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.

Budget Includes $10M Indigent Representation Increase, TBA to Press for More

Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2018-2019 budget submitted yesterday includes $9,880,000 “to provide recurring funding for the Indigent Representation Task Force initiatives to raise hourly rates and case caps.” The Tennessee Bar Association termed it “gratifying" that the administration acknowledged the dedication and hard work by the lawyers who accept appointments to represent the indigent and vowed to press for more money in the appropriations process.
 
The Supreme Court’s task force, headed by former justice and now Nashville School of Law Dean Bill Koch, spent two years studying all facets of indigent representation. Among the recommendations of the group are elimination of the per case cap on amounts of compensation for appointed counsel and guardians ad litem, an increase in the rate to $75 to $125 per hour and creation of a commission to oversee and administer the program. The first task of the TBA will be to learn the exact contours of the administration recommendation, which funds only part of the task force plan. The TBA will then quickly pivot to equipping and mobilizing members to advocate for a more substantial increase. TBA policy calls for elimination of the caps and at least a $100 per hour rate. The TBA also supports establishment of the commission. 
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Medical Marijuana Proponent To Run For State's 6th House District

David Michel of Telford confirmed on Tuesday his plans to run for Tennessee’s 6th House District, the Johnson City Press reports. Michel has been a leading voice of the Tri-Cities chapter of Safe Access, a nonprofit group advocating for safe and legal access to medical marijuana. Michel’s decision to run was influenced by his success in helping the group grow to become the state’s largest chapter. In addition to legalizing marijuana for medical use, Michel says he would also focus on improving infrastructure and bringing in more “blue-collar jobs." He plans to run as an independent.

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State of the State: Education, Job Growth, Employee Cuts

See photos from the Tennessee Journal and read the full text of Gov. Bill Haslam's State of the State address, delivered Monday. His final budget proposal calls for more than $200 million in new state funding for K-12 education, $128 million in job-growth investments and $30 million for a previously announced effort to address the opioid epidemic. Meanwhile, the Leaf-Chronicle reports, the budget calls for $108.1 million in cuts, including a total of 335 positions eliminated across state government.

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Haslam to Talk Education, Job Growth in Final State of State Address

Gov. Bill Haslam will address the Tennessee General Assembly for the final time tonight, when he is expected to reflect on progress made in job creation and public schools, as well as discuss his new plan to fight the opioid epidemic, the Times Free Press reports. The address will begin at 6 p.m. CST and will be streamed online.
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Former State Sen. Joe Haynes Dies at 81

Former Democratic state Sen. Joe Haynes died today, The Tennessean reports. He was 81. Haynes, an attorney, served nearly three decades in the Tennessee legislature before his retirement in 2012. He then returned to private practice as an attorney with Haynes, Freeman and Bracey. Last year, Haynes was indicted on one charge of sexual battery. He pleaded not guilty and was awaiting the start of the trial this year.
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Reeves Tops Carr in Senate District 14 Primary Special Election

Murfreesboro businessman Shane Reeves defeated former state Rep. Joe Carr yesterday in the Republican primary for the special election to fill the District 14 senate seat, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Reeves scored more than 64 percent of the vote. Democrat Gayle Jordan, a Murfreesboro attorney, was unopposed for her party's nomination. She will face Reeves in a March 13 election. The special election was triggered by the resignation of Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.
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Democratic Primary Challenger Emerges in Senate District 33

A challenger to Democratic incumbent Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis, has declared her intention to run in District 33, the Nashville Post reports. Katrina Robinson, a nonprofit creator and former nurse, has thrown her hat into the ring. Tate has not formally announced his intent to run for a fourth term. Robinson has already been endorsed by one of Tate’s colleagues, Sen. Sara Kyle.
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Senate Committee Moves to Have Legislators Appoint AG

By a party-line 7 to 2 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee today recommended to the full Senate a plan (SJR-88, from Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston) to allow the legislature to appoint the Tennessee Attorney General and Reporter. The measure requires a constitutional amendment. Observers believe the measure may see a rockier road on the Senate floor, where some members have expressed reservations about partisan politics in the process. The TBA supports the present method of selection of the AG by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
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TBA Government Affairs Team Gears Up for Session

The Tennessee General Assembly got down to real work this week with a first round of committee meetings, subcommittee meetings and hearings. So far, about 200 of the expected 1,500 bills have been introduced. More are expected by the cut-off for bill filing, which is Feb. 1. The TBA Governmental Affairs team is reviewing legislation that has been introduced, asking sections and committees for recommendations and meeting with lawmakers. The group includes Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur, Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson, Legislative Counsel Gif Thornton and Brad Lampley. Effective Feb. 5, the team will also include Director of Public Policy Berkley Schwarz, who comes to the TBA from the Tennessee Secretary of State's office.  Watch TBAToday for updates on legislation of interest to lawyers, including TBA’s most important initiative this year, Indigent Representation. Use TBA Impact to contact lawmakers regarding your view on issues important to the bar. 
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Lawmakers Change Policy to Allow Small Signs at Legislature

After a House representative asked Attorney General Herbert Slatery for an opinion on the issue, state lawmakers are backtracking on a decision to prohibit hand-held signs at the new legislative office building, The Tennessean reports. Despite forbidding such materials in a policy approved on Dec. 14, the director of legislative administration confirmed today that small letter-sized signs will be allowed. The December policy change was allegedly because the signs “represent a serious safety hazard.” Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, requested the opinion from Slatery, asking whether the rules violated the First Amendment.
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