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.

Democrats Opt to Maintain Current Leadership

Tennessee Democratic Party Caucus chairman Mike Turner of Old Hickory fended off a challenge from Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar, who said he would bring a more cooperative spirit to the position. With reelection, Turner said he expects to be as fiery as ever. Democrats in both chambers return to the upcoming session with historically low numbers as Republicans hold two-thirds majorities.

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Miss. Lobby Firm to Open Nashville Office

Mississippi-based government relations and lobbying firm Capitol Resources is opening an office in Nashville, the Nashville Post reports. Established in 2001, the firm has a strong foothold in the South with offices in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, and Washington D.C. Former Tennessee Republican Party Executive Director Adam Nickas has been hired to oversee operations.

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Wine Legislation to be Considered in 2013

State. Sen. Bill Ketron stated Tuesday that he plans to support a bill allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores during the 2013 General Assembly session. Although past attempts at the legislation never made it out of subcommittees, Ketron says he plans to offer a measure enabling public referendums in the 33 areas that allow liquor by the drink and package stores. Many small business owners oppose the legislation, protesting that they would not be able to compete with large corporations such as Wal-Mart of Kroger that can buy in bulk.

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We're #1: Magazine Says Tenn. Legislature Worst of the Worst

Mother Jones magazine, the left of left publication best known for unearthing the videotape of Mitt Romney making the controversial “47 percent” remarks, has ranked Tennessee No. 1 -- for having the nation’s worst legislature, the Tennessean political blog reports. The magazine condemned lawmakers for encouraging abstinence-only sex education, among other laws.

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Opinion: Tort Law Likely to Get Day in Court Soon

Knoxville lawyer Deborah Stevens, president and managing shareholder of Lewis, King, Krieg & Waldrop, writes in that the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011 is likely headed for a courtroom soon as challenges to the law are winding their way through the system. She points to one specific case pending in the Middle District of Tennessee, which could expedite review of the law. In addition to asserting that the law is unconstitutional, the case asks the federal judge to “certify” the question to the Tennessee Supreme Court. If the judge were to do so, the case would be "fast-tracked" to the court.

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Rep. Hawk in Court for Arraignment

Tennessee Rep. David Hawk was in Greene County Criminal Court Friday to waive his arraignment. He was indicted by a grand jury last week and faces a felony reckless endangerment charge after an incident in March involving his estranged wife. "This has been a nightmare," Hawk said. "I strongly maintain my innocence in this situation." Judge John Duggar removed himself from the case because he knows Hawk and works with his wife. Hawk will be back in court on May 30, by which time the state Supreme Court will have decided which judge will hear the case. has the story

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Support Growing to End Campaign Donation Limits

Tom Humphrey writes in that legislators are moving toward repeal of campaign contribution limits while requiring more rapid and complete disclosure. House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada said the concept is at the core of a "comprehensive" revision of state campaign finance law he and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron hope to introduce when the General Assembly reconvenes. On the Democratic side, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle recently said the time has come to "re-think" past support of contribution limits because they are no longer effective. Even Common Cause of Tennessee, which has been a staunch advocate of contribution limits, has "almost come to the conclusion" that ending limits but providing fuller disclosure “would be appropriate.”

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Collateral Source Rule Examined in New TBJ

In the December Tennessee Bar Journal, Nashville lawyer Bill Walton writes why he believes the Collateral Source Rule should probably be reexamined. President Jackie Dixon talks with some former lawyer-legislators and studies the sacrifice a person makes to run for office, but also the need for more lawyers to serve. There is a lot more in this issue, including civil jury trials, banking and estate planning. Read it online or look in the stack of your weekend mail for the printed copy.

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6th Circuit Remands Third-Party Access Case

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today ordered a lower court to reconsider whether Tennessee’s requirements for third parties to get on the ballot are still unconstitutionally restrictive in light of legislative changes made while the ruling was on appeal. The Memphis Daily News reports that earlier this year, a federal district court struck down state rules requiring third-party candidates to collect about 40,000 signatures and turn them in seven months before the election to qualify to run and then to be selected through a primary. After that ruling, the General Assembly changed the law to make it easier for third parties to get on the ballot.

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Kyle Retains Leadership Post in Close Vote

Senate Democrats today narrowly agreed to renew Sen. Jim Kyle as head of its caucus, giving him a narrow victory over Memphis colleague Sen. Reginald Tate, the City Paper reports.