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.

Tennessee Lawmaker Hoping to Repeal Recess Requirement in Schools

Tennessee House Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, is proposing a bill in the General Assembly that would repeal a law requiring students to have periods of recess at school, the Tennessean reports. Dunn said that the requirement is too restrictive, and is a "scheduling nightmare” for schools and teachers. Once the law is repealed, Dunn added “someone can come along behind that to deal with physical activity."
read more »

Senate Judiciary Chair Kelsey to Meet with Lawyers

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, is hosting a pair of town hall meeting for lawyers next week in Memphis. Sen. Kelsey will host criminal law practitioners on Jan. 26 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. CST, and civil law practitioners on Jan. 27 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. CST. Please contact TBA Public Policy Coordinator Brenda Gadd if you are interested in attending. She will provide location information once it is determined.

read more »

McNally Names New Senate Chief of Staff

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, appointed Rick Nicholson as Senate Chief of Staff on Friday. A 26-year veteran of the General Assembly, Nicholson started in the chief clerk’s office, later being appointed assistant chief clerk. In 2001, he went to work for McNally as a committee research analyst and in 2012, he was appointed Senate budget director by then Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. Nicholson replaces Lance Frizzell, whose appointment expired in January. Humphrey on the Hill has the news from McNally’s office.

read more »

Holder to Lead Effort to Redraw District Lines

Former Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday formally announced a new effort aimed at redrawing state districting maps. After the 2008 election, Republicans poured money into state legislative races, gaining control of redistricting that took place after the 2010 census. During Obama's presidency, Democrats lost more than 1,030 seats in statehouses, governor's mansions and Congress. The new organization, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, will devote legal and political resources to reapportionment, which will happen after the 2020 census. WRCB-TV has more from the Associated Press.

read more »

House Creates Sexual Harassment Panel

The Tennessee House has created a committtee to focus on complaints of sexual harassment. The Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Subcommittee will have authority to conduct investigations and “subpoena and compel the attendance of witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and require and compel the production of any documents or other items of evidence relative to any matter under investigation.” Any recommendations for corrective action will be reported to the speaker. Unlike the full Ethics Committee, the work of the subcommittee will be private. Knoxnews has more from USA Today

read more »

Bill Would Allow Open Carry without Permit

Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, has introduced legislation to eliminate the requirement that gun owners obtain a permit to openly carry handguns in Tennessee. Those wanting to carry a handgun in a concealed manner would still be required to obtain a permit, according to the legislation. Van Huss has introduced similar bills in the past but his colleagues have rejected those efforts, the Tennessean reports. Van Huss argues that 29 states, including Missouri, West Virginia and Louisiana, have some form of permitless carry.

read more »

Lawyer Legislators to Head Key Panels, Return in 2 Weeks

The Tennessee General Assembly adjourned its biannual organizational session today after speakers appointed committee chairs and members in their respective chambers. For the first time in 10 years, all three key committees dealing with legal issues will be chaired by lawyers. Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Collierville, returns as Senate Judiciary Committee chair. House Criminal Justice Committee Chair William Lambreth, R-Cottontown, will continue to head that panel. And Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, will take the helm of the House Civil Justice Committee. Humphrey on the Hill has more.

read more »

Task Force Finalizes Juvenile Justice Recommendations

As the legislature convenes in Nashville this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, juvenile court officials, judges, district attorneys and academics are pushing for a major overhaul of state sentencing laws for juveniles who commit serious crimes. The Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force met Monday to finalize recommendations that members hope will set the agenda for the legislature in the coming year. The Tennessean looks at the proposals.

read more »

Legislators, Staff Must Watch Sexual Harassment Video

All legislative staff, interns and lawmakers are being required to watch a 15-minute sexual harassment training video at the start of the new legislative session, the Tennessean reports. The video reportedly covers all aspects of the law along with examples of the types of circumstances that might create a hostile discriminatory practice. The move is part of the leadership’s effort to address cultural issues identified in last year’s report on the activities of then-representative Jeremy Durham.

read more »

Day 2 of Sessions Hearing Offers Conflicting Views

For a second day, the issue of racism was at the center of the confirmation hearing for attorney general designate Jeff Sessions, UPI reports. After questioning Sessions for more than 10 hours yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee today turned its attention to testimony from others – including three black lawmakers who all recommended against his confirmation. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Cedric Richmond, D-La., questioned Sessions’ past views on race and whether he would aggressively pursue civil rights, equal rights and justice for all citizens. Representing a different perspective, Sessions’ former chief counsel, who also is black, told the committee, “I have not seen the slightest hint of racism because it does not exist.”

read more »