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.

State House Narrowly Approves Lee's School Voucher Plan

The Tennessee House passed Gov. Bill Lee’s signature school voucher legislation today in dramatic fashion, with a Knoxville lawmaker switching his vote to break a tie, the Tennessean reports. The bill, which would create education savings accounts for parents and requires verification of the recipient’s legal status, was deadlocked in a 49-49 tie this morning. Republican Rep. Jason Zachary cast the tie-breaking vote. 
read more »

TBA Legislative Update: Flow Motion

Last week the pace of the legislative session accelerated to lightning speed after the House initiated the much anticipated, and equally dreaded, “flow motion” on the floor, a move that suspends the parliamentary rules that the legislature typically observes during session. Bills are moving from committee to the floor on the same day. Now that the vast majority of committees are closed, the legislature will transition into passing the annual budget and tying up loose ends on major policy initiatives with hefty price tags. Only the Senate Judiciary Committee and Finance, Ways and Means Committees remain open. House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland announced plans for the House to take up the state’s $38 billion budget next week, with the goal of tying up all loose ends the following week.
read more »

Legislature Advances Bill to Raise Contribution Limits for State Senators

The House and Senate will vote on a bill on Thursday that would double the campaign contribution limits for members of the upper chamber, The Tennessean reports. The legislation seeks to align members of the Senate, who serve four-year terms, to the contribution limits for House lawmakers, who face election every two years. under the bill, for each primary and general election senators could receive a maximum of: $2,200 from a single person, $24,600 from an individual political action committee and an aggregate total of $245,800 from all political action committees.
read more »

Compromise Bill on Oversight Boards Heads to Governor's Desk

A bill placing restrictions on civilian police oversight boards around the state has passed both legislative chambers and is now headed to the governor's desk, The Tennessean reports. The rewritten legislation, recently crafted via a compromise in committee, now permits a community oversight board to seek a subpoena during an investigation into alleged police misconduct by doing so through the local city council, which has the authority under state law to issue subpoenas. It requires that a municipality's local legislative body approve the subpoena request by a majority vote, and that the request detail the specific documents and individuals being compelled. A council is not permitted to give "blanket authorization" for subpoenas, according to the bill.
read more »

TBA Video Update: 2 TBA Bills Signed by Governor

This week's TBA Video Legislative Update finds Public Policy Director Berkley Schwarz and Communications Coordinator Katharine Heriges back in the studio with big news - two TBA-backed bills were signed by Gov. Bill Lee today, and one more is waiting on the governor's desk for his signature. Hear more about TBA's legislation, as well as what's in store for the legislative panel CLE at the TBA Convention — all in this week's Facebook live video. Catch up on previous videos from this session on the TBA Facebook page and the TBA's YouTube channel.
read more »

House Passes Controversial Voter Registration Bill

House lawmakers have passed a bill that places new restrictions on voter registration efforts, though its passage was not without controversy, the Tennessean reports. The measure, backed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, would require groups leading voter registration efforts to undergo training and potentially face fines for submitting too many incomplete forms. Critics of the bill say it would criminalize voter registration drives, and claim the bill was motivated in response to the surge of African-American voter registration efforts prior to the 2018 midterm elections.
read more »

Get the Lowdown on the Legislature at the TBA Convention

After following the Tennessee General Assembly all year through the TBA’s Legislative Updates, are you ready to get an in-person deep dive into this session’s highs and lows? You can at this year’s Legislative Panel at the TBA Convention in Nashville, June 12-15. You’ll hear from the lawmakers themselves, as well as TBA lobbyists on what’s happened and what’s to come next year. Register before April 30 for the Early Bird discount.
read more »

TBA Legislative Update - Race to the Finish

Both the House and the Senate wrapped up budget hearings this week as the race to the finish begins. Leadership maintains session will wrap-up by the first week of May, but hotly contested bills like Gov. Bill Lee’s Educational Savings Account bill and the bipartisan sports betting bill pose a threat to that promise. Bills we have been tracking that are officially dead for the year include SB399/HB236: Increasing of homestead exemption; SB1404/HB1426: Presumption of joint custody;  SB1424/HB1411: Establishing requirements for providers operating websites offering consumer access to interactive software that generates legal documents based on consumer answers; SB1408/HB1257: Requiring General Assembly confirmation of vacancy appointments of judicial officers; SB54/HB122: Grandparent visitation; SB990/HB1183: Nonpartisan elections for judicial offices in Shelby and Davidson counties;  SB867/HB896: Requirement for educational training on conservatorships; and HB409/SB1275: addressing civil immunity for a person who uses or threatens force in self-defense.
read more »

State House Passes TennCare Block Grant Plan

The Tennessee House of Representatives has voted in favor a controversial plan to radically restructure the financing of the state's TennCare program, the Tennessean reports. The bill, HB 1280/SB 1428, could make Tennessee the first and only state to fund its Medicaid program through an annual lump sum payment instead of funding that is tied to enrollment and state spending. Currently the state receives more than $7.5 billion annually from the federal government for the program. Gov. Bill Lee has signaled support for the measure, but in the Senate the bill's fate in unclear.
read more »

TBA Legislative Update from Washington D.C.

This week's TBA Video Legislative Update was recorded on location in Washington, D.C., during the American Bar Association's Day on the Hill. TBA President Jason Pannu, lobbyist Brad Lampley and Kirsten Jacobson from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services filmed the remote segment in between meetings with Tennessee's congressional delegation. Watch it here on the TBA Facebook page and see previous updates on the TBA YouTube page.
read more »