allegedly funneled thousands of dollars from his state campaign to lawmakers that donated to his campaign for the Republican nomination for the 8th District U.S. Congressional seat. Kelsey and his colleagues deny any coordination or wrongdoing, but an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center said that the payment amounts and dates of transactions appear to be a "straw donor scheme" and could warrant a Federal Election Commission investigation.
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