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.

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.

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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.

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Tenn. Legislative Session Convenes

The 108th General Assembly convened Tuesday by re-electing House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville. The legislature has its largest freshman class in years, with 31 new members of the 132. The 99-member House has 23 new members, and the Senate has eight. Republicans rule both chambers with a supermajority of more than two-thirds of the membership in each house. Read more at the Commercial Appeal.

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General Assembly to Convene Tuesday

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell says she’s ready to “fight for” rule changes she’s proposed to modify how the chamber does business. Considering those rules will be job number one when the General Assembly convenes Tuesday, she says. Harwell will first name a special rules committee, and within hours it could take up her suggestions, reports WPLN. At least one proposed rule, which limits each member to sponsoring just 10 bills, has resulted in grumbling among lawmakers and lobbyists. Harwell says it will make the House run more efficiently. Read more about the rules changes being considered and about the new faces in the legislature this session.

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GOP Considers 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Plan

In the ongoing fight between businesses and gun-rights advocates over restricting guns in parking lots, House Republicans are exploring a compromise, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, proposed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that would still allow businesses to ban guns from vehicles on their property, but prohibits them from searching those vehicles for the sole purpose of checking for guns. While Campfield’s proposal interested many members, House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said “nobody knows what the bill’s going to look like.”

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GOP Supermajority Divided on Some Issues

As the opening of 108th General Assembly nears, many see the Legislature’s new Republican “supermajority” as divided, with one faction leaning towards moderate views and business interests and the other more conservative. Hot button issues that may cause division this year will include worker’s compensation, Medicaid expansion, and the sale of wine in grocery stores. The Knoxville News Sentinel has more.

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Haslam Plans Re-Election Kick Off

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will kick off his re-election bid with a reception Jan. 7 in Knoxville. He also has a fundraiser planned in Nashville sometime before Jan. 8 when the legislature goes into session. Though no primary opponent is expected, House Minority Leader and Ripley Democrat Craig Fitzhugh has said he is willing to be a candidates that Democrats could "rally around" at the top of the ticket in 2014. KnoxNews.com Columnist Georgia Vines reports

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Sen. Herron Running for Tenn. Democratic Party Chair

State Sen. Roy Herron confirmed today that he is running for chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, the Tennessean reports. Herron, who decided to run after a family member’s health issue was resolved late last week, joins at least four other candidates for the position: Jane Hampton Bowen, Dave Garrison, Wade Munday and Ben Smith. The state party’s 72 executive committee members will decide on Jan. 26.

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Senate Confirms New Judges; More Votes Likely

The U.S. Senate has confirmed five more district court judges, for a total of 13 confirmations so far this month, the Legal Times reports, and more votes are possible when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C. tomorrow. That makes December the second most active month for filling the federal bench during this session of Congress, behind the 15 confirmations made in October 2011.

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Judge Dismisses Suit Challenging Senate Filibuster

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed a legal claim that Senate filibusters, a stalling tactic often used to block judicial nominations, deny majority rule in an unconstitutional fashion, Gavel Grab reports. Judge Sullivan said that Common Cause and other plaintiffs did not have a legal right to litigate the issue, and that it would infringe on the Senate’s power if the court took the case.

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