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 Stalls Child Marriage Bill, Citing Connection to Gay Marriage Case

House Republicans effectively killed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit child marriages in Tennessee, citing an obscure legal theory that passing the bill could deter a conservative lawyer's case against gay marriage. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, calls for the state to outlaw marriages where one of the parties is under 18 years of age. The Times Free Press reports that House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, cited an email he received from attorney and former state Sen. David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, arguing that passing Jernigan's bill could interfere with a lawsuit he is mounting to counter the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage.

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Candidate Leaves Leadership Group After Endorsement

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee has resigned from the board of the Nashville Business Coalition after the group publicly urged Democrat David Briley to seek election as Nashville mayor and called on other prospective candidates to stay out of the race, the Tennessee Star reports. Lee said he didn't think leadership groups should discourage others from entering the political process.

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Attorney Carfi Will Again Seek District 17 Senate Seat

Mary Alice Carfi, the Wilson County attorney who narrowly lost a special election for the Senate District 17 seat last year, has announced she will try again for the position this year, the Lebanon Democrat reports. The district, which is currently represented by Republican Sen. Mark Pody, includes Cannon, Clay, DeKalb, Macon, Smith and Wilson counties. Carfi, a Democrat, came within 2.6 percent of the vote from defeating Pody in a solidly Republican district in December’s special election.
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TBA Opposes Bill Moving Judgeships from Shelby, Davidson Counties

A proposal at the legislature would transfer one judgeship from Davidson County and one judgeship from Shelby County into other districts, the Nashville Post reports. The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is opposed to the measure. Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Thompson’s Station, are sponsoring the bill, which would transfer the positions into districts that include Rutherford and Williamson counties. The TBA notes a Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury report that shows courts in Davidson and Shelby counties are understaffed. “There’s no surplus in Nashville and Memphis to transfer to those districts,” said Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur. “We'd be more for a more comprehensive look at the allocation of resources.”
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Legislation Would Make Autopsy Reports Secret

Two Republican lawmakers have presented a bill in the General Assembly that would make autopsy reports conducted by state and county medical examiners secret, The Tennessean reports. Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, say that public forensic findings can be difficult for the families of the dead, but critics of the bill say those records are vital to those in the criminal justice system. "It's important autopsy reports remain open in cases when there are questions about the death," said Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. "This bill closes everything. Things that can be used for accountability." 
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Bill Codifying Common Law Creation of Joint Tenancy Passes Subcommittee

Today TBA member Jim Romer testified before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee in support of HB1924, a bill he drafted and was sponsored by Rep. Kelly Keisling. The bill codifies common law creation of joint tenancy with right of survivorship through express language in a conveying instrument and prevents unilaterally severing a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. It amends TCA 66-1-107. The bill passed the subcommittee by a voice vote and will now be considered by the House Civil Justice full Committee. The Senate version, SB2001 sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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TBA Members Press for Support of Indigent Representation Reform

Tennessee state senators and representatives this week received several hundred emails from TBA members urging their support for Indigent Representation Reform and an increase in funding for attorneys providing the service. The action follows an alert the Tennessee Bar Association sent to members. Nearly 2,000 attorneys responded to the TBA IMPACT Action Alert. "Reform is crucial to make sure that our poorest and most vulnerable citizens and children are provided much-needed legal representation in an efficient and cost-effective way," TBA Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs Berkley Schwarz said in the alert. Use the alert to express your support for reform today.

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Goins Announces Retirement from Legislature

Morristown Republican Rep. Tilman Goins says he will not seek reelection in November, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Goins was first elected in 2012 after defeating incumbent Rep. Don Miller in the Republican primary. Goins represents State House District 10, which covers Hamblin County.
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Maury County Commission Chair Seeks House District 64 Seat

Maury County Commission Chairman Michael Fulbright says he will seek the Republican nomination for Tennessee House District 64, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Fulbright is running for a seat that will be open due to the impending retirement of Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia. House District 64 includes much of rural Maury County.
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Fincher Drops Out of U.S. Senate Race

Former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher has dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and is encouraging U.S. Sen Bob Corker to seek re-election, Knoxnews reports. "The party must get behind a candidate that can win in November and stop Democrat Phil Bredesen," Fincher said. Fincher's primary opponent was current U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn.
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