News

Evidence of Ukrainian Computer Involved in Tennessee Election Cyberattack

Cyber-security experts hired by Knox County to investigate a “denial of service” cyberattack on Election Day, May 1, found evidence linked to a computer in the Ukraine, CBS News reports. The experts added that “a suspiciously large number of foreign countries” accessed the county’s elections website as votes were being reported. County officials said no voting data was affected, but the site was down for an hour after the polls closed.
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Harwell Campaign, PAC Hired Same Ad Company

House Speaker Beth Harwell and a PAC appearing to support her campaign for governor both made payments to the same Ohio-based advertising company, recent disclosures show, raising questions of coordination, The Tennessean reports. The PAC, Tennesseans for Good State Government – which formally was called “Harwell PAC” – paid $20,000 to Strategic Media Group on March 14. Harwell’s campaign also made a sizable payment to the same company on the same day. If there was connection to the campaign, the PAC would be limited to spending $11,800. An attorney for Tennesseans for Good State Government denied any wrongdoing in the matter. 
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Tennessee Legislature Wraps Up 2018 Session

The Tennessee General Assembly adjourned for the year yesterday, with a last-minute flurry of bills passing or dying prior to the gavel. Two proposed constitutional amendments, one which would have declared that “Almighty God” is the source of all liberty and another that would have laid out procedures for replacing a governor when he or she becomes incapacitated, failed, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Legislators also approved a bill yesterday intended to block local governments from taking actions similar to the city of Memphis in regards to Confederate monuments.
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UAPA Appeals Bill Passes Through Legislature

The House and Senate have passed legislation providing that the venue for appeals of contested case hearings under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act will be in the Chancery Court nearest the place of residence of the person contesting the agency action or alternatively, at the person’s discretion, in the Chancery Court nearest to the place where the cause of action arose, or in the Chancery Court of Davidson County. The venue for appeals involving TennCare will continue to be in Davidson County. Sponsored by Senator Mike Bell and Rep. Martin Daniel, the bills (SB2603/HB2386) have been sent to the Speakers for signature. 
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Bill Raising Unpaid Child Support Interest Rate Advances

The Tennessee House today concurred with Senate-passed legislation raising interest rates on unpaid child support in private cases. HB2134, sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter and in the Senate by Sen. Ken Yager, raises the interest rate to 6 percent for all private child support cases in arrears but gives the court discretion to assess a lower interest rate if deemed appropriate. For unpaid child support cases that the Department of Human Services handles, the bill allows the court to charge interest up to 6 percent, but does not alter the current 0 percent default rate. The bill was drafted by the TBA from a compromise with District Attorneys and the Tennessee Department of Human Services. The measure was amended to also make it unlawful for any county clerk or deputy clerk to issue a marriage license to a person under 17, unless the person has consent from a legal guardian or is emancipated. It also states that any marriage that is entered into without freely given consent from both parties shall be void and unenforceable in this state. The child support and teen marriage sections of the bill will go into effect on July 1. 
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Senate Rejects 4 Haslam Nominees to New UT Board

Tennessee senators rejected almost half of the nominees Gov. Bill Haslam named to the newly revamped University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, WPLN reports. The Senate Education Committee turned down four of the nominees, including three who are currently serving on the board. Nashville attorney Brad Lampley and Franklin attorney Melvin Malone were among the rejected. Last week the state legislature voted to dissolve the current UT board and replace it with a smaller one chosen by the governor. 
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TBA Leaders in Washington to Meet with Legislators

Tennessee Bar Association leaders are in Washington, D.C., this week to participate in the 2018 ABA Day on the Hill. Over two days they are meeting with the members of the House and Senate from Tennessee to discuss issues of importance to lawyers across the state.

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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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Black Has Most Missed Votes of Tennessee Congressional Delegation

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, a Sumner County Republican and current candidate for governor of Tennessee, has been absent for 29 of 101 votes at the U.S. House of Representatives this year, making her the least-present member of the Tennessee Congressional Delegation. The Tennessean reports that since launching her campaign, Black has missed more than 50 votes, including a recent vote on a bill to fight sex trafficking, an issue she claims to support. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who has been absent the second most times and is also campaigning for a statewide seat, missed 11 votes this year.
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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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