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.

DA's Role in Campaign Questioned

A Roane County election official is calling for an investigation into whether 9th Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson violated the law by aiding the campaign of former state Rep. Dennis Ferguson for Roane County road supervisor, the News Sentinel reports. Johnson depicts the matter as a "lapse in judgment" in which an employee reserved a domain name for the candidate as an unpaid favor outside business hours. He said no further campaign work occurred.

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6th Congressional District Race a Rematch from 2010

The nasty primary between U.S. Rep. Diane Black and tea party activist Lou Ann Zelenik two years ago is being repeated this summer as the two face off in August for the Republican nomination to represent Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District. The battle also could help shape the character of the Tennessee Republican Party for years to come — offering voters a straight-up choice between a firebrand activist and a veteran Republican lawmaker who differ in style more than they differ on policy. Read more in the Tennessean

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Rep. Curry Todd Indicted

State Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, has been indicted by a Davidson County grand jury on charges of driving under the influence and possession of a handgun while under the influence stemming from his October 2011 arrest, The Tennessean reports. Todd, a chief proponent of a 2010 law that allowed permit holders to carry guns into places that serve alcohol, was arrested after officers found a loaded handgun in his vehicle during a traffic stop. Despite the arrest, Todd, who is a retired police officer, does not face opposition for his House seat. Speaker of the House Beth Harwell said Monday that the indictments will make it “difficult if not impossible” for Todd to be restored to his powerful post as chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee from which he resigned after his arrest.

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Court May Take Second Look at Campaign Financing Case

At their private conference, the justices of the Supreme Court are scheduled to decide Thursday whether and how to take a second look at the Citizens United campaign finance decision. Observers believe that it's a sure bet that the court will look at it. The justices have already temporarily blocked a lower court decision in the case. In that decision, the Montana Supreme Court seemed to defy the higher court by saying that a state law regulating corporate political spending was constitutional notwithstanding Citizens United. The main question on Thursday, then, will be how the court will reverse the Montana decision. It could call for briefs, set the case down for argument in the fall and issue a decision months later. Or it could use a favorite tool of the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. — the summary reversal. Read more in The New York Times

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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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