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.

Kelsey Files Bill to Keep Online Comments Anonymous

Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, has filed a bill, SB106, to protect the identities of people who post comments on online news articles without using their real names, The Commercial Appeal reports. Saying his bill would "safeguard the free and open exchange of ideas," Kelsey proposes adding a new provision to Tennessee's "shield law," which protects newsgatherers from having to disclose the identities of confidential news sources, with some exceptions. Kelsey said he filed the bill after attorneys for the Shelby County Commission filed a subpoena in federal court asking for the identities of all online commenters on The Commercial Appeal's articles about the push to create new municipal school districts in the Memphis suburbs.

read more »

Golden Appointed to Judicial Nominating Commission

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, on Thursday appointed David A. Golden of Hawkins County to the Judicial Nominating Commission, the Chattanoogan reports. Golden, one of those recommended for the post by the Tennessee Bar Association, will fill the vacancy left by the retirement of commission member Theresa Lee. Golden joined Eastman Chemical Company in 1995 as an attorney, eventually rising to the position of vice president, associate general counsel and corporate secretary.

read more »

AOC Report Pans Statewide Veterans Court System

Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, last year proposed legislation to set up a statewide framework for veterans’ treatment courts, which would operate much like drug courts. During consideration, the bill was amended to instead call for a study of the matter by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The recently released report is far from supportive of the idea, finding that establishing a statewide system in 2013 is “neither necessary or preferable,” Knoxnews.com reports. Instead, the AOC maintains that the “most effective and cost-efficient method of assisting … [veterans] is to permit each judicial district to retain the discretion to address this issue after considering available resources and the needs of the relevant population."

read more »

State Rep. Pleads Guilty to DUI, Gun Charges

State Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, pleaded guilty today to DUI and gun-possession charges stemming from a 2011 traffic stop in Nashville, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. Todd wills serve 40 hours in jail and perform 24 hours of community service. He was also fined $350 and lost his right to carry his gun during a year of probation, among other terms of his conviction.

read more »

Judicial Redistricting May Be on Legislature’s Docket

Tennessee’s judicial districts have not been redrawn since 1984 and some powerful voices in the General Assembly are saying it is time to rework the borders to reflect changes in the state’s population, according to TN Report. “Rural counties have become suburban counties, and suburban counties now wrestle with issues similar to urban counties,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said in a statement. “Put simply, our state is a dramatically different place than it was when the last redistricting occurred. This naturally results in inefficiency and misallocation of resources.” Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, the new chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which likely would handle the task, said the issue is “worthy of consideration.” The TBA has obtained a draft map and talking points supporting its proposed changes. Both were circulated last fall.

read more »

Ramsey Looks at Alternatives to Limits on Bills

While members of the state House spent much of their first week in session wrangling over a new cap on how many bills each member can propose, Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is developing a plan of his own to cut down on the volume of bills, WPLN reports. Saying that the filing cap is not his preferred approach, Ramsey instead is considering dropping the deadline for filing bills. His rationale? Legislation would be higher quality if there’s no rush to file, duplication would be reduced as members see what others have drafted and lawmakers would be able to respond to current events that take place throughout the session.

read more »

House Caps Bills at 15 Per Member

The House of Representatives voted today to cap at 15 the number of bills each member can introduce. House Speaker Beth Harwell originally had proposed a limit of 10. Democrats criticized the move calling it censorship. In other news, the House also voted for a rule supported by Harwell barring members from asking others to cast votes for them when they are absent. The Tennessean reports.

read more »

Kyle Asks GOP to Open Meetings

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis is calling on Republicans to make the chamber subject to open government laws, saying he wants to see more transparency in the legislative branch. Currently, the legislature does not fall under open government laws that apply to other government agencies, and it cannot bind future General Assemblies to its rules. But Kyle said the chamber could at least adopt the open meetings laws for the two-year session that began this week. While some Republicans called the move political, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, agreed to take up the issue at an upcoming Rules Committee meeting, reports the Memphis Daily News.

read more »

Legislature Re-Elects Constitutional Officers

The General Assembly has unanimously re-elected Secretary of State Tre Hargett for a four-year term and Comptroller Justin Wilson and Treasurer David Lillard for two-year terms. Hargett is a former chairman of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority and represented Bartlett in the state House from 1997 through 2006. Wilson is a Nashville tax attorney and former aide to Gov. Don Sundquist. Lillard, of Germantown, is a former member of the Shelby County Commission and a financial and tax attorney. All three were first elected in 2009. The Memphis Daily News has more.

read more »

New Senate Judiciary Chair Named, Among Others

Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey today removed Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, as head of the Judiciary Committee and replaced her with Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. Beavers told reporters she suspected that her efforts to ramp up accountability for judges might have played a role in the decision. "I think a lot of the judges really objected to us redoing their ethics," she told the Associated Press. Ramsey denied the move was in response to pressure from anyone saying, “We wanted to take a different direction.” The Memphis Daily News has the story. Other chairs also were named this week. See the list of all House chairs and Senate chairs at Knoxnews.com.

read more »