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.

House GOP Elects Leaders

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell tentatively won a second two-year term as speaker, while Rep. Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga was unanimously re-elected as majority leader of the Republican Caucus yesterday. Other leaders elected include Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin, Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Brooks of Cleveland and Floor Leader Vance Dennis of Savannah. Though most members of the leadership did not face opposition, Tullahoma's Judd Matheny was defeated in his re-election bid for speaker pro tempore – the House's number two post – by Rep. Curtis Johnson of Clarksville. The full House will vote on several of the appointments in January. See a list of all leaders elected on Chattanoogan.com.

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Harwell Wins Second Term as Speaker

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell tentatively won a second two-year term as speaker today, but her Republican colleagues dumped Speaker Pro Tem Judd Matheny, who championed anti-Islam legislation in the House, the Commercial Appeal reports.

Voter ID Problems Few, But Critics Continue Fight

State Election Coordinator Mark Goins says the voter hotline received hundreds of calls on election day, but that only two were related to photo IDs. There are skeptics, however, who believe that the state's 2011 law requiring a photo ID to vote discouraged some people from voting. Nashville attorney Doug Johnston, whose firm is challenging the law in Tennessee's Supreme Court, says even a few is too many. In Hamilton County, 13 voters had to cast provisional ballots because they lacked photo ID, according to the county election commission. The Times Free Press reports

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Burke Takes Step Toward Mayoral Race

State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, moved a step closer to running for mayor today, picking up official papers to qualify for the Chattanooga mayoral election, the Times Free Press reports. Berke had previously announced his intention to give up his senate seat and run for mayor. He’s since raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the campaign.

Montana Voters: Citizens United Ruling Was Wrong

Montana residents used their votes to protest a U.S. Supreme Court decision that had overturned that state’s 1912 campaign finance law, the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reports. Voters in Montana gave 75 percent of their vote to support an initiative disputing the high court’s constitutional analysis and directing the state’s congressional delegation to propose a constitutional amendment overturning the court’s 2010 Citizens United campaign finance ruling.

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Tennessee Faces Deadline on Health Exchanges

State officials appear divided on whether to create a Tennessee health insurance exchange program or leave the job to the federal government. With a deadline for the decision approaching next week, Gov. Bill Haslam tells WPLN News that he’d rather the state run its own program, but GOP leaders in the legislature may have other ideas.

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Election Puts Fewer Lawyers In Senate, More In House

When the Tennessee General Assembly convenes in January, the State Senate will have eight lawyers, five fewer than the last session. The only lawyer winning in a seriously contested general election race was John Stevens (R - Huntingdon) who will take over the District 24 seat vacated by lawyer Roy Herron (D - Dresden). The 33-member body numbered 13 lawyers among its membership when the session opened in 2010. Following the early-session resignation of Jamie Woodson (R - Knoxville) and the retirement of Andy Berke (D - Chattanooga), Mike Faulk (R - Church Hill) and Joe Haynes (D - Goodlettsville), only two incumbent lawyers faced election during this cycle. Jim Kyle (D - Memphis) was unopposed in the general election, and Tim Barnes (D - Clarksville) was defeated by physician Mark Green (R - Clarksville). Nashville lawyer Phillip North made a bid for Haynes' substantially-redrawn seat, but was defeated by physician Steve Dickerson (R - Nashville).

In the State House, wins by Andrew Farmer (R - Sevierville) , Mike Carter (R - Chattanooga), William Lamberth (R - Portland) and Jeremy Durham (R - Franklin) mean that the House will have a net gain of three lawyers. Along with Vance Dennis, lawyers in the Republican Caucus will increase from two to five. Three Democrats, Craig Fitzhugh (D - Ripley), Mike Stewart (D - Nashville) and John Mark Windle (D - Livingston), round out the eight lawyers who will service in the House this session. Get full election results from the Tennessee Secretary of State.

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Voters Affirm Merit Selection in High-Dollar Contests

Voters across the country rejected changes to judicial merit selection plans and gave their support to sitting justices who faced expensive ouster attempts. Ballot measures in Florida, New Hampshire, Missouri and Arizona that would have changed judicial selection procedures all went down in defeat, the Wall Street Journal reports in its Law Blog. And in Florida and Iowa, where well financed campaigns were launched to defeat sitting justices in retention elections, all survived, the Pew Center reports on its Stateline website.  In both states, lawyers and legal groups were actively involved in the campaigns.

Two other states had closely watched judicial elections. In Michigan, the GOP held on to control of the state’s Supreme Court, with Republican candidates holding on to two contested seats in partisan elections, Michigan Live reports. And in Alabama, the state’s former chief justice – Roy Moore – was returned to office, Alabama.com reports. He had been ousted from the position in 2003 after refusing to remove a monument of the 10 commandments from the state judicial building in Montgomery. You can find additional judicial election results from the National Center for State Courts.

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Judge Releases Most of DesJarlais Divorce Records

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Bolton has ruled that most of the records from U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ messy divorce could be made public, The Tennessean reports, but the release of a potentially embarrassing transcript will be delayed until Election Day or later. DesJarlais has been fighting allegations that he slept with at least two patients before his 2001 divorce was finalized.

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Lawyer Defends Privacy for PAC Donations

Knoxville lawyer William S. Rose has been facing heavy media scrutiny after campaign finance reports filed last month show that the super political action committee FreedomWorks for America received seven donations totaling $5.28 million from Knoxville-based Specialty Group Inc. Rose is CEO, president and general counsel of Specialty Group, and in an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel he defends his right to not disclose private information regarding his political activity.

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