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.

Online Efforts Don't Impress Open Government Advocates

Gov. Bill Haslam announced moves to give taxpayers access to state construction and traffic tie-up data on their smartphones this fall and just finished a massive overhaul of the state’s website in an effort to give residents more information. But various open government groups give Tennessee’s website grades ranging from a “B” overall, to a “C+” for transparency of the state budget process to a “D-” for online access to government spending data. The Tennessee Report looks into it

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New District Pits Two Established Memphis Dems Against Each Other

Democratic primary voters in Memphis must choose between two of the party's Memphis leaders -- State Sens. Jim Kyle and Beverly Marrero -- as a result of this year's redistricting of the state legislature. Shelby County is losing one of the six Senate seats it has held since the 1960s because of slower population growth than other areas, placing Kyle and Marrero together in a newly configured Senate District 30. Read about the candidates in the Commercial Appeal, and the issues the redistricting raises for them.

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Governor Signs 3 Anti-Crime Bills

Gov. Bill Haslam signed three anti-crime measures into law earlier this week. The laws include an increase in mandatory jail time for repeat domestic violence offenders; an increase in sentences for convicted felons with guns that include some specific circumstances for longer sentences; and making aggravated assault, robbery and aggravated burglary a higher class of felony with a longer sentence when committed by groups of three or more people. The Daily News Journal reports

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One Bill Vetoed, Many Left to Die Alone

Gov. Bill Haslam used his veto powers for the first time in his administration to kill one piece of legislation that passed after debate and discussion in the waning hours of the Tennessee House of Representatives’ final session, while others simply died in committees in the last days of the session that ended last month. The Murfreesboro Post shows you the bills

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Watson Announces Re-election Plans

State Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, announced this weekend that he is seeking re-election to the House of Representatives' 22nd district, which is composed of Meigs, Polk and Bradley counties. Read his statement in the Cleveland Daily Banner

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Cohen Begins Campaign in Earnest

Ninth District congressman Steve Cohen opened his Memphis headquarter Saturday, casting himself not only as a candidate for reelection but as an organizing figure in local Democratic politics. The Memphis Flyer has more

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Paper Looks at Romney's Record on Judicial Appointments

A story in today's issue of the Washington Post analyzes Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's position on judicial appointments, beginning with his pledge as a new governor to clean up Massachusetts' system -- which he said was "riddled with patronage and backroom deals" -- to his 2008 decision to dismiss members of the nominating commission he had created after clashes over appointments. The story suggests that Romney ended his time in office pushing through "a surge of judicial nominees, some with controversial records, others with the kind of political connections he once condemned." The Romney campaign defended his record saying he “put in place groundbreaking reforms” and selected judges "he felt had the appropriate temperament, judicial philosophy and demonstrated capability" to be on the bench.

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Need for More Lawyers in Legislature a Bipartisan Issue

Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has come right out and said it: "We need more attorneys in the House of Representatives. We need more attorneys in our (Republican) Caucus." It's a non-partisan feeling, with Phillip North, a Democratic lawyer who is running for the state Senate in Nashville, making a similar point in recent fund-raising materials. A century or so ago, columnist Tom Humphrey writes, "close to half of our citizen legislators were lawyers. More importantly, the committees that control bills dealing with the legal system were completely dominated by lawyers." In the just-completed 107th General Assembly, he points out that there were only three lawyers among the nine members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and just three among the 16 members of the House Judiciary Committee. The chairmen of the judiciary committees were almost always lawyers in recent decades. Today, they are nonlawyers — former court reporter Sen. Mae Beavers in the Senate and former deputy sheriff Rep. Eric Watson in the House.

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Workers' Comp Changes Likely on Horizon

Tennessee companies could see a reduction in workers' compensation premiums later this year according to The Tennessean, depending on the outcome of complex negotiations over the rates doctors receive for treating workers' comp patients. Several business groups support the measure, saying that an overall rate reduction would help make Tennessee more competitive with neighboring states, but many in the health care community say cuts would hurt medical providers and even force some of them to stop treating patients. Gov. Bill Haslam chose not to tackle workers' compensation reform this year, but is exploring major changes. Many observers expect this will be a major issue for the legislature in 2013.

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Rep. Hawk's Assault Case Continued

Greene County General Sessions court moved back a scheduled appearance by Rep. David Hawk to July 16 in a domestic assault case filed by his wife. The Greeneville Republican lawmaker had been scheduled to appear today. The five-term representative pleaded not guilty a day after the charge was filed March 18. The News Sentinel has more

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