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.

Todd, Bush to Seek Republican Nomination for District 73 State House Seat

Jackson businessman Chris Todd announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the District 73 seat of the Tennessee State House, joining Madison County Commissioner Jay Bush in the race to replace retiring state Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, The Jackson Sun reports. Eldridge, a Republican, confirmed last month that he would not seek re-election after he announced plans to run for mayor of Jackson. Todd has never before sought political office.
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House District 67 to See Contested Democratic Primary

The race to replace Rep. Joe Pitts in the Tennessee State House will be contested, The Leaf-Chronicle reports. Jason Hodges, who received Pitts’ blessing, will face Houston Rye in the Democratic primary to represent the district, which covers most of Clarksville. The winner will go on to face Republican Tommy J. Vallejos in the general election. Pitts, a Democrat, served 12 years in the House before announcing his retirement last year.
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Former Johnson City Mayor to Challenge Incumbent in House District 6 Primary

Former Johnson City mayor Steve Darden has qualified to challenge incumbent state Rep. Micah Van Huss, The Johnson City Press reports. Darden, an attorney, served for 10 years on the city commission. Van Huss was first elected in 2012. Both are Republicans and will face off in the primary, with the winner to take on independent candidate Murphy Johnson and Democrat Justin R. Leslie in the general election.
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Tennessee’s First Female African-American Senator to Retire

Sen. Thelma Harper, Tennessee’s first African-American woman to serve in the State Senate, announced today that she is stepping down after 27 years in the legislature. NewsChannel5 reports Harper, the Nashville Democrat representing the 19th district, was also the first woman to preside over the Senate, and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.
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Tennessee Republicans File Bill Against Neo-Nazis

Two weeks after killing a Democrat’s resolution to denounce neo-Nazis, Republican lawmakers have introduced a similar bill of their own, The Tennessean reports. The Republicans’ bill is nearly identical to the one previously filed by Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville; however it omits a paragraph urging law enforcement to pursue white nationalist groups as “domestic terrorist organizations.” Clemmons’ bill made national headlines earlier this month after the House State Government Subcommittee refused to even discuss it. "They either have an intra-party dispute about whether Nazis are bad or they killed my resolution for politically partisan reasons or both," Clemmons said of the new bill, sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chair Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville.
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Byrd Refuses to Resign Despite Allegations

Although House Speaker Beth Harwell has called on him to resign, Rep. David Byrd announced he has no plans to leave the legislature amid allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with teenage girls 30 years ago, Humphrey on the Hill reports. In his statement to the press, Byrd said that “conduct over 30 years ago is difficult, at best to recall” and said he was disappointed in Harwell for calling for his resignation. WSMV reports that three girls who played on a high school basketball team Byrd coached  have come forward, with one producing a recorded phone call with Byrd in which he apologizes for previous wrongdoings. Two of the girls were 15 and one was 16 at the time of the alleged misconduct.
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Lawmaker Accused of Sexual Misconduct; Harwell Calls for Resignation

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, is calling for the resignation of Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, over allegations of sexual misconduct, WSMV reports. Three women accused Byrd of inappropriate sexual contact Byrd made toward them when he was serving as their basketball coach more than 30 years ago. The women were teenagers at the time. Byrd has not yet responded to the accusations.
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AG Issues Opinion on Constitutionality of ‘Senior Business Judge’ Bill

Tennessee Attorney General Hebert Slatery has issued an opinion on the constitutionality of a proposed bill in the Tennessee legislature that would authorize the Tennessee Supreme Court to designate certain judges with at least one year of judicial service to serve as senior judges to hear complex commercial disputes. One provision of the bill that Slatery found raised “significant constitutional concerns” would allow the court to appoint a senior judge even if that judge had sought reelection or retention and was defeated. “The proposed legislation would undermine the election requirement to an extent not provided in existing law,” Slatery wrote.
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First in Adoption Act Passes Civil Justice Subcommittee

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee today voted to recommend the Tennessee: First in Adoption Act, HB1856, for passage. The completely rewritten legislation, sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, makes significant changes to Tennessee adoption laws. Drafted by members of the newly created Adoption Law Section of the TBA, the comprehensive bill addresses many important issues, such as simplifying and adding to the Tennessee Code the parental surrender form, clarifying parental termination grounds, and affording greater protections to biological fathers attempting to assert their parental rights. The legislation will next be considered by the full Civil Justice Committee. The Senate version will go to its Judiciary Committee.
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Ethics Complaints Against Diane Black Dropped, Harwell’s Delayed

Two campaign finance ethics complaints against gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Diane Black were dropped today, The Tennessean reports. The Registry of Election Finance voted unanimously to dismiss the complaints, as well as to delay taking up three complaints against House Speaker Beth Harwell and her campaign for governor.
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