News

Sen. Ketron to Undergo Cancer Treatment

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and will be receiving treatment, the Tennessean reports. A statement from the Senate Republican Caucus Chairman said in part, “I will be receiving chemotherapy in the coming weeks and my doctors are optimistic the treatment will be effective.”

read more »

Some Renew Push to Close Primary Elections

Despite Republicans’ overwhelming majority in the state legislature, some in the party believe it is time to force voters to identify their party affiliation when voting in a primary election, Nashville Public Radio reports. At a Republican Executive Committee meeting this month, it was clear there is disagreement in the party about whether to support such a move with party chairman Chris Devaney pledging to continue discussing the matter. Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, has asked the committee for a recommendation before filing a bill.

read more »

Haslam Unveils Medicaid Expansion Plans

After 17 months of working on a compromise Medicaid expansion plan, Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a two-year pilot program that will use federal money to create two new options for low-income Tennesseans, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The governor said he intends to call a special session of the General Assembly in January to get approval for the plan. Under Insure Tennessee, workers will be able to obtain vouchers to cover their portion of employer-offered insurance, while others can seek reimbursement from TennCare for out-of-pocket health care costs. Haslam promised the plan would not lead to new taxes or state costs and announced that the Tennessee Hospital Association agreed to cover any costs not covered by federal funding. The plan has received verbal approval from federal officials, Haslam said, but still needs an official waiver.

read more »

Hawkins Bar Hosts Memorial for Faulk

At a memorial service last Friday for the late circuit court judge and former state senator Mike Faulk, Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade, Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Frierson, Chancellor Doug Jenkins and former attorney general and Hawkins County Mayor Heiskell Winstead praised Faulk’s character, personality and abilities. Jenkins also read a eulogy written by Faulk’s children titled “From a Lawyer’s Child’s Perspective,” and a statement from his wife, Holly. Read more in the Kingsport Times-News.

read more »

GOP Re-elects Devaney, Votes Wednesday for House Speaker

Members of the Tennessee Republican Party’s State Executive Committee on Saturday voted to re-elect Chris Devaney as chairman of the party, rather than support a Tea Party challenge from ex-Rep. Joe Carr, the Tennessean reports. Committee members chose Devaney by a 47 to 17 margin. Carr had accused Devaney of orchestrating attacks against conservative members of the party. A similar fight is likely on Wednesday, the paper suggests, when House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, will face a Tea Party challenge from Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale.

read more »

New General Counsel Ready to ‘Climb the Next Mountain’

Knoxville attorney Dwight E. Tarwater on Monday will become general counsel to Gov. Bill Haslam, who he knew on a personal level from living in the Westmoreland neighborhood before Knoxville’s former mayor moved to Nashville. Tarwater told Knoxnews he “had to do some soul searching” after Herbert Slatery, who formerly was Haslam’s general counsel and now is the state attorney general, contacted him about the job. His daughter, Katherine Tarwater Freeman, said he ought to follow the advice he always gave her and his two sons: “Go climb the next mountain,” which has led him to Nashville.

read more »

Haslam to Hold 4 Days of Budget Hearings

Gov. Bill Haslam is holding four days of budget hearings this week as his administration prepares its annual spending proposal to be delivered to Tennessee lawmakers in January. The hearings will be held Tuesday through Friday, and kicked off yesterday with presentations from state agencies responsible for human resources, safety, intellectual and developmental disabilities and commerce. The Memphis Daily News has more.

read more »

Legal Reporter Launches New Blog

The News Sentinel’s legal affairs reporter, Jamie Satterfield, has started a blog dubbed “Lady Justice Unmasked.” Satterfield says the new venture will allow her to cover “all the legal news, analysis, occasional rants and dumb criminal tales this country girl with a quarter century of legal and crime reporting can dish out.” She also warns readers that they “won’t find…boring legalese, sugar-coated commentary, spin or proper grammar” when climbing aboard her “legal crazy train.”

read more »

Aide to Tennessee Rep. Resigns Following Facebook Remarks

Tennessee Rep. Steven Fincher’s communications director resigned today amid a backlash over remarks critical of President Obama’s daughters she made on Facebook, the Washington Post reports. Elizabeth Lauten had taken the girls to task regarding their appearance at the president’s annual Turkey pardoning event. After saying they should try “showing a little class,” the aide said the two should “Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.”

read more »

Democrats Elect First African American Leader

The five-member Senate Democratic caucus elected Memphis Sen. Lee Harris to the post of minority leader Tuesday, making him the first African American to serve in that role. Harris, a freshman legislator who unseated Ophelia Ford in the August election, beat out longtime Sen. Reginald Tate for the job in a secret ballot. Sen. Jeff Yarbo of Nashville was elected to the No. 2 position of caucus chairman. Both leaders are lawyers. The Nashville Post has more.

read more »

Third Anonymous Email Urges Harwell’s Ouster

Tensions between House Republicans are growing as an image depicting Speaker Beth Harwell as a puppet of House Clerk Joe McCord is circulating among legislators, the Nashville Post reports. The image is the latest of three sent to lawmakers in recent weeks – all from anonymous email accounts. They all have urged members to reject Harwell for being weak on conservative issues. The latest image, though, also calls on members to support Rick Womick for the leadership post.

read more »

Former State Rep. Emmitt Ford Dies

Former Tennessee state Rep. Emmitt Ford died last night at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, Action News 5 reports. Ford, who was 70 years old, was elected to the state House in 1974 as a representative of District 86, which includes Memphis and parts of Shelby County. He resigned in 1981 after being convicted of insurance fraud and tax evasion. Funeral arrangements were not available at press time.

read more »

Report: Carr Mulling Bid for GOP Chair

Former state Rep. Joe Carr, who in August won 41 percent of the vote in his primary challenge of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, says he is mulling a bid for chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. The Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported Carr was considering running against current Chairman Chris Devaney for the job because of what he called a “growing and unsettling division within the Republican Party.”

read more »

Amendment Votes Challenged as Illegal

Opponents of two constitutional amendments approved last week are questioning the state’s process for counting votes on the measures. John Jay Hooker, an opponent of Amendment 2, predicted that a challenge to that measure’s vote total would be filed this week. Opponents of Amendment 1 filed suit Friday. In yesterday’s Tennessean, Frank Daniels writes that 1,352,608 Tennesseans voted in the governor’s race while 1,385,178 (32,570 more) cast ballots on Amendment 1 and 1,365,071 (12,463 more) cast ballots on Amendment 2. Under Article XI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution, amendments must be approved by “a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor.” The Secretary of State's office, however, says that provision has never been interpreted to exclude votes on a proposed amendment.

read more »

Campfield Drains Account with Final Constituent Letter

A week before the end of his term in office, former state Sen. Stacey Campfield emptied his taxpayer-funded constituent communications account by spending $2,248 on a farewell letter to people in his district. He also transferred funds to three colleagues. Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, received $500, while Sens. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, and Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, each received $250. Richard Briggs, who beat Campfield in the Republican primary and went on to win the general election, will inherit a balance of $15.39, Knoxnews reports.

read more »

Former Rep. Rich Takes Seat on Parole Board

Former state Rep. Barrett Rich is starting a new career in public service as a member of the Tennessee Board of Parole, the Associated Press reports. Rich, a native of Fayette County, represented the 94th House District from 2008 to 2014. He was named to the board in August but could not take office until his term officially ended on Nov. 4. Rich will serve through Dec. 31, 2019. The Memphis Daily News has the AP story.

read more »

Candidates Lining Up for Democratic Party Chair

Mary Mancini, who lost a close state Senate primary race to newly elected Jeff Yarbro, and Gloria Johnson, the Knoxville state representative who lost her re-election bid last week, have announced their intentions to run for state Democratic Party chair, Knoxnews reports. Knoxville lawyer Terry Adams, a U.S. Senate candidate who lost his primary race, also is expected to join the race, the paper says. Today, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that former congressional candidate Lenda Sherell is considering a bid as well.

read more »

Haslam Establishes Council for Judicial Appointments

Gov. Bill Haslam announced today that he has issued Executive Order No. 41 establishing the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments – a group of 11 members that will recommend candidates to fill vacancies for state trial and appellate courts. The action follows approval of a constitutional amendment establishing a new method for selecting judges on the state Supreme Court and intermediate appellate courts in Tennessee. “This council will allow us to select men and women of the highest caliber to ensure a fair, impartial and independent judiciary,” Haslam said. “The people have spoken in approving the constitutional amendment, and Tennesseans can feel confident about our judiciary under this process.” The new council replaces the commission Haslam previously established. The AOC has more.

read more »

Womick to Challenge Harwell for House Speaker

State Rep. Rick Womick of Rockvale announced yesterday that he is running for speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, the Daily News Journal reports. Womick will challenge incumbent Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville to lead the House in the 109th General Assembly. The chamber is set to vote on new leaders Dec. 10.

read more »

State Announces Twitter Feeds for Election Night

Secretary of State Tre Hargett has released six Twitter channels his office will be using next Tuesday for those interested in following election results. For updates on the success of four constitutional amendments follow @tnconstamend. For state Senate races follow @tnsenategen. For state House races follow @tnhousegen. And for U.S. congressional seats, @tnussenate will track Senate candidates while @tnushouse will report on House candidates. For general election news try @tngovelection. The TBA will also be providing election news on its Twitter channels, @TennesseeBar and @TennBarJournal.

read more »

Hooker Questions How Votes are Counted

John Jay Hooker is raising concerns that the method for counting votes does not pass constitutional muster, the Tennessean reports. The longstanding interpretation of the state constitution has been that to be ratified, proposed amendments must receive a majority of the number of votes cast in the governor’s race. Hooker, who is one of the leading opponents of efforts to write the state’s plan for merit selection of appeals judges into the Tennessee Constitution, argued in a letter to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday that only voters who both cast actual ballots in the governor’s race and vote on the amendment should have their votes counted on the amendments.

read more »

3rd District Candidates Go Head to Head

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and Democratic challenger Mary Headrick met for a one-on-one debate just a week before the Nov. 4 election. The two are battling for the 3rd Congressional District seat, which Fleischmann has held for the last two terms. The candidates tackled issues ranging from sending U.S. troops to fight ISIS, health care reform, abortion law and veterans’ affairs. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has more.

read more »

Daschle, Baker Donelson Form New Policy Group

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has joined with the law firm of Baker Donelson to form The Daschle Group, a new public policy advisory group, the firm announced today. “Launching The Daschle Group in affiliation with Baker Donelson gives us the opportunity to provide first-class strategic counsel with the support of one of our nation’s leading law firms,” Daschle said. The group will be located in Baker Donelson’s D.C. offices. The Nashville Post has more.

read more »

House Speaker Open to Governor’s Bid

Republican state House Speaker Beth Harwell is open to a possible run for governor, the Tennessean reports from the Associated Press. In an interview with the Paris Post-Intelligencer, Harwell said she would “certainly be interested” in running for statewide office. Harwell became the state’s first female House speaker when she was elected by the chamber in 2011.

read more »

Ballot Language Vexes Voters

Hamilton County election officials say confusing ballot language has been the only hiccup during early voting for the Nov. 4 election. Hamilton County Election Administrator Kerry Steelman said while confusion about the four amendments on the ballot is "not pervasive," it has been "the most common concern vocalized this election." According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the amendments include arcane legal language and reference changing parts of the constitution without saying what is being replaced, and, in the case of Amendment 4, don't give voters any indication of what the amendment aims to accomplish.

read more »