News

GOP Leaders Ask for AG Review of Metro Immigration Proposal

House Speaker Beth Harwell and state Sen. Jim Tracy are asking Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery to issue an opinion on a proposal before the Nashville Metro Council that they say goes against a state ban on “sanctuary cities” passed in 2009, the Tennessean reports. Council sponsors Bob Mendes and Colby Sledge say that’s not the intent of their measure, which would prevent Metro from using public funds and facilities to enforce federal immigration law. "This bill would have us send a message to our immigrant communities that it is safe to engage with Metropolitan government for all the basic local government services that we provide," Mendes said.

read more »

FEC Complaint Filed Against Kelsey, Other State Lawmakers

A complaint was filed today with the Federal Election Commission over the campaign finance practices of Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and five other state lawmakers, The Tennessean reports. The complaint comes after reports of potential wrongdoing involving money flowing in and out of Kelsey’s unsuccessful 2016 congressional campaign. Funds were allegedly funneled through what a Campaign Legal Center attorney called a “dark money daisy chain and straw donor reimbursement scheme” involving other state lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Glen Casada (R-Franklin). Kelsey denies any wrongdoing, calling the complaint a “frivolous attack.”
read more »

Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Gerrymandering Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, The Washington Post reports. Should the Court find partisan gerrymandering in violation of the Constitution, it could have a revolutionary impact on the next reapportionment, which comes after the 2020 election cycle. The case comes from Wisconsin, where a federal court ruled that the state’s Republican leadership created a map so partisan that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections.
read more »

Republican Kevin Vaughan Wins Tennessee House Special Election

In the special election to replace Mark Lovell, Republican Kevin Vaughan has beat Democrat Julie Byrd Ashworth to represent State House District  95, The Commercial Appeal reports. Vaughan, a member of the Collierville School Board, received 62 percent of the vote. Only 9.7 percent of the district’s registered voters showed up to cast their ballots.

read more »

Rep. Scalise Critical After Shooting; Rep. Fleischmann Calls Scene a 'Madhouse'

House Majority Whip and Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition following surgery for a gunshot wound suffered at a congressional baseball practice earlier today, the Associated Press reports. Tennessee’s Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was at the field finishing practice with the rest of the team when the gunman began shooting. The Ooltewah Republican was not hit. “It’s just a madhouse here,” he said during a phone call from the scene. “It’s horrible. I’ve never experienced anything like that.” Read more of Fleischmann's account from The Tennessean.

read more »

Nashville Lawyer Anne Davis to Focus on Dean's Campaign

Anne Davis, Southern Environmental Law Center’s Nashville office managing attorney, is leaving the position “to focus her energies on her husband Karl Dean’s campaign to become the next governor of Tennessee,” the Nashville Post reports. As SELC looks for a new local managing attorney, the head of SELC’s Asheville, North Carolina, office, D.J. Gerken, will serve as acting Nashville director. Dean, former mayor of Nashville, launched his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in February.

read more »

Sen. Mark Norris Being Vetted for Federal Judgeship

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, is being vetted for a federal judgeship in the Western District of Tennessee, The Tennessean reports. Norris has served in the General Assembly since 2007 and has also been “more than mulling” a gubernatorial bid. Were Norris to be named to the position, Sen. Bill Kentron, R-Murfreesboro, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, are seen as potential replacements as the Senate majority leader.
read more »

Durham Receives Record $465k in Fines

Former state representative Jeremy Durham will pay more than $465,000 in fines for his hundreds of campaign finance law violations, The Tennessean reports. The fine is the largest in the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance’s 26-year history. Durham’s attorney, Peter Strianse, said he plans to appeal the action in front of an administrative law judge and called the fines “clearly excessive.” (Strianse was profiled today by The Tennessean for his role in many high-profile cases defending clients like Durham, Casey Moreland and Cory Batey.)
read more »

Tennessee Congressional Races in 2nd, 3rd, 7th Districts Shape Up

Two Tennessee Democrats announced bids against Congressional incumbents this week, with a third mulling a potential run, the Nashville Post and Nooga.com report. A 64-year-old Knoxville psychologist, Joshua Williams, has announced his plans to seek the 2nd District Congressional seat currently held by Rep. Jimmy Duncan. Dr. Danielle Mitchell, a primary care and sports medicine physician in Chattanooga, will challenge Rep. Chuck Fleischmann for the 3rd District spot. Seventh District incumbent Marsha Blackburn of Franklin confirmed today her plans to seek reelection, while a Williamson County-based former Amazing Race contestant, Justin Kanew, has filed to run for Blackburn’s seat but hasn’t officially confirmed he will campaign against her. 
read more »

State Lawmaker Under Fire for Potential Campaign Donor Issues

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, is under scrutiny for potentially reimbursing donors from his failed Congressional campaign using cash from his state campaign account, The Tennessean reports. Kelsey allegedly funneled thousands of dollars from his state campaign to lawmakers that donated to his campaign for the Republican nomination for the 8th District U.S. Congressional seat. Kelsey and his colleagues deny any coordination or wrongdoing, but an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center said that the payment amounts and dates of transactions appear to be a "straw donor scheme" and could warrant a Federal Election Commission investigation.
read more »

Green Will Not Enter Governor’s Race

Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, will not re-enter the Tennessee gubernatorial race, The Tennessean reports. The state senator said he will instead focus his efforts on Washington and providing “real help to President Trump.” Green initially said he would seek the office but put his plans on hold when President Donald Trump considered him for the role of Army Secretary. Green later withdrew his name from consideration for the position.
read more »

Beavers Announces Gubernatorial Run, Green Could Follow

Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, announced over the weekend that she would be running for Governor, the Nashville Post reports. Beavers said her top priority as Governor would be “the terrorist threat from radical Islam.” Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, fresh off a waylaid attempt at a presidential cabinet position, may also be entering the mix for the GOP nomination, with reports of him contacting potential donors in recent weeks.
read more »

SCOTUS Holds Caps on Political Contributions

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday affirmed a lower court’s decision upholding limits on direct contributions to political parties, the ABA Journal reports. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch voted in dissent, indicating that on campaign finance cases, Gorsuch might lean as conservative as Thomas, who believes that all campaign finance limits should be subject to strict scrutiny.  
read more »

Supreme Court Strikes Down N.C. Voting Maps

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional district maps in a ruling today, holding that the state had engaged in racist gerrymandering, CNN reports. Read the full opinion by Justice Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court's website. The N.C. legislature will now have to redraw the districts. The decision comes after a SCOTUS ruling last week held a lower court’s decision that the state passed a voter ID law that would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
read more »

State Legislature Adjourns Until 2018

The Tennessee legislature adjourned last week concluding the first part of the 110th General Assembly. Out of the nearly 1,500 bills filed by legislators, many passed both the House and Senate and have either been assigned a public chapter or are in process of being assigned a public chapter. TBA members can look at the status of legislation by the category. The Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes January 2018 to wrap up the second half of the 110th General Assembly.
read more »

SCOTUS Will Not Reinstate N.C. Voter ID Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has again declined to reinstate North Carolina’s voter ID law, NPR reports. The law, considered one of the strictest in the nation, was found by a lower court to have been intentionally designed to stop African-Americans from voting. The appeals court said the law would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” This is the second time that North Carolina Republicans have attempted to have the Supreme Court revisit the case.
read more »

White House Panel to Investigate Voter Fraud

President Donald Trump signed an executive order today launching a commission that will review voter fraud, the Washington Post reports. The president’s “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” would examine allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration. It will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Trump has alleged in the past that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the commission, saying it would lead to increased voter suppression into Republican-controlled state governments.  
read more »

White House Panel to Investigate Voter Fraud

President Donald Trump signed an executive order today launching a commission that will review voter fraud, the Washington Post reports. The president’s “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” would examine allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration. It will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Trump has alleged in the past that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the commission, saying it would lead to increased voter suppression into Republican-controlled state governments.  
read more »

TBA Limited Partnership Bill Adopted By Legislature

The TBA’s Tennessee Uniform Limited Partnership Act (TULPA) was adopted by unanimous vote of the House this week, clearing its last legislative hurdle. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton), modernizes and harmonizes provisions of the limited partnership law with other forms of business organization. The 110th General Assembly adjourned today and will reconvene on Jan. 9, 2018. 
read more »

Senate Gives Final Approval to State Budget Bill

The Tennessee Senate signed off last night on a $37 billion state budget, which will now head to Gov. Bill Haslam for approval, the Tennessee Journal reports. Only Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and Sen. Lee Harris (D-Memphis) voted against the proposal. The House approved the budget last week
read more »

Bill Provides for Triple Legal Fees in Gun Rights Lawsuits

A proposal that would put cities and counties that ban guns in public buildings at risk of lawsuits passed the state House yesterday, the Times Free Press reports. The bill asks local authorities to choose between allowing those with handgun permits to bring guns to public locations or else buy metal detectors, hire security and check bags at those locations. It would also offer expanded protections for gun-rights groups to sue on behalf of those who feel slighted by gun restrictions, including being eligible for triple attorney’s fees. The Tennessee Journal reported that in House floor debate, Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, and other critics said the provision for lawyers receiving triple the fees they are due for work on a lawsuit is unprecedented in Tennessee. Dunn's amendment to delete the fees provision was killed, 60-32.
read more »

State House Halts After Bipartisan Insurrection on Budget

The legislature came to a halt this morning after a group of frustrated Republican House members held a meeting with Democrats to advance last-minute changes to the state’s budget, the Tennessean reports. The House did not take a vote on the budget bill and adjourned until tomorrow morning. The Senate, which had been awaiting House approval before taking up the measure, adjourned until Monday. Earlier today after going through a series of bills during a floor session, the House went into recess before taking up the various budget bills. A flurry of amendments to the budget were filed in the last 24 hours, many of them multi-million dollar changes to the $37 billion budget proposal. Read more about discussed amendments at The Tennessee Journal.
read more »

TNGOP Names New Executive Director

The Tennessee Republican Party has named a new executive director, five months after electing a new chairman, the Nashville Post reports. Former TNGOP political director and deputy executive director Michael Sullivan will take the reins, after serving as the state director for the Republican National Committee in Iowa in 2015 and 2016.
read more »

Obergefell to Visit Tennessee to Urge ‘LGBT Erasure’ Veto

Jim Obergefell, the primary plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark same-sex marriage case, will visit the Tennessee state Capitol tomorrow to urge Gov. Bill Haslam to veto the so-called “LGBT erasure” bill, the Tennessean reports. The legislation requires undefined terms in state law to be given their “natural and ordinary meaning.” The measure includes terms such as “husband,” “wife,” “mother” and “father,” which are not explicitly defined in state law. It heads to Haslam’s desk after passing the Senate last week and the House last month.
read more »

TBA Limited Partnership Bill Recommended for Passage

The TBA’s Tennessee Uniform Limited Partnership Act (TULPA) cleared its last major Senate hurdle today when the Senate Finance Committee recommended it for passage. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton), modernizes and harmonizes the provisions of the limited partnership law with other forms of business organization. The bill had to win Finance Committee approval because of a small fiscal note associated with filing fees. With the Finance Committees in both houses appearing to be close to wrapping up the budget, the General Assembly is expected to adjourn for the year early next week.

read more »