News

Legislators File Bills to Gain Control Over Tennessee Attorney General

State lawmakers are proposing various changes to the way they interact with the state attorney general, The Nashville Post reports. Rep. Mike Carter, the chair of the civil justice subcommittee, has filed a resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would give the General Assembly confirmation authority over the attorney general. Currently the Tennessee Supreme Court appoints the attorney general for an eight-year term. Carter's bill would empower the legislature to veto the high court’s pick. Another proposal from Sen. Bo Watson and Rep. Bill Dunn would give the legislature the ability to intervene in legal proceedings to defend the constitutionality of a contested statute or to diverge from the advocacy of the attorney general or a district attorney general.
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TBA Legislative Agenda – Adoption Law

Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, introduced two bills today, drafted by members of the TBA Adoption Law Section, and supported by the TBA. SB207/HB288 allows biological parents and adoptive parents to enter into an enforceable, written contract for post-adoption contact that permits continued contact between legal relatives and the child. SB208/HB287 is a Corrections/Clean up bill for the TN: First in Adoption Act, enacted in 2018. The TBA Governmental Affairs team will work with legislators to pass these bills and have them signed into law by Governor Lee.
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Tennessee Republicans Look to Restrictions on Nashville's New Police Oversight Board

Tennessee Republican lawmakers are pursuing legislation that would let Nashville's new police oversight board remain but strip away its subpoena power, The Tennessean reports. Under Amendment 1 to the Metro Charter that Nashville voters approved in November, the community oversight board has "all powers, including the power to compel" that other Metro government agencies, boards and entities have. House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, said he anticipated legislation aimed at serving as what he called a "safety net" to prevent "witch hunts" and protect the rights of police officers.
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Paul Rose Wins Special GOP Primary

Covington businessman Paul Rose topped the results last week in the special Republican primary election for Tennessee Senate District 32, The Commercial Appeal reports. Rose will face Democrat Eric Coleman of Memphis in the special general election March 12 to fill the seat formerly occupied by Collierville Republican Mark Norris. The former Senate majority leader was recently confirmed as a federal judge. Rose beat out Shelby County Commissioners Heidi Shafer and George Chism, as well as former state Rep. Steve McManus.
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TBA Weekly Legislative Update

The Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives are back in session and are referring newly introduced bills to the appropriate committees, which are primarily holding organizational meetings this week. The deadline for filing all legislation is Feb. 6, so there will be a flood of bills introduced over the next two weeks. The TBA Governmental Affairs Team will be reviewing all bills and begin the process of forwarding the legislation affecting the practice of law to the appropriate Section Executive Councils for review and feedback. Stay tuned for more info.
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'TBAToday' to Begin Weekly Legislative Updates

With the Tennessee General Assembly officially back in session, the TBA will begin bringing you weekly round-ups of bills impacting the legal community each Friday in TBAToday. Those who wish to receive notifications of important legislative developments can subscribe to TBAImpact.
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Former Legislative Assistant Stole More Than $12,000, Audit Shows

A new audit shows the former legislative assistant of Minority Leader Karen Camper stole more than $12,500 over three years, The Daily Memphian reports. Former assistant Derrick Tibbs admitted to theft last month and resigned. Camper was told about the situation in early December by Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville, whose signature was forged on the checks. In a letter last year to the caucus notifying members of her intent to pursue the minority leader position, Camper said as caucus treasurer she had “scrutinized” every payment made by the caucus.
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Lawmaker Accused of Sexual Misconduct with Teens Named Education Committee Chair

Tennessee House Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, who was accused of inappropriate sexual conduct against multiple teens while serving as a high school basketball coach, has been named chairman of an education subcommittee, The Tennessean reports. New House Speaker Glen Casada, who appointed Byrd to the position, said that he "cannot make actions based on accusations," citing Byrd's overwhelming reelection victory in his district to support his choice. Byrd publicly denied any wrongdoing, but apologized to one of the women in a phone call she recorded.
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Tennessee Attorney Announces 2020 Bid for U.S. Senate

James Mackler, the attorney who dropped out of the 2018 Democratic primary when former Gov. Phil Bredesen entered the race, has announced he will again seek the position of U.S. Senator, The Tennessean reports. Mackler becomes the first candidate of any party to declare his intent to run for the open senate being vacated by Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2020.
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Lee Appoints Judge Gibson as Senior Advisor, Names Other Cabinet-Level Positions

Governor-elect Bill Lee today announced his appointment of Judge Brandon Gibson of Crockett County to serve as a Senior Adviser in the Office of the Governor, The Jackson Sun reports. Gibson currently serves as a judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section. Her new role as a senior adviser will include a broad portfolio with emphasis on long-term initiatives, such as criminal justice reform and prioritizing the needs of rural communities. Additionally, Lee recently appointed attorneys to two other cabinet positions: Jennifer Nichols to lead the Department of Children's Services and Gabe Roberts to lead the Division of TennCare.

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31 New Faces at Capitol as Legislature Set to Begin Session

The Tennessee General Assembly will begin tomorrow, with 31 new members and without several longtime leaders, The Tennessean reports. Former House Speaker Beth Harwell and former House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh are among those gone, paving the way for new leadership. Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, is poised to become the next House Speaker, and is already making plans to bring back three key subcommittees.
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U.S. Rep. Cohen Announces Re-election Bids for 2020, 2022

Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen announced today that he will run for re-election in both 2020 and 2022, The Commercial Appeal reports. Cohen was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 after 24 years in the Tennessee State Senate. He previously was a Shelby County commissioner. He won his seventh consecutive term in the U.S. House in November with around 80 percent of the vote.

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Corker Aides to Form Public Affairs Firm

Two top aides to retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker are setting up a public affairs and government relations firm in the new year, the Nashville Post reports. Corker Communications Director Micah Johnson and Chief of Staff Todd Womack will launch Bridge Public Affairs, with offices in Chattanooga, Nashville and Washington, D.C. Johnson joined Corker’s staff shortly after graduating form the University of Tennessee in 2010, leaving only briefly to work on Marco Rubio’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. Womack has worked with Corker for his entire tenure in the Senate and served as his communications director when Corker was mayor of Chattanooga.

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Bill Lee Plans Jan. 19 Inauguration

Governor-elect Bill Lee has announced the schedule for his inauguration next month, The Nashville Post reports. The events will mostly be held on Jan. 19, beginning with a worship service at the Ryman Auditorium followed by the inaugural ceremony at Legislative Plaza at 11 a.m. The oath of office will be administered by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins.
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Haslam Considers 2020 Senate Bid

After yesterday’s announcement that U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander will retire at the end of his current term, Gov. Bill Haslam said he is considering making a run for the seat, The Tennessean reports. “Obviously, you want to think seriously about an opportunity like that," Haslam said. "It's too important of a role and I care too much about the future of our state and country to not at least seriously consider it." He did not provide a timeline on when he might reach a decision.
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AG Opinion Could Pave Way for Legal Sports Betting

A recent opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has created a path for legislation to allow gambling on sporting events, The Daily Memphian reports. The opinion, issued Dec. 14, says the General Assembly “may legalize the contest solely through legislative action without a constitutional amendment” as long as the sport is based on skill and not predominantly on “chance.” Sen. Brian Kelsey, who is considering legislation related to the matter, said that if allowed, sports betting should be limited to the four largest cities in Tennessee.
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U.S. Sen. Alexander Will Not Seek Re-election in 2020

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander announced today that he will not seek re-election in 2020, The Tennessean reports. The former Tennessee governor and U.S. Secretary of Education was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002. He currently serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. His retirement will set up the second battle for an open Senate seat in the past two years.
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5 Qualify to Run for Senate District 32 Special Election

Four Republicans will face off in a special primary election next month for the state Senate seat most recently held by former Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, The Commercial Appeal reports. Former state Rep. Steve McManus, former Shelby County commissioners George Chism and Heidi Shafer, and Covington businessman Paul Rose will compete in the Jan. 24 Republican primary. Eric Coleman of Bartlett was the lone Democrat to file candidate paperwork for the seat before the deadline yesterday. The general election is slated for March 12. 
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Akbari Eyes Voting Rights Restoration for Low Level Felons

New Tennessee Senate Minority Chairman Raumesh Akbari said she is planning to sponsor legislation this session that would automatically restore voting rights for people with low-level felony convictions, The Daily Memphian reports. Akbari said the proposed legislation, the wording of which is still being finalized, would ideally set up a referendum similar to the one in Florida, where voters passed a measure that would enable 1.2 million individuals to vote again. The bill could be a part of Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s promise to make criminal justice reform one of his priorities next year.
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Questions Over 'Ballot Harvesting' Surface Following 2018 Vote

An investigation into voting irregularities in a still-contested North Carolina U.S. House race is drawing attention to a widespread but little-known political tool called ballot harvesting, the Associated Press reports on WMC Action News 5. The practice of collecting absentee ballots that had not been turned in has long been used by special-interest groups and both major political parties. But this “voter service” can be corrupted when the harvested ballots are not turned in or are opened and altered before being cast.

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Governor-elect Names Alvey as Legislative Counsel

Governor-elect Bill Lee has selected Nashville attorney Liz Alvey to serve as Legislative Counsel in his new administration, TNJ: On the Hill reports. The Nashville School of Law graduate has worked with the Tennessee State Senate since 1999, having served as the senior policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris since 2007. In addition, she has held leadership positions in the Southern Legislative Conference and the Council of State Governments.

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House Democrat Staffer Resigns After Questionable Checks Discovered

A staffer who assisted in financial payments from the House Democratic Caucus has resigned after being accused of writing an unknown number of checks to himself and cashing them, WSMV reports. New House Minority Leader Karen Camper confirmed that her longtime staffer, Derrick Tibbs, resigned yesterday, after Caucus Chair Mike Stewart alerted Camper to questionable checks that had been written. Stewart said once the internal investigation is complete, and if Tibbs is found to have committed a crime, he should be charged.

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Johnson Chosen for Senate Majority Leader

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, was elected to serve as the next majority leader for Tennessee Senate Republicans, The Tennessean reports. Johnson, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006, beat Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, to earn title as the upper chamber's No. 2 leader. Johnson replaces former senator Mark Norris, who left office to take a federal judgeship.
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Former State Rep. McManus Confirms Bid for Norris' Senate Seat

Former state Rep. Steve McManus today confirmed he will enter the race for the vacant 32nd District Senate seat to fill two years remaining in the term of Mark Norris, who left the post to take a federal judgeship, The Daily Memphian reports. McManus, a Republican who moved to Collierville two years ago after losing a re-election bid to Democrat Dwayne Thompson in House District 96, picked up qualifying papers from the Shelby County Election Commission on Monday. State records show he has more than $140,000 in his House campaign account.
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Former Nashville Mayor, Congressman Richard Fulton Dies at 91

Richard H. Fulton, the former Nashville mayor and congressman, died last night at 91, The Tennessean reports. Fulton began his service in the Tennessee State Senate in 1956 and was elected to U.S. Congress in 1962 after a memorable and contentious primary, in which the first results had to be tossed out and voted on again. An ardent supporter of civil rights, he was one of just seven Southern Democrats in the House out of 87 to vote for the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Fulton was the second mayor of Davidson County's metropolitan form of government, serving for 12 years from 1975 until 1987. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
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