Government Affairs Update

Follow the TBA's efforts to influence federal and state policy as it fulfills one of the core missions of the association – advocacy for the profession and for our system of justice.

AG: Legislators Can Expel Lawmaker But Not Advisable

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is advising legislators that expelling a lawmaker for conduct that took place before entering office is inadvisable but also not prohibited, the Tennessean reports. The opinion comes in response to a House request on whether lawmakers could expel Rep. David Byrd from office over decades-old sexual assault allegations. "Historical practice, sound policy considerations, and constitutional restraints counsel against, but do not absolutely prohibit, the exercise of the legislature’s expulsion power to oust a member for conduct that occurred before he was elected and that was known to the member’s constituents when they elected him," Slatery wrote in the opinion issued Tuesday.

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Take Part in Survey to Help Eliminate Professional Privilege Tax

Tennessee lawyers today received a survey from the Tennessee Bar Association requesting they take part in a short survey regarding their practices. Information from the survey will be used in an effort to help eliminate the state Professional Privilege Tax. That effort has also been joined by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) and other organizations, who today joined the TBA in sending a letter to Gov. Lee and legislators. If you did not receive a link to the survey, you can access the survey here.

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Impeachment Inquiry to Be Televised This Week

When the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump begins its public phase on Wednesday, people will have more ways to get the information than in 1973 during Nixon's impeachment hearings, Fox News reports. "People now have a far greater variety of options as to how to consume this," said professor Tobe Berkovitz, a former political media consultant who teaches communications at Boston University. "Everyone might watch the same hearing, but then people are going to divide into camps in terms of how they want to engage with the analysis," he said. "You're going to pick who you want to interpret and propagandize."  U.S. charge d’affaires in Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent are set to testify before Congress in a public hearing Wednesday, CNBC reports. The officials will testify together at 10 a.m. ET. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is scheduled to testify in public at 9 a.m. ET Friday.

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Eddie Jones Files for Sessions Court Clerk

Within days of Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton indicating he would not seek re-election, one county commissioner has filed a petition for the job and another is considering a run, the Daily Memphian reports. Shelby County Commissioner Eddie Jones filed his qualifying petition Wednesday while Commissioner Reginald Milton said he is thinking about a run for the post. Jones said if elected, he would like to lead the court through a reform of the bail system. The race to replace Stanton begins with the March 3 county primaries with winners advancing to the August general election.

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Feds Investigating State Sen. Kelsey’s Campaign Finance Transactions

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Memphis, is facing a grand jury probe concerning campaign finance transactions during his failed 2016 congressional bid, the Tennessean reports. Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey confirmed he’d been interviewed by a federal agent earlier this year, who asked if Kelsey gave Ramsey money with a request to “move it” to the West Tennessee lawmakers’ congressional campaign committee. Ramsey denies this happened. Nashville At-large Councilman Steve Glover and an unnamed lawmaker were also interviewed by federal agents. Glover gave money to Kelsey’s federal PAC months after receiving money from Kelsey’s state PAC. Kelsey says he welcomes any investigation because “all donations were made in compliance with the law and on the advice of counsel.”

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Judge Reduces Durham’s Campaign Finance Penalty

Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell on Friday called for the state Registry of Election Finance to reduce the fine it imposed on expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham after reviewing the registry’s actions and the fine it imposed in 2017. Darnell ruled that the $465,000 fine should be reduced to $110,000, the Tennessean reports. He also found that the registry failed to prove that Durham spent campaign money inappropriately on a number of expenses and that some of those expenses (e.g., investments, sunglasses, dry cleaning, a handgun carry permit and continuing education fees) were not at the time or are still not explicitly prohibited by state campaign finance law.

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Memphis State Rep. Takes Job at Lipscomb, Will Keep House Seat

State Rep. Mark White, a Republican from East Memphis, is taking a new job as director of Lipscomb University’s College of Leadership & Public Service. He will continue to live in East Memphis and retain his legislative seat in District 83, the Daily Memphian reports. White chairs the House Education Committee and with the new job will travel the state, primarily to rural areas, to develop leadership programs for public service. White earned a master of arts degree in conflict management from Lipscomb in 2018. He previously was a principal at Harding Academy in Memphis.

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House to Hold Budget Hearings Before Session Starts

At the direction of new House Speaker Cameron Sexton, the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee will move its 2020-2021 budget hearings to a November-December schedule, away from the long practice of holding them during the regular session. Explaining the move, Sexton told the Daily Memphian this week that holding the hearings in February and March "logjam the committee system" but holding them before the session gives lawmakers a better understanding of the budget plan and frees them up to concentrate on legislation once the session starts.

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Back by Popular Demand: ‘The Ethical Campaign’ Set for Dec. 2

This advanced level program covers all aspects of election law and ethics and is designed for state and local lawmakers; judges; candidates for executive, judicial or legislative positions; campaign chairs; campaign treasurers; and campaign legal counsel. This year’s program features William “Bill” Young, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance; Lucian Pera; Stephen Zralek; and Gif Thornton. Earn up to three hours of dual CLE credit.

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Former Nashville Mayor Returns to Law Firm

Former Nashville Mayor David Briley will return to his previous law firm of Bone McAllester Norton on Nov. 1, the firm announced today. Briley practiced at the firm from 2007 to 2018, focusing on civil, commercial and class-action litigation. He will resume his past practice areas and also advise clients on administrative and regulatory matters. Briley was elected vice mayor in 2015 and mayor in 2018. During his tenure, he helped bring Amazon and Alliance Bernstein jobs to the city, obtain final approval for a major league soccer expansion team, increase recognition for LGBT-owned businesses in government procurement, and push forward initiatives on affordable housing, community college and domestic violence prevention.

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