News

Haslam Meets with Pence to Discuss Possible U.S. Senate Bid

Former Gov. Bill Haslam met with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House this week as the Knoxville Republican continues eyeing a potential run for the U.S. Senate, Knoxnews reports. Haslam has been mulling a run for the upper chamber since U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander announced in December he would not seek re-election. He previously said he would announce his decision in the early months of 2019. Other Republicans weighing a Senate bid include U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, orthopedic trauma surgeon Manny Sethi and U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Clarksville. Nashville attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler is the only Democrat to enter the race so far. 
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TBA ED Joycelyn Stevenson Today's Guest on Legislative Update

This week's video TBA Legislative Update is now available on Facebook. Joining Government Affairs Director Berkley Schwarz and Communications Coordinator Katharine Heriges for this edition is TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson, who talks about what role she has to play in the bar association's legislative agenda, as well as the ins-and-outs of what goes on behind the scenes at the TBA. Check out future installments by logging onto Facebook every Thursday afternoon, and catch up on previous updates on the TBA's YouTube channel.
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Legislative Update - Pace Picks Up at General Assembly

Legislative activity continued to increase last week, with full committee calendars that included both bills and budget presentations of executive branch agencies. Additionally, some committees already have their projected end dates in sight as leadership continues to target an early May adjournment. The overall level of legislative activity will increase even more next week, as the bulk of legislation for 2019 will have its fate determined in the next four weeks. 
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Rep. Towns Fined Another $10K for Campaign Finance Violations

State Rep. Joe Towns’ civil penalties reached $45,000 Wednesday after the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance fined him another $10,000 for failing to file campaign reports, The Daily Memphian reports. The Registry now has assessed four outstanding $10,000 civil penalties against Towns for failing to file reports and late filing and another $5,000 penalty for late filing of an appointment of treasurer. Wednesday’s penalty was for the third period in 2018. Towns said he has no intention of paying any of the fines but plans to run for re-election in 2020.
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Rose Wins State Senate Special Election

Covington businessman Paul Rose is the new state senator from District 32, The Daily Memphian reports. Rose was the winner over Democratic nominee Eric Coleman in yesterday’s special general election for the seat, keeping it in the Republican column. Rose will fill the unfinished term of former Sen. Mark Norris, who was nominated and confirmed last year as a federal judge. Rose's term runs to the end of 2020.
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CATALYST Students Visit Legislature for Day on the Hill

Students from the Chattanooga School of the Arts and Sciences visited the Tennessee legislature today as a part of the TBA Young Lawyers Division CATALYST program. The program solicited ideas for legislation from schools across the state, helped the students compose their own legislation, and then selected one bill to introduce at the General Assembly. The students who wrote the bill toured the Capitol today and met with Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, as well as lobbyists and other government leaders.
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Sen. Kelsey Proposes Increasing Campaign Finance Limits for Senators

Legislation by state Sen. Brian Kelsey that could dramatically increase Senate candidate fundraising is scheduled to be heard in a committee this week, The Daily Memphian reports. Kelsey introduced his legislation recently with a handwritten amendment that rewrote the bill during a State and Local Government Committee meeting. He told committee members the amendment “was basically doubling” campaign contribution limits on the Senate side to mirror House campaign contribution limits.
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TBA Legislative Update: State of the State

Before the House chamber, Gov. Bill Lee recently delivered his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly. He emphasized the importance of criminal justice reform and the need to move away from the “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality that he said has long prevailed in Tennessee. Lee also announced the creation of a task force, to be chaired by senior advisor and former judge Brandon Gibson, that will develop legislative and budgetary recommendations on various issues, including crime prevention, recidivism, victim support, mental health, and reforming the criminal code and sentencing guidelines. In the legislature next week, committee activity will continue to ramp up as leadership encourages members to put their bills on notice, with a target goal of May 1 for adjournment. See more legislative coverage via TBA's Legislative Updates on the TBA YouTube channel.
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TBA Weekly Video Legislative Update - March 7

The TBA's weekly livestream video legislative update is now available on Facebook. This week's update discusses the TBA's lobbying process, from bill selection all the way through committee. Catch up on all of the TBA's legislative updates on YouTube. Watch future updates every Thursday afternoon on the TBA's Facebook page.
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Party Registration Bill Advances

A new bill regarding party registration has passed the Tennessee House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee, the Nashville Post reports. The bill would allow for party registration but not require it to vote in primary elections. Those who choose to register as a member of a party would be prevented from voting in another party’s primary. The legislation comes after a bill with a similar topic, which would have required party registration to vote in primaries, failed in a House committee.
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Tennessee AG Urges U.S. Senate to Approve Anti-Robocall Legislation

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III urged the U.S. Senate to enact the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, legislation to curb illegal robocalls and spoofing. A coalition of 54 attorneys general sent a letter to the U. S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation supporting the TRACED Act, which is sponsored by Sens. John Thune and Ed Markey. The legislation will require voice service providers to participate in a call authentication framework to help block unwanted calls and creates an interagency working group to take additional actions to reduce robocalls and hold telemarketers and robocallers accountable.
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Tennessee Legislature Considers Raising the Smoking Age to 21

There are at least three proposals at the Tennessee legislature that would increase the age to buy tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, from 18 to 21, WPLN reports. Altria — which owns Philip Morris USA — is backing one of the proposals to raise Tennessee's tobacco age, primarily to address underage vaping. The growth of e-cigarettes among teens has been so rapid that the Centers for Disease Control issued a special warning late last year. Sen. Shane Reeves, R-Murfreesboro, says the only resistance he's found is among a few convenience store owners worried about sales. Tennessee has one of the highest rates of smoking and deaths from related disease.

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General Assembly Ramping Up for Busy March

It was a busy week at the legislature, as committees continued to ramp up to speed and more bills were placed on notice. Some lawmakers opted to run their bills early in session to avoid the inevitable rush that takes place in April, and other committees dedicated their entire calendars to bills addressing certain topics. Several house subcommittees also announced last calendars for the week of March 11, as leadership continues to press things along on a schedule to allow the legislature to adjourn sometime in early May. On Monday, Gov. Bill Lee will address a joint convention of the legislature to deliver his first State of the State address. Lee’s speech will highlight his key initiatives and priorities, and will likely include issues such as increased funding for school safety, greater resources for mental illness treatment, and an increased focus on having students ready for the workforce out of high school. 
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TBA Weekly Legislative Update Focuses on Non-TBA Bills

The TBA's weekly livestream legislative update was posted today. This week's edition focused on bills that have been filed that were not TBA bills but still have ramifications for the legal community. Watch the video here, and add a question in the comments - it could be answered in a future livestream.

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Bill Would Prevent Court Officials From Recognizing Same-Sex Unions

A new bill introduced into the Tennessee legislature that targets the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage would prohibit government officials from recognizing any court ruling that affirms LGBT unions, The Tennessean reports. Another provision in the bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton, requires the state attorney general to defend the proposal in any subsequent court challenges. On Friday, the Fiscal Review Committee released an analysis of the bill, known as a fiscal note, which found it “could jeopardize federal funding if it is determined the state is in noncompliance with federal law.”
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Bill Would Make It Easier to Get Concealed Carry Permit in Tennessee

A bill has been introduced in the legislature that would lessen requirements for obtaining a concealed carry permit, The Tennessean reports. Under the current system, individuals must pay $100, take an eight-hour training course and undergo a background check. The new proposal, which sponsor Rep. Andy Holt says was designed to make the process cheaper for permit-seekers, would reduce the number of training hours required to two. It would also allow people to renew their permit every eight years instead of every five.
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TBA Bills Advance in Judiciary Committee

Despite having a somewhat compressed schedule due to the President’s day holiday, the legislature picked up steam this week in anticipation of Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address, which will occur in less than two weeks. The TBA's adoption bills, SB208/HB287 and SB207/HB288 both passed the House Judiciary Committee this week, with SB208 also passing in the Senate. The CATALYST bill (SB837/HB1002), which requires every person applying for a driver license or photo identification card to be automatically registered to vote upon the applicant's 18th birthday, will go before the Senate State and Local Government Committee next week. SB719/HB854, which allows a trial court to exercise domestic relations jurisdiction regardless of the nature of the allegations unless and until a pleading is filed or relief is otherwise sought in a juvenile court invoking its exclusive original jurisdiction, will be considered by the full House Judiciary Committee next week.
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Attorneys for Rep. Byrd Ask Federal Court to Drop Free Speech Lawsuit

State Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit in which a Wayne County High School student alleged that the lawmaker and school officials violated free speech rights by telling students to wear shirts advertising Byrd’s campaign, The Nashville Post reports. The defendants alleged in a Thursday court filing that the anonymous student was not on the field trip last year. Byrd’s attorneys argued that prior to the student’s “voluntary decision to forego attending the field trip” he was told there was “no requirement whatsoever” that the student wear the t-shirt.
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TBA Weekly Video Legislative Update - CATALYST

The TBA's legislative update livestreamed this afternoon featured TBA Young Lawyers Division President Christian Barker, who helped explain the TBA YLD's CATALYST program and its accompanying legislation. Watch the livestream here and submit your questions about the TBA's legislative agenda to TBA Public Policy Director Berkley Schwarz.

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Thornton to Chair Council for Judicial Appointments, 3 New Members Named

Gov. Bill Lee announced new members to the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments, as well as the appointment of Gif Thornton as chair. The council is responsible for recommending candidates to the governor to fill vacancies for Tennessee’s appellate courts. New members include David McKinney of Memphis, who is currently the Vice President of Government Relations for AutoZone Inc., Jody Pickens of Jackson, who is currently the District Attorney General for the 26th Judicial District, and Charles Tuggle of Memphis, who is currently the General Counsel for First Horizon National Corp. Current members of the council, including George Brown, Sarah K. Campbell, David Golden, Rosemarie Hill, Michelle Long and Cheryl Rice, will continue to serve.
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Bill Would Require Tennesseans to Officially Declare Party Affiliation to Vote in Primaries

A bill requiring Tennessee voters to declare their party affiliation in order to vote in a primary election made its way through its first committee today, The Tennessean reports. The legislation would force voters to choose between being registered as a Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated with a statewide party or other in order to cast a primary ballot. If a voter chooses unaffiliated, they would not be able to vote in any primary elections. The bill was met with concerns from Democrats and Republicans, but received key support in the House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee. Gov. Bill Lee and former Gov. Bill Haslam both expressed opposition to such a measure in the past.
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New Legislation Aims to Make Craft Brewing Easier

A new bill proposed by an East Tennessee senator aiming to encourage the craft beer industry would authorize beer makers to self-distribute beer within a 100-mile radius of production, the Nashville Post reports. State law currently only allows self-distribution within the county in which the brewery operates. The new proposal would limit qualified brewers to those that produce 50,000 gallons or fewer.
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Audit Shows Lawmaker Spending Campaign Money Illegally

Tennessee state Rep. Harold Love Jr., D-Nashville, was found by a Tennessee Registry of Election Finance audit to have spent thousands of dollars of campaign money for dry cleaning, trips, meals and other questionable purchases, The Tennessean reports. Love was also found in violation of reporting laws, failing to report $7,830 in donations, failing to provide enough data for more than $1,000 in contributions and failing to properly itemizes thousands in expenditures. Love pushed back against the allegations, saying that many of the questionable purchases had been made for constituents. House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said there should be an investigation before any conclusions are drawn.
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Committee Action Heats Up; 2 TBA Adoption Bills Advance

Activity on Capitol Hill has picked up now that all bills have all been introduced and referred to their respective committees. The TBA has circulated legislation affecting attorneys to the TBA Sections’ Executive Councils for review and feedback and are busy communicating positions on legislation to bill sponsors and committee chairs. The TBA’s two adoption bills (HB287/SB208, Adoption Corrections, and HB288/SB207, Post-adoption Contact Agreements) were recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Children and Families Subcommittee. Both bills are scheduled to be considered by the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 20.
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2 Memphis Legislators Under Scrutiny for Campaign Finance Reporting

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance has issued show-cause notices to Rep. G.A. Hardaway and Rep. Joe Towns, both Memphis Democrats, for shortcomings in their campaign finance reporting, The Daily Memphian reports. Hardaway, who filed his pre-general report late last year, had previously been told to submit a corrected report to show $7,000 in political action committee contributions by Jan. 18, but the report he filed contained no corrected information. The Registry voted to asses Towns $20,000 in civil penalties for failing to make two financial reports.
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