TBA Law Blog

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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 16, 2021

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance has assessed a $135,000 civil penalty on former state senator and Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron after he took responsibility for nearly $300,000 in questionable campaign contributions and expenditures. Board members voted unanimously to impose the penalty for violations connected to Ketron’s Senate, Quest PAC and mayoral accounts, Tennessee Lookout reports. The registry dismissed $80,000 in previous penalties for numerous late filings and allowed Ketron to start a payment plan, which would make him eligible to run for re-election in 2022. In the past, the registry has required lawmakers to pay all of their penalties before becoming eligible for election. In this case, the body said it will consider the payment plan as a payment. In other actions, the registry voted unanimously to audit an expense by Rep. Todd Warner, R-Chapel Hill, with a new vendor — Dixieland Strategies — to determine whether it was legitimate and potentially whether illegal coordination was made between the campaign and the Faith Family Freedom Forum political action committee.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 15, 2021

A bill that would require police to record interrogations of juveniles was unanimously approved by the Tennessee Senate yesterday, the Daily Memphian reports. Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, and Rep. London Lamar, D-Memphis, sponsored Senate Bill 1435/House Bill 340, which they say would increase transparency and end both coerced confessions and false accusations against police. General Assembly budget analysts estimated the bill would cost about $40,200 for law enforcement agencies across the state to buy equipment in the first year, and $6,700 thereafter for data storage and equipment maintenance. The House Finance, Ways and Means Committee will hear the measure after the legislature handles budget bills.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 14, 2021

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday advanced a bill to study the potential impact of legalized medical marijuana in the state, WJHL reports. The committee approved SB667 with amendments by a vote of 5-3. The bill would ask the Tennessee Department of Health to study the licensure and regulation of medical cannabis in neighboring states and report back to the General Assembly by Dec. 15. A previously proposed bill that would have directly legalized the use of medical marijuana in the state failed in the Senate in March. The House Health Committee was scheduled to consider its version of the bill today.

Posted by: Jarod Word on Apr 13, 2021

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee is set to consider a bill seeking harsher sentences for minors convicted of sex crimes, the Commercial Appeal reports. Under HB0323/SB0220, TCA Title 37, Chapter 1, Part 1 and Title 39, Chapter 13, would be amended to allow judicial discretion on placing juveniles convicted of rape and aggravated rape into the custody of the Department of Children's Services for a period of one year. Sponsored by Rep. Jason Hodges, D-Clarksville, and Sen. Bill Powers, R-Clarksville, the proposed amendment comes in response to a case where the parents of a minor in these lawmakers’ district were forced to endure laughter and lack of remorse from the 13-year-old offenders in a court hearing regarding the recorded rape of their daughter. Rep. Hodges commended the girl’s courage, saying: "being able to come out and talk about (the rape), knowing that it's not going to change her circumstances, but being willing to do it to change somebody else’s ... that just makes her a hero in this story.” The House passed its version of the bill last week by a vote of 91-0.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 13, 2021

The Tennessee General Assembly has unanimously confirmed Judge Jill Bartee Ayers to the Court of Criminal Appeals Middle District. Ayers, who was previously a circuit court judge for the 19th Judicial District, was appointed to the role by Gov. Bill Lee in January. She joins 12 Court of Criminal Appeals judges from the Eastern, Middle and Western divisions. Middle District cases are traditionally heard at the Nashville Supreme Court building, but Ayers will likely hear cases from the other divisions as well. Ayers, who says she is “humbled” by the appointment, is the first addition to the Court of Criminal Appeals since 2016. Read more from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 12, 2021

Gov. Bill Lee is scheduled to present his annual budget amendment this week; a move that usually signals the legislative session is nearing its end, the Tennessee Journal reports. The updated spending plan comes at a time of uncertainty given the influx of federal COVID-19 relief funds and the prospect of even more money from President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package. At a speech last week at the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, Lee hinted that a tax cut will be part of his budget amendment though the federal guidance specifies that COVID relief cannot be used to fund tax cuts. State Attorney General Herbert Slatery and his counterpart in Kentucky recently filed a lawsuit seeking to remove the strings attached to federal funds.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 12, 2021

Lamar Alexander, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate and two as governor, was set to be honored by a joint convention of the General Assembly this afternoon, the Tennessee Journal reports. Alexander, a Maryville Republican who did not seek re-election last fall, also was in town to tour the new Tennessee State Library and Archives facility. The publication notes that Alexander’s first speech to a joint convention of the House and Senate occurred more than 42 years ago when he delivered his first budget address in February 1979.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 8, 2021

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the appointment of Judge Jill Bartee Ayers to the Court of Criminal Appeals following a hearing late last month. Ayers, who is currently a circuit court judge for the 19th Judicial District, was recommended for the Middle District seat by Gov. Bill Lee. Ayers was a partner at Batson Nolan PLC in Clarksville prior to being appointed to the bench by former Governor Bill Haslam. She has been on the bench since 2015 and has presided over 50 jury trials. Ayers’ confirmation will now go before the full state Senate. The state House can hold separate confirmation hearings. Read more from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 8, 2021

The state House today passed a resolution calling for a national constitutional convention to set term limits for members of Congress, TNJ: On the Hill reports. The measure, House Joint Resolution 8, was adopted on a 53-34 vote, only three more votes than the minimum needed to clear the chamber. It now heads to the Senate for consideration. U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Winchester and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga, both on their sixth terms, are currently the longest serving Republicans. Among the Democratic congressional delegation, Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville is in his 10th term, followed by Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis who is in his eighth term.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 8, 2021

Criminal justice reform bills from Gov. Bill Lee's agenda are moving closer to passage, the Tennessean reports. Bills that seek to curb the number of nonviolent people returning to prison and give inmates being released a better chance at succeeding both have cleared legislative committees. HB784/SB767 deals with bolstering alternatives to incarceration and HB785/SB768, also known as the “Reentry Success Act of 2021,” seeks to help former inmates find housing and take advantage of other state resources. Both measures will next go before the House and Senate finance committees, effectively the last hurdles before a floor vote to become law. Lee discussed justice reform yesterday during a virtual panel with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Texas governor and U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, among others.

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