News

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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Weekly Video Legislative Update Available

The TBA livestreamed its weekly video legislative update today, covering the progress of three of the TBA's current bills in the legislature. These videos will continue on most Thursdays while the Tennessee General Assembly is in session. Catch up with today's video on YouTube and tune in next Thursday on Facebook live.
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Legislative Update: More Caption Bills Among 1,500 Filed

There was a dramatic spike in the number of bill filings this week as lawmakers rushed to introduce legislation in advance of the House and Senate filing deadlines on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. While House rules limit most members to filing no more than 15 bills, many legislators filed their full allotment, and by the close of business on Thursday approximately 1,500 bills were filed for the year. Interestingly, there was a huge increase in "caption bills," which carry a caption broad enough to cover any number of legislative topics, and certainly more or different topics than what the bill seems to address on its face. These bills can be amended at the last moment to cover any topic allowed by the caption of the bill, and are frequently used to give legislators or lobbyists a way to comply with bill filing deadlines while not revealing the true purpose of the bill. The TBA Government Affairs team will keep an eye on these bills to see whether they are amended or begin to move. Next week the committees will step up their activity and have heavier agendas. Many committee chairs are encouraging members to go ahead and place their bills on notice, with the goal of completing as much work as possible before budget presentations begin in March.
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TBA Begins Weekly Livestream Legislative Updates

The TBA launched a series of weekly video legislative updates today, which will be posted most Thursdays while the Tennessee General Assembly is in session. Catch up with today's video on YouTube and tune in next Thursday on Facebook live.
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TBA Legislative Agenda – YLD CATALYST Legislation

 
Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, and Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, this week introduced SB836/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. This legislation is a result of the TBA Young Lawyers Division's Civic Achievement Through Activism in the Legislature by Young Students in Tennessee (CATALYST) program. The CATALYST program was created and implemented by the YLD and teaches high school students about their government by providing curriculum to the students, which in turn helped them draft legislation directly addressing issues in their communities. The YLD leadership selected legislation submitted by students from Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences and worked with sponsors, Akbari and Beck, to have it introduced. The students will meet with the sponsors of the bill and follow its progress as it moves through the General Assembly committee process.
 
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Senate Minority Leader Proposes Redistricting Prior to 2020 Censes

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, is proposing a bipartisan congressional redistricting process ahead of the 2020 census, The Nashville Post reports. His plan would establish a five-member redistricting commission tasked with developing a new congressional map following each census, which would include four voting members appointed by the Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. Each action by the body, including the appointment of a nonvoting chair, would require three votes. No one who ran for or held public office, or worked for a political party, in the previous four years would be allowed to serve on the commission, and no one who had been a lobbyist in the previous two years would be allowed. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker, pushed back on the proposal, saying the commission was not necessary. 
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TBA Legislative Agenda – Probate Omnibus bill

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, have introduced a bill drafted by the TBA’s Probate Study Group, and supported by the TBA. SB542/HB675 addresses a variety of different issues within estates and trusts, such as allowing a trustee who has resigned the authority to petition the court for a release and discharge from all liability related to the trust and also permitting a revocable living trust that becomes irrevocable upon the death of the settlor to refer to a written statement of personal property not otherwise disposed of by the revocable trust. The TBA Governmental Affairs team will work with legislators to make this bill law.
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House Republicans File Legislation to Limit Nashville Police Oversight Board

A newly created civilian board tasked with overseeing the Metro Nashville Police Department could lose its subpoena powers, a move that would significantly hinder the panel's ability to investigate alleged officer misconduct, The Tennessean reports. Tennessee House Republican leaders announced yesterday that they have filed legislation to limit citizen boards' authority to compel witness testimony or issue subpoenas for documents, among other restrictions that would apply to any similar board around the state. The Metro Nashville Council last month elected its 11-member community oversight board, which voters approved by referendum in November through an amendment to the city charter.
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Republicans File Medical Marijuana Proposal

Two Republican lawmakers introduced a comprehensive bill Monday that would allow Tennesseans suffering from a variety of maladies to use medical marijuana, The Tennessean reports. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, and Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, is dubbed the "Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act." More than a dozen illnesses would qualify under the proposal.
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Tennessee Senators Propose Changes to Judicial Branch

Several State Senators are proposing a number of changes to the judicial branch, including another run at removing party labels from judicial elections in Davidson and Shelby counties and the creation of a new judicial district, The Nashville Post reports. A proposal from Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, would require elections for state trial court judgeships and county judicial offices to be conducted in a nonpartisan manner in Davidson and Shelby counties. Another newly filed bill from Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, would establish a 32nd judicial district in Tennessee. Williamson County, which currently shares the 21st judicial district with Hickman, Lewis and Perry counties, would get its own district while the three smaller counties would remain together.
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TBAToday Legislative Update

This week the House and Senate were both in session, and legislators were primarily focused on preparing bills to be filed before the Feb. 6 bill filing deadline next week. Committee meetings this week were mostly organizational, but next week they will start to consider legislation. The TBA is in the process of having the TBA legislative initiatives introduced. This year’s TBA legislation was drafted by the Adoption Law Section, the Creditors’ Practice Section, the Probate Study Group, and the Construction Law Section. We are also working closely with the Juvenile Court judges and the trial judges on a bill clarifying subject matter jurisdiction on family law matters before the trial courts. And finally we are working with the TBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) to help introduce legislation drafted by Tennessee high school students participating in the YLD Civic Achievement Through Activism in the Legislature by Young Students in Tennessee (CATALYST) program.
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TBA Legislative Agenda – Service of Process

Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, and Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, introduced a bill drafted by the TBA’s Creditors Practice Section, and supported by the TBA. SB 456/HB 393 allows for process to be valid if a private process server does not include a mailing or physical address on the service return. The TBA Governmental Affairs team is working with legislators to pass this bill and have it signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee.
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House Rep. Challenges Ban on Livestreaming

A Democratic state representative says he plans to continue personally livestreaming committee meetings, despite a ban on the practice announced this week, The Tennessean reports. Standing on the House floor yesterday, Rep. G.A. Hardaway asked Speaker Glen Casada where in the rules adopted by the House a ban on livestreaming was referenced. "If they can't show me that, it's not a rule, and thus it does not apply to any member of this House," Hardaway said.
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Memphis Legislator Proposes Marijuana Decriminalization

Possessing less than one ounce of marijuana would be decriminalized in Tennessee under a new bill proposed by state Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, The Commercial Appeal reports. The bill would be another try at decriminalizing marijuana in Tennessee after Memphis and Nashville city councils passed ordinances in 2016 giving police the ability to give out lighter penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Former Gov. Bill Haslam in 2017 signed a bill into law that repealed the Memphis and Nashville local laws giving police more latitude with small marijuana possession citations.
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House Committee Chairs Move to Ban Livestreaming of Meetings

Members of the public are being forbidden from taking live video during some public House of Representatives legislative committee meetings, and the ban will be extended to the House chamber as well, The Tennessean reports. House Speaker Glen Casada said that the decision to ban live video is up to each individual chairman to implement and to what degree. Some are responding by not banning live video at all, while others are requiring that individuals and lawmakers request permission before beginning a livestream.

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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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