News

Wamp to Lead Rubio Campaign in Tennessee

Former Congressman Zach Wamp will be leading Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign efforts in Tennessee, Nooga.com reports. Rubio tweeted the news yesterday. Wamp represented Tennessee’s Third Congressional District for 16 years before an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010.

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Lawmakers Seek Removal of Forrest Bust in State Capitol

In the wake of last week’s shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and calls in that state and Mississippi to remove the confederate flag from government property, Tennessee lawmakers are calling for area likenesses of Nathan Bedford Forrest to be removed. According to the Nashville Business Journal, both Democrats and Republicans said Monday that a bust of Forrest should be removed from the Tennessee Capitol. Another statue of Forrest is on private land, but lawmakers suggested the state plant trees along the highway to block views of it from Interstate Highway 65.

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Legislature Names Co-Legal Directors

The Tennessee General Assembly has named two new directors of legal affairs following the retirement of attorney Joe Barnes. Karen Garrett and Doug Himes will co-lead the office. Himes also will continue to serve in his current role as counsel to House Speaker Beth Harwell, while Garrett will remain in the same role for Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey. The Memphis Daily News has the Associated Press story.

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Rep. Armstrong Indicted on Fraud, Tax Charges

A federal grand jury today indicted veteran state Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, on charges he used insider knowledge on a bill he supported to earn $500,000 in a scheme involving the purchase and sale of cigarette tax stamps. He has been charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, attempting to evade and defeat income taxes and making false statements. Armstrong’s accountant already pleaded guilty to helping the legislator by funneling the profits through the accounting firm and lying on Armstrong’s tax return. Knoxnews has the story.

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State Agency Withdraws from Execution Lawsuit

Facing objections from legislators and a Senate Government Operations Committee hearing set for August, the Office of Post-Conviction Defender has decided to abandon its role in a lawsuit seeking information about executions, Knoxnews reports. The office, which is tasked with representing death row inmates in appeals, was representing a group of inmates suing the state for information about the people and drugs involved in executions. Nashville attorney Kathleen G. Morris now will provide pro bono representation to the death row inmates.

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Former State Rep. Remembered at Weekend Service

Funeral services were held this past Saturday for former Republican state Rep. Clint Callicott, who died Wednesday at his home in the Hickman County community of Only after a long struggle with colon cancer, Knoxnews reports. Callicott, 66, was elected to represent state House District 61 in 1988 and served through 1996, when he did not seek re-election and instead successfully ran for election as mayor of Williamson County. He held that post until 2002, when he opted to step down and move to Hickman County.

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Services Pending for Former State Legislator

Former Tennessee legislator Kathryn Bowers died Wednesday at 72, the Commercial Appeal reports. Bowers was a Shelby County election commissioner in the 1970s and later chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party. She was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1995 and to the state Senate in 2005. Bowers had served just 15 days in the Senate before being caught up in the Tennessee Waltz corruption scandal.

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Haslam Chief of Staff Leaving Administration

Gov. Bill Haslam’s Chief of Staff Mark Cate is leaving to establish a "strategic consulting and management firm," according to an announcement from the governor's office. Haslam has not yet named a replacement; Cate will continue serving "through the summer," according to a news release. The Tennessean has more.

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Haslam Signs ‘Right to Try’ Legislation

Gov. Bill Haslam signed the so-called Right to Try Act into law this past Friday, the Chattanoogan reports. The new law, which passed the legislature unanimously, will allow terminally ill patients who have exhausted all conventional treatment options and cannot enroll in a clinical trial to access medicine that has been deemed safe by the Food & Drug Administration but has yet to receive the agency’s final approval. All medications available under the law must have successfully completed basic safety testing and be part of the FDA’s on-going approval process.

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TBJ Includes Fiduciaries, Constitutional Convention of 1870

In the May issue, Nashville lawyer Scott Pilkinton examines the question of whether or not a felon can be a fiduciary. Turns out, it’s not an easy answer. Chattanooga lawyer and former TBA President Sam Elliott looks at "the two great issues" of the state's Constitutional Convention of 1870 and how it is still relevant today.

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State Records Show Health Insurance Spending for Legislators

Tennesseans have paid close to $6 million in health insurance premiums for state lawmakers since 2008, the Tennessean reports after reviewing documents provided by a state agency. The newspaper sought the information on state-subsidized coverage after legislators voted down Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal to expand Medicaid coverage.

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Outside Money Making Impact in Tennessee Policy, Politics

In a series on outside money in Tennessee politics, the Tennessee News Network reports focuses on the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity. Nearly two years ago the group, associated with conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, planted roots in the Volunteer State and hired what is now a staff of six. While Gov. Haslam says its influence is exaggerated when it comes to Insure Tennessee and other legislation, others, like political consultant Tom Ingram, disagree, and say the threat of such spending is especially problematic for Republican legislators, who dominate the General Assembly. Last year, the group reported spending $1.1 million in "lobby-related" expenses in Tennessee, including money used to try to defeat three state Supreme Court justices, then-Rep. Dennis Roach, R-Rutledge, Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Common Core education standards.

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Haslam: Repeat Medicaid Sessions Not Constructive

Bringing lawmakers back to Nashville to again debate Insure Tennessee would not accomplish anything except creating “frayed nerves and hot tempers,” Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters this week. The comments came in response to a letter from House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, who said if he was governor, he would call a special legislative session “again and again” until lawmakers passed the plan. WBIR has the story from the Tennessean.

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No Deal: Senate Passes on Judicial Confirmation Plan

The Tennessee Senate voted late Wednesday night 4 yes, 1 no and 27 present not voting on adoption of a conference committee report on SB0001/HB0142 implementing appellate judge confirmation. Led by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Memphis, the upper chamber action left the conference committee report on the desk for action next year as time ran out in the first year of a two-year legislative term. Members of the Senate expressed reservations with voting for confirmation in a joint convention, believing it would dilute the power of the Senate. Attorney General Herbert Slatery opined last month that the governor could continue to appoint appellate judges under present authority if no new statue was adopted. Creation of a trial court vacancy commission, appointed by the two speakers, which would nominate three lawyers to fill any vacancy on the trial bench, was also deferred by the Senate's action. The governor continues to have unfettered statutory power to make interim appointments pending the next election. Follow how the vote unfolded in a Storify collection of Tweets.

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Lawmakers May Move to Cordell Hull Building

Tennessee lawmakers may soon have a new base of operations at the Cordell Hull Building as Republican leaders weigh a move out of the War Memorial Building and Legislative Plaza, WPLN reports. According to House Speaker Beth Harwell, the current offices need $58 million in repairs, which is more than the estimated $44 million needed to update the Hull Building. If lawmakers vacate Legislative Plaza it could be turned into a public parking garage.

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Nashville Attorney to Lead Adams and Reese

Guilford F. “Gif” Thornton Jr., a partner in the Nashville office of Adams and Reese, has been elected managing partner of the firm. Thornton joined Adams and Reese in 2005 when the firm merged with Stokes & Bartholomew. A past chair of the TBA’s Government Affairs Committee, he presently serves as legislative counsel for the TBA, and represents a number of other businesses, trade associations and governmental entities with interests before Tennessee state government. Thornton succeeds Charles P. Adams Jr., who had been managing partner since 2001.

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Judicial Selection Gets Last Dance

It appears that the legislation on judicial selection will once again get "the last dance, last chance for love" in the words of the Donna Summer song. Action on the principal surviving bill at this point, HB0142,/SB0001, was deferred until Wednesday, which could be the last day or next to the last day of this annual legislative session. The bill contains provisions establishing a new trial court vacancy commission which, much like the judicial selection and nominating commissions before, would submit three names to the governor to fill vacancies on the trial bench. The bill also implements the new constitutional provision establishing gubernatorial nomination, confirmation and retention of appellate judges. Discussions continue on details of how the two bodies of the General Assembly can express themselves on confirmation. Legislative action on selection of judges has been decided in the last week of session for almost a decade.

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Legislators May Ban School Boards from Suing with State Funds

With more than a half a dozen school districts suing the state over a lack of funding for education, lawmakers want to ban them from using state funds for their legal crusade. Legislators reportedly are adding a provision to one of several budget bills that would ban local school districts from using state money for attorney’s fees, court costs or other expenses to sue the state, the Nashville Scene reports.

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State Lawmaker Arrested on DUI Charge

State Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, is facing charges of drunken driving and violation of the implied consent law, Knoxnews reports from the Associated Press. Media reports indicate that Nashville police pulled over the first-term legislator on Friday morning and arrested him after he declined to submit to a sobriety test. Beck represents portions of downtown Nashville, East Nashville, Old Hickory and Germantown. He is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

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Senate Approves Bill Calling for Elected AG

The state Senate voted 23-9 today to begin the lengthy process of giving Tennessee voters the say on whether the state attorney general should be popularly elected in 2020, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The resolution now goes to the House. If it receives a majority vote there, it would then go on to be considered by the 110th General Assembly, which will convene in 2017. There it would need a two thirds vote in each chamber before it could go on the ballot.

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Legislators Pass Protocol for Rape Exam Kits

Lawmakers approved and sent to the governor a bill that would create a statewide protocol for the collection of sexual assault evidence kits, the Commercial Appeal reports. The bill would require that evidence be tested within 60 days of healthcare providers turning them over to law enforcement agencies. The measure also directs the state’s Domestic Violence Coordinating Council to create a model policy for responding to reports of sexual offenses, and requires law enforcement agencies to establish written procedures with the same or higher standards.

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Negotiators Strip Capitol Provision from Guns-in-Parks Bill

A conference committee today stripped out a provision allowing handguns on state Capitol grounds from the “guns-in-parks bill," the Memphis Daily News reports. The conference committee was necessary after the Senate refused to strike the provison, which the House already had removed. The compromise bill must now be approved by both chambers, which could come this week.

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TBA Leaders in DC for ‘ABA Day’

TBA President Jonathan Steen, President-elect Bill Harbison, YLD President Rachel Moses and Executive Director Allan Ramsaur are in the nation’s capital this week as part of the ABA Day legislative effort. The group will be meeting with Tennessee legislators as well as learning about issues of importance to the legal profession. The Tennessee participants join other leaders from national, state and local bar associations across the country. Learn more about the effort in the ABA Journal.

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Rep. Haynes Elected State GOP Chair

State Rep. Ryan Haynes of Knoxville was elected chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party Saturday by the party’s State Executive Committee. He replaces Chris Devaney, who resigned two months into a new two-year term. Haynes defeated executive committee member Rebecca Burke, fellow state Rep. Mary Littleton of Dickson and Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain. He says he will resign from the House when the legislative session adjourns, Knoxnews reports.

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Legislators Revive Elected AG Bill

The state Senate was scheduled to vote today on an issue that has become familiar in judicial politics: electing Tennessee’s state attorney general. Sen. Mae Beavers, R- Mt. Juliet, who unsuccessfully tried to pass a similar measure twice last year, is calling for an amendment to the state’s constitution to make the position subject to public election beginning in 2020. The resolution (SJR 63) is co-sponsored by Lee Harris, D-Memphis. Read more in the Memphis Business Journal.

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