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.

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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Early Voting Ends Saturday for Tennessee Primary

Early voting for the Aug. 2 primary election ends Saturday, so head to the polls now or wait for election day. So far about a half million Tennesseans have cast their ballots, 292,971 in the Republican primary and 147,246 in the Democratic primary, according to the Secretary of State's website, where you can also find your polling place.

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Outside Groups Set to Spend Millions in Tennessee Senate Race

Spending in Tennessee's upcoming senatorial election is expected to ramp up soon. Citing a report in The Hill, the Nashville Post reports that the Senate Leadership Fund, a group that backs Republican Senate candidates, will start placing ads the week of Sept. 11, with more than $4.4 million in airtime already booked. The newspaper further reports that Senate Majority PAC, a group supporting Democrats, has booked $3.4 million in airtime beginning in October.

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Former Tennessee House Minority Leader Dies at 83

Tom Jensen, a community leader and a Republican who served in the state House of Representatives as House Minority Leader, died today, Knoxnews reports. He was 83. Jenson served in the legislature from 1966 to 1978, after which he ran for the East Tennessee seat on the then-Public Service Commission. He also was a former president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, a group representing the nation’s 8,000 state lawmakers. Jenson became a member and chair of the board of commissioners of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, where he helped McGhee Tyson Airport become a testing site for prototype devices for safety and security. Eventually the National Safe Skies Alliance, a consortium of organizations involved in the aviation security industry, was born, and Jenson remained there until his retirement in 2012.

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Appellate Court Upholds DUI Conviction for Former State Rep.

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville has upheld the 2015 DUI conviction of a former Rhea County lawmaker, the Rhea Herald News reports. The appellate court upheld the decision of the Rhea County Circuit Court in finding former State Rep. Jim Cobb guilty of driving under the influence. Cobb argued that the evidence was insufficient and that the trial court erred in denying his request for jury instruction on character witnesses. 
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Tennessee Last in the Nation in Voting

The state of Tennessee is 50th in the nation in voter turnout and 40th in voter registration, Knoxnews reports. Only 28.5 percent of Tennesseans voted in the 2014 midterm elections, according a PEW Charitable Trust analysis. Of the state’s 95 counties, only five are above the national average of 65 percent in active voter registration numbers.
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