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.

Haslam Considers 2020 Senate Bid

After yesterday’s announcement that U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander will retire at the end of his current term, Gov. Bill Haslam said he is considering making a run for the seat, The Tennessean reports. “Obviously, you want to think seriously about an opportunity like that," Haslam said. "It's too important of a role and I care too much about the future of our state and country to not at least seriously consider it." He did not provide a timeline on when he might reach a decision.
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AG Opinion Could Pave Way for Legal Sports Betting

A recent opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has created a path for legislation to allow gambling on sporting events, The Daily Memphian reports. The opinion, issued Dec. 14, says the General Assembly “may legalize the contest solely through legislative action without a constitutional amendment” as long as the sport is based on skill and not predominantly on “chance.” Sen. Brian Kelsey, who is considering legislation related to the matter, said that if allowed, sports betting should be limited to the four largest cities in Tennessee.
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U.S. Sen. Alexander Will Not Seek Re-election in 2020

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander announced today that he will not seek re-election in 2020, The Tennessean reports. The former Tennessee governor and U.S. Secretary of Education was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002. He currently serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. His retirement will set up the second battle for an open Senate seat in the past two years.
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5 Qualify to Run for Senate District 32 Special Election

Four Republicans will face off in a special primary election next month for the state Senate seat most recently held by former Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, The Commercial Appeal reports. Former state Rep. Steve McManus, former Shelby County commissioners George Chism and Heidi Shafer, and Covington businessman Paul Rose will compete in the Jan. 24 Republican primary. Eric Coleman of Bartlett was the lone Democrat to file candidate paperwork for the seat before the deadline yesterday. The general election is slated for March 12. 
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Akbari Eyes Voting Rights Restoration for Low Level Felons

New Tennessee Senate Minority Chairman Raumesh Akbari said she is planning to sponsor legislation this session that would automatically restore voting rights for people with low-level felony convictions, The Daily Memphian reports. Akbari said the proposed legislation, the wording of which is still being finalized, would ideally set up a referendum similar to the one in Florida, where voters passed a measure that would enable 1.2 million individuals to vote again. The bill could be a part of Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s promise to make criminal justice reform one of his priorities next year.
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Questions Over 'Ballot Harvesting' Surface Following 2018 Vote

An investigation into voting irregularities in a still-contested North Carolina U.S. House race is drawing attention to a widespread but little-known political tool called ballot harvesting, the Associated Press reports on WMC Action News 5. The practice of collecting absentee ballots that had not been turned in has long been used by special-interest groups and both major political parties. But this “voter service” can be corrupted when the harvested ballots are not turned in or are opened and altered before being cast.

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Governor-elect Names Alvey as Legislative Counsel

Governor-elect Bill Lee has selected Nashville attorney Liz Alvey to serve as Legislative Counsel in his new administration, TNJ: On the Hill reports. The Nashville School of Law graduate has worked with the Tennessee State Senate since 1999, having served as the senior policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris since 2007. In addition, she has held leadership positions in the Southern Legislative Conference and the Council of State Governments.

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House Democrat Staffer Resigns After Questionable Checks Discovered

A staffer who assisted in financial payments from the House Democratic Caucus has resigned after being accused of writing an unknown number of checks to himself and cashing them, WSMV reports. New House Minority Leader Karen Camper confirmed that her longtime staffer, Derrick Tibbs, resigned yesterday, after Caucus Chair Mike Stewart alerted Camper to questionable checks that had been written. Stewart said once the internal investigation is complete, and if Tibbs is found to have committed a crime, he should be charged.

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Johnson Chosen for Senate Majority Leader

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, was elected to serve as the next majority leader for Tennessee Senate Republicans, The Tennessean reports. Johnson, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006, beat Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, to earn title as the upper chamber's No. 2 leader. Johnson replaces former senator Mark Norris, who left office to take a federal judgeship.
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Former State Rep. McManus Confirms Bid for Norris' Senate Seat

Former state Rep. Steve McManus today confirmed he will enter the race for the vacant 32nd District Senate seat to fill two years remaining in the term of Mark Norris, who left the post to take a federal judgeship, The Daily Memphian reports. McManus, a Republican who moved to Collierville two years ago after losing a re-election bid to Democrat Dwayne Thompson in House District 96, picked up qualifying papers from the Shelby County Election Commission on Monday. State records show he has more than $140,000 in his House campaign account.
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