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.

Bill Would Dramatically Alter Judicial Evaluations

An amended bill (SB1058/HB1227) that emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee today reconstitutes the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, and also provides that if the commission recommends against a judge then “a vacancy occurs," apparently not permitting the sitting judge to stand for retention election.

The surprise move by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, amended a caption bill with an unrelated body to dramatically change the way that evaluations of appellate judges occur under the Tennessee Plan. When advocates for the present system earlier asked for copies of the amendment they were denied copies. The committee adopted the amendment by a 6-1-1 vote, with Vice Chair Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, and Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, objecting to the committee voting when advocates had not had an opportunity to see or consider the change.

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Lt. Gov. Releases Judicial Redistricting Proposals

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has released 14 different judicial redistricting plans put forward for consideration. “The response we have gotten to our public call for judicial district maps is extremely encouraging,” Ramsey earlier said in a statement to TNReport. “I would especially like to commend the Public Defenders Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association for coming to the table and sharing their ideas.” A bill (SB 780/HB 636), which is expected serve as the vehicle for redistricting, is set for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

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Bill Would Allow Student ID, Ban Library Card for Voting

A new bill introduced by state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Lebanon, would allow student photo identification cards issued by state universities and colleges to comply with Tennessee’s voter photo ID law. But SB 125 also would explicitly prohibit photo IDs issued by public libraries and other local agencies and governments from meeting that requirement, The Commercial Appeal reports. The legislation would reverse a Tennessee Court of Appeals decision upholding library cards as valid ID for voting. That case is pending before the state Supreme Court, which is expected to issue a ruling by summer.

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AG: State Cannot Nullify Federal Gun Laws

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper has found that legislative attempts to block the enforcement of federal gun laws in the state are unconstitutional. The opinion says the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause trumps state statutes, making it unlawful to nullify firearms laws made on the national level. He goes on to say the state legislature also can’t take a backdoor route and criminalize the enforcement of gun laws in Tennessee. Nashville Public Radio has the story.

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Bill Would Raise Standard for Protection Orders

State Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville has introduced legislation that he says will help “avoid abuse of the judicial system by making it tougher to get orders of protection,” the Elizabethton Star, reports. But the director of a domestic violence prevention group says it could put more women in danger. HB 1128 would raise the level of proof needed for a one-year order of protection from “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.” Hill said he introduced the bill to begin a conversation on the issue, leaving the door open to further revision.

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Supermarket Wine Bill Advances in Senate

A proposal to allow cities and counties to hold referendums on expanded wine sales scored its first legislative victory today when the Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 5-4 to advance SB 0837. The measure still must be approved by the Senate Finance Committee before heading to the floor, the Memphis Daily News reports. The House began its hearings on the issue today, but has not yet scheduled a vote.

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TBA Response to Judicial Redistricting, Upcoming Civility Forum Make News

The TBA has been featured in a number of news stories this past week about its response to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s judicial redistricting proposal. In an article in the Tennessean, Gif Thornton, who represents the TBA on Capitol Hill, said lawyers “look forward to playing a constructive role in the process and helping draw the best lines possible.” An article in Knoxnews quoted TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur saying, "There always needs to be careful analysis of the way in which the districts are laid out and their caseloads. The most important thing is whether you have the right level of judicial resources, not what counties which judge is in.” That same story ran in the Times News. In an earlier article, Ramsaur cautioned that the process be done “with some sensitivity.” On Monday, Ramsey encouraged the TBA to submit its own recommendation for drawing new lines.

Also this week, the TBA’s upcoming civility forum in Knoxville was covered by The Chattanoogan.

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Legislators, TBA Leaders Gather at Big Shrimp Event

More than100 Tennessee lawmakers and their staffers came together with members of the Tennessee Bar Association during the annual Big Shrimp legislative reception Tuesday night at the Tennessee Bar Center. The event gave attorneys the opportunity to meet with senators and representatives in a relaxed atmosphere. The TBA's Leadership Law class also attended the event, after spending a day learning about Issues in Policy and Politics. The class heard from a panel of lawyer legislators, a group of lawyer lobbyists and an expert on judicial selection. In addition, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper addressed the group and class members attended a session of the Senate's Judiciary Committee.

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2013 TBA Big Shrimp Reception

More than 100 Tennessee lawmakers and their staffers came together with members of the Tennessee Bar Association during the annual Big Shrimp legislative reception at the Tennessee Bar Center. (Photos by Jenny Jones and Brittany Sims)

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Track Legislation of Interest to Tennessee Attorneys

The TBA has a number of tools to help you track action in the Tennessee General Assembly. Read TBA Today for regular news updates and follow the TBA Action List to track bills in the General Assembly that the TBA has a direct interest in -- those it has initiated, taken a position on, or has a policy on. The TBA Watch List is a broader list of bills of interest to the Tennessee legal community.