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.

Summerville Booted as Chair for Comments to Black Caucus

State Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, doesn’t “give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.” That is what he told Memphis state Rep. Barbara Cooper via email Wednesday in response to her report from the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators criticising the probe of a state university for changing students’ grades. Response was swift on Thursday, TNReport says, when Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Dolores Gresham stripped Summerville of his chairmanship on the Higher Education Subcommittee. On Friday, Summerville resigned from the Senate Education Committee, the Commercial Appeal reports and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said Friday that he has been asked to take over as chairman of the subcommittee, the Tennessean reports in its In Session blog.

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GOP Panel to Hear Vote Challenge

A special panel of state Republican Party executive committee members was to meet behind closed doors this morning to consider a challenge to a legislative primary race. The six-member subcommittee appointed by Chairman Chris Devaney was to evaluate the challenge brought by Shirley Curry, who wants to overturn her four-vote loss in the House District 71 primary. Adam Nickas, executive director of the party, declined to elaborate on the reason for the closed hearing or the basis for Curry’s challenge. The panel is expected to make recommendations to the full executive committee on Sept. 5. The News Sentinel reports

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LAWPAC Makes Campaign Contributions

LAWPAC -- the state legislative, independent, multi-candidate, political campaign committee for Tennessee lawyers -- has made contributions in 15 races this fall. At left, LAWPAC treasurer Allan Ramsaur (left) joins LAWPAC executive committee chair Nathan Ridley (right) in presenting a check to Tennessee Senate candidate Phillip North. See a complete list of candidates supported by LAWPAC this fall.

LAWPAC Makes Initial Contributions For Fall Campaign

LAWPAC -- the state legislative, independent, multi-candidate, political campaign committee for Tennessee lawyers -- today made known its contributions in 15 fall legislative races. In 10 of the 15 races , the candidates receiving contributions are lawyers. The group also made donations where candidates are law students, serve as key legislative committee officers, have relatives who are lawyers or take into account the views of lawyers on critical issues. See the full list of candidates supported by LAWPAC this fall.

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Both Sides of Aisle See Changes

Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, leaders of their respective parties talked together recently about changes for both parties, acknowledging the Republican majority in the Senate has seen some difference from within the last year. “This a typical trajectory, if you will,” Norris said. “The larger your majority grows, the more likely you are to have different opinions." Meanwhile, Kyle said Democrats have to get better at being the minority party and remember that Republicans became the majority in the state House and state Senate based on being an effective minority. The Daily News Journal has more

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John Ford Released from Prison

Former Tennessee State Senator John Ford, 70, was released from a federal prison in Mississippi today. Ford, who has been behind bars since 2007, is now at a half-way house in Memphis, NewsChannel 3 reports. He was convicted for his role in undercover investigation called Operation Tennessee Waltz. He was serving 19-and-a-half years following separate corruption convictions in Memphis and Nashville, but an appeals court threw out the Nashville conviction, which shaved several years off his sentence.

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GOP Reconsiders Closed Primaries

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports today that several state Republican leaders – upset over reports that Democrats voted in their party primary earlier this month – are reviving a previously shelved effort to require party registration and closed primaries for future elections. State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, and Mark Winslow, a member of the Republican State Executive Committee, confirmed that they met Tuesday with House Speaker Beth Harwell to advocate the idea. Harwell, a former state party chairwoman who has opposed closed primaries, said she is looking into the issue.

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Failed Senate Candidate Files Suit Seeking New Election

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Larry Crim filed suit in federal court today asking that the recent primary win by Mark Clayton be voided and a new primary ordered. Crim claims the Tennessee Democratic Party and its chairman Chip Forrester – who have disavowed Clayton -- failed to weed out the candidate before the race. According to Crim, under the party bylaws, Clayton is not eligible to run as a Democrat because he has not voted in enough Democratic races. The suit asked for an emergency hearing on the motion tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. in federal Judge Kevin Sharp’s courtroom. The Nashville Scene has more

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Haslam Backs Harwell as Hints of Challenge Emerge

Gov. Bill Haslam says he is backing current Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, in her bid to keep her leadership role amid news that Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, might challenge her for the top job. According to WPLN, a bid by Matheny risks pitting more conservative House Republicans against the moderate Harwell, who has raised the ire of gun-friendly lawmakers by limiting the amount of time the House has spent on gun bills.

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Clayton and Campfield Team Up

Mark Clayton, who was disavowed by the state Democratic Party after winning the Senate primary, held a news conference in Nashville today with an unlikely companion. He and Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield teamed up, with Campfield telling reporters that he had previously tried, but failed, to recruit Clayton to run as a Republican. Campfield is the sponsor of a bill seeking to bar teaching about gay issues; Clayton found disfavor with his party over his anti-gay stance.  The News Sentinel has the story

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