News

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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Tennessee Congressman-elect Green Elected President of GOP Freshman Class

U.S. Congressman-elect Mark Green (R-Clarksville) was unanimously voted president of the Republican freshman class this week, The Nashville Post reports. He will lead 30 Republican freshmen in the U.S. House of Representatives starting early next year.
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Wiseman Tapped as Governor-elect Lee's Chief Counsel

Memphis attorney Lang Wiseman will serve as deputy to the governor and chief counsel for Governor-elect Bill Lee, The Daily Memphian reports. Wiseman's appointment was announced on Tuesday alongside a number of other senior staff and cabinet positions. Wiseman will be stepping down from his role on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees to take the job. The founder of Wiseman Bray PLLC, he also currently serves on Gov. Bill Haslam’s Council for Judicial Appointments and is vice chair of the Advisory Commission to the Supreme Court on Rules of Practice and Procedure.
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New Minority Leader First African-American to Hold Position

Tennessee House Democrats have chosen Rep. Karen Camper for Minority Leader, making her the first African-American to hold the position, The Tennessean reports. The Memphis legislator replaces former leader Craig Fitzhugh, who chose not to run for reelection this year in order to run for governor. Camper, a retired U.S. Army chief warrant officer, was first elected to the legislature in 2008. Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, will continue in his position as Democratic Caucus chairman.

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Republicans Name House Leaders

In addition to the nomination of Glen Casada as new House Speaker, Tennessee House Republicans named a number of other leadership positions for the next session, The Nashville Post reports. Rep. William Lamberth of Cottontown was tapped to succeed Casada as majority leader, while Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville was nominated as speaker pro tempore. Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville was chosen as caucus chair and Rep. Rick Tillis of Lewisburg was named majority whip.
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Casada Elected Republican Nominee for House Speaker

State House Republicans today selected longtime Franklin lawmaker Glen Casada to be their nominee for the chamber's next speaker, The Tennessean reports. Casada was chosen over Reps. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, and David Hawk, R-Greeneville. His election comes eight years after he lost his bid for speaker to Beth Harwell, who resigned from her seat to run for governor this year. A tea party favorite, Casada was viewed as the most conservative choice for the position.
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Former Senate Minority Leader Ben Atchley Dies at 88

Former state Sen. Ben Atchley, who served as Senate Minority Leader during his time in the legislature, died yesterday Knoxnews reports. He was 88. A veteran of the U.S. Navy and a former Southern Bell lineman, Atchley was first elected to the Tennessee House in 1972 and to the Tennessee Senate shortly after in 1976. Nicknamed "Gentle Ben," he retired in 2004 after serving 32 years with a reputation of resolving differences between lawmakers. A graveside service will be held at New Prospect Presbyterian Church Cemetery, 4920 Prospect Rd. in Knoxville on Sunday at 1 p.m. Following a graveside service, the family will receive friends at Graystone Presbyterian Church, 139 S. Woodlawn Pike, from 2:30 p.m., with a Celebration of Life service to follow at 4 p.m. Memorials may be made to Graystone Presbyterian Church or the charity of your choice.
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Covington Businessman Enters Race to Replace Norris

Covington businessman Paul Rose will join the race for the 32nd District Senate seat vacated by Mark Norris, The Daily Memphian reports. Rose, 65, owns a construction company and is a Republican from Tipton County. His announcement sets up a potential four-way race for the job, with three others mulling a run for the seat that Norris only officially resigned last week. Gov. Bill Haslam has yet to officially call for a special election to fill the final two years of Norris' term.
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Attorneys Graduate TBA’s First Public Service Academy

The first class of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Public Service Academy graduated this weekend in Nashville. The program was designed to support lawyers who intend to seek local public offices such as city council, county commission and school board. The bipartisan group of lawyers from across the state trained on topics including messaging, budgets, field strategy and social media for their future campaigns. Many also announced their intent to run in their upcoming municipal elections in 2019. See photos here.
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Vick to Chair Bass Berry's Government Advocacy Group

Bass, Berry & Sims announced today that Erica Bell Vick will serve as chair of the firm’s government advocacy and public policy practice group, The Nashville Post reports. Vick succeeds Richard “Dick” Lodge, who will retire at year’s end. Vick will advocate for clients’ business interests before the Tennessee General Assembly and before various executive branch departments, agencies and commissions of state government.
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Hargett: Norris Replacement Likely to be Filled Via Special Election

State Sen. Mark Norris’ legislative seat will likely be filled by a special election, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said this week, The Commercial Appeal reports. Norris was confirmed last week to fill a vacant federal judgeship in West Tennessee. Norris has not technically resigned from his current seat, which must be done in order for Gov. Bill Haslam to call for a special election. In the extremely unlikely case that Norris were to resign prior to Election Day, it would create a write-in contest to fill the seat on the Nov. 6 ballot.
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TBA Public Service Academy Holds First Session

The TBA’s Public Service Academy met for the first time this weekend, with a bipartisan coalition of 29 attorneys from across the state gathering to learn the basics of running for local elected office. On Friday, former state senator and current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Doug Overbey, spoke about his experiences campaigning and holding elected office. On Saturday, former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell spoke to the group about his life as a mayor and former legislator, as well as the importance of attorneys choosing a life of public service. The class heard further presentations about fundraising, building a campaign team, crafting their campaign message and more. They will reconvene again Nov. 9-10 in Nashville for another weekend training.
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Appeals Court Finds Jeremy Durham Has Standing to Sue for Benefits

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that former Tennessee legislator Jeremy Durham, who was expelled from the House of Representatives two years ago, has standing to sue the state over health insurance and pension benefits he claims he is owed, The Nashville Post reports. Last year, the federal District Court ruled differently, saying Durham had no right to sue the Commissioner of Finance and Administration, the Director of Legislative Administration Connie Ridley and Treasurer David Lillard because they did not cause Durham to be expelled. The new ruling states Durham has standing “because his injury that he seeks to remedy is fairly traceable to the administrators’ conduct.”
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SCOTUS Lets Stand Decision Requiring Dark Money Disclosure

The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a lower court’s decision forcing politically active nonprofit groups to disclose the identity of any donor giving more than $200 when those groups advertise for or against political candidates, The Atlantic reports. It’s not immediately clear whether nonprofit groups that advocate for and against political candidates must retroactively disclose their funders or only do so going forward.
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Casada to Run for Speaker of the House

Tennessee State House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, announced his plans today to run for speaker of the House, The Nashville Post reports. Casada was long presumed to make a bid for the position, as he previously ran for it against Current Speaker Beth Harwell in 2010. Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, and Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, are also seeking the position.
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Leadership Battles Already Shaping Up in Legislature

With the general election still two months away, incumbents in the state House and Senate are already positioning themselves for who will lead each legislative body. Active races are already shaping up for House Speaker and caucus leadership posts in both parties, the Memphis Daily News reports in its View from the Hill column. Find out who are the favorites.

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Federal Court: North Carolina May Use Gerrymandered Map in November Elections

A panel of judges in the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina has ruled that the state will be allowed to use its current electoral map for the November elections, despite having declared it an unconstitutional gerrymander last week, NPR reports. The judges wrote in their order that forcing the state to hastily redraw maps prior to November would “unduly interfere with the State’s electoral machinery and likely confuse voters and depress turnout.” Voting rights advocacy groups that challenged the map agreed with the court’s decision, saying they would rather voters use the current, unconstitutional map than risk depressing turnout.
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Your New TBJ: Child Visitation and Lots More

Miles Mason Sr. explains in the new Tennessee Bar Journal why separating or divorcing parents should not ask children what visitation they want, and Donna Harkness writes about why the concept of Supported Decision Making is becoming more a part of planning for clients with diminished capacity. TBA President Jason M. Pannu talks about the importance of effective government relations and how the association approaches it. Read these and more in the September issue.

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Legislators Host 'First in Adoption' Luncheon

Members of the Adoption Law Section of the TBA today attended the Tennessee: First in Adoption Law Luncheon hosted by Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. Other attendees included Deputy Governor Jim Henry, Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich, lawyers from the Department of Human Services, Thea Ramirez, founder of Adoption-Share Inc. and TBA Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs Berkley Schwarz. The “Tennessee: First in Adoption Act” makes a number of modifications in many areas of adoption and termination law, including a new, less bureaucratic surrender form, included in the Tennessee Code. The new law went into effect on July 1, 2018.
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Campaign Finance Complaints Dismissed Against Harwell, Lee

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance has dismissed complaints filed against Rep. Beth Harwell and Bill Lee’s gubernatorial campaigns, The Tennessee Journal reports. Both had been accused of illegal coordination with a political action committee.
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Hawk Joins Race for House Speaker Post

Republican Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville is running for speaker of the House, hoping to succeed Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) who gave up the post to seek the governorship, TNJ: On the Hill reports. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) earlier announced his bid for the post and will likely be joined in the race by Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin).

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Oral Arguments Heard in Jeremy Durham Case

Three federal judges from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from attorneys in ousted lawmaker Jeremy Durham’s appeal to continue receiving benefits from the state, The Tennessean reports. Durham’s attorney Bill Harbison argued that that his client was deprived of due process after U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger dismissed his case back in December. Janet Kleinfelter, representing the state’s Department of Finance and Administration commissioner, Treasurer and Director of Legislative Administration, argued that Durham’s lawsuit was inappropriate because he did not adequately say why he should still receive state benefits. 
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