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.

Task Force Moves Toward Recommending Fee Hike

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force reviewed and discussed its draft recommendation report Friday at the Nashville School of Law, coming to a consensus on recommending an increase in the compensation rate. The recommendation to be included in its final report calls for increasing the compensation rate in the range of $75-100 per hour, removing caps and removing the difference between in court and out of court billable hour rates. This would apply to criminal defense and juvenile indigent representation. Read the working draft report here.

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Harwell Begins Posting Legislative Pre-meetings

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, has begun posting a list of legislative pre-meetings on the legislature’s website after receiving scrutiny for allowing lawmakers to hold the meetings without notifying the public. The Tennessean reports that the change occurred on Friday. Pre-meetings are usually held in legislative conference rooms and allow lawmakers to discuss a bill prior to its appearance in committee.
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Ethics Complaint Filed Against Nashville Democrat

An East Tennessee Republican filed an ethics complaint against House Minority Caucus Leader Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, claiming that Stewart used his questioning of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to benefit his law firm, the Tennessean reports. Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, filed the complaint yesterday. Stewart questioned TEMA with regards to the Gatlinburg wildfires during a committee hearing, and his firm, Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings, is currently representing someone affected by the fire.
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DA Appointed to Investigate Durham

A Bradley County district attorney confirmed yesterday that he has been assigned to investigate former State Rep. Jeremy Durham, WBIR reports. Stephen Crump has been given the case, after Williamson County District Attorney Kim Helper requested a special prosecutor due to conflicts of interest between Durham and her office. 
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Lawmakers Want $25 Million from Surplus for Fire Relief

East Tennessee lawmakers are pushing for Gov. Bill Haslam to include at least $25 million of the $1 billion in state surplus money to go to Gatlinburg wildfire relief, Knoxnews reports. Rep. Haslam said much of the surplus money is already targeted for other initiatives, but is looking at other options. A bill providing property tax relief to victims of the fires cleared a House committee today.
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TBA Opposes Bill Imposing Non-partisan Judicial Elections

Legislation to impose non-partisan elections for judges and clerks in Davidson and Shelby counties was deferred two weeks by its Senate sponsor today. The TBA opposes the bill, and has said "the TBA opposes the imposition of any election process on selective counties, whether by removal of the current local option or by establishing a new method different from that generally applicable to other counties. The TBA favors statewide uniformity as to the authority of local jurisdictions to prescribe the methods of filling state trial court judgeships, county judicial offices and judicial clerk offices." The Nashville Post today also cited opposition to the bill from the Nashville Bar Association.
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ABA Report Provides Updates on Legislation

The American Bar Association’s first Washington Letter chart for 2017 has been released and has updates on bills in Congress that the ABA has championed or opposed during the previous congressional session. Updates include information regarding the ABA’s support of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the ABA’s support of adequate funding for the Legal Services Corporation. Read the full chart here.
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Investigation Finds Lovell Violated Sexual Harassment Policy

Former state House Rep. Mark Lovell was found to have violated the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, the Tennessean reports. The specific details were not included in the investigation memo, but a special House subcommittee determined Lovell was in violation of the policy. Because he resigned on Tuesday, House Ethics Committee Chairman Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, said that they could not level any punishment.
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Lawmakers Fail to Complete Sexual Harassment Training

More than one-third of Tennessee House lawmakers failed to complete a mandatory 22-minute sexual harassment training video before the Jan. 31 deadline, the Tennessean reports. The video was made a requirement for lawmakers as a part of a new sexual harassment policy instituted last year following the Jeremy Durham scandal. Harassment at the legislature was put back in the headlines when Rep. Mark Lowell resigned this week after allegations of sexual misconduct.
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Lawmakers Call for 'Jeremy’s Law' Repeal

Tennessee Democratic legislators are calling for a repeal of what’s known as “Jeremy’s Law” in the wake of the resignation of Rep. Mark Lovell, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The law was unofficially named for former Rep. Jeremy Durham, and mandates that any victim of sexual harassment who sues the state and loses must then pay for the legal fees of the defense. Following allegations that Lovell engaged in sexual misconduct, Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, said that by passing the law the General Assembly “unwisely raised unprecedented barriers to harassment victims seeking justice.”
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