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.

Local GOP Claim Haslam Lacks Conservative Values

A number of county chapters of the Tennessee Republican Party have passed resolutions criticizing Gov. Bill Haslam for showing "a consistent lack of conservative values,' The Tennessean reports today. As many as eight county chapters have called on state Republican leaders to sanction Haslam for policies including the hiring of homosexuals, Democrats and a Muslim attorney. 

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Shelby Race Shows Incumbent With Big Lead in $$$

Fundraising in Shelby County’s district attorney general’s race is heavily lopsided, with incumbent Amy Weirich already bringing in more than $250,000, while her challenger, Memphis lawyer and former state legislator Carol Chumney, has only brought in about $3,500, the Commercial Appeal reports. Political analysts look at whether Chumney’s name recognition will let her overcome the fundraising disadvantage.

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Bradley Co. Bar Helps Bring Candidate Forums

The third and final in a series of debates hosted by the Bradley County Bar Association and the Cleveland Lions Club is set for July 17, with candidates in the 3rd and 4th Congressional district races. The forum will be at the Johnson Theatre at Cleveland State Community College at 6:30 p.m., with a theme of  "An informed vote is the best vote." The Cleveland Daily Banner urges readers to attend the forum and writes that "sometimes it’s just best to hear what [candidates] have to say, and how they say it, in person and up-close in a comfortable, nonpartisan and enclosed atmosphere," and praises the bar association and Lions Club for organizing the events.

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3rd Congressional District Candidates Spar Over Health Care

Six candidates for Tennessee's Third Congressional District debated health care policy during a Monday night forum put on by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society. The four Republican candidates and two Democratic candidates opened the forum with brief statements, some taking immediate jabs at the Affordable Care Act, WRCB reports. Those participating were Scottie Mayfield, Weston Wamp, Bill Taylor, Ron Bhalla, Mary Headrick and Chuck Fleischmann, who is the incumbent. Independent candidate Matthew Deniston did not attend.

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Special Session May Be Needed to Handle Health Care Exchange

The Tennessean says that Democrats and Republicans alike have been kicking around the idea of a special session to handle aspects of the Affordable Care Act. The biggest question is how to deal with a requirement that state governments set up special exchanges where residents can buy health coverage before the insurance mandate goes into effect in 2014. The state faces a critical deadline in January, when officials must demonstrate to the federal government that they’ll have Tennessee’s exchange ready in time.

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Kurita Loses 6th Circuit Appeal

Former state Sen. Rosalind Kurita on Thursday lost a federal appeal of her ouster as the Democratic nominee in her 2008 bid for re-election to the Tennessee General Assembly, the News Sentinel reports. In a brief ruling, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's refusal to reinstate Kurita to the ballot after Democratic officials declared her 19-vote primary win as "incurably uncertain."

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Welfare Drug Testing Among New Laws Taking Effect

A measure to require drug testing as a condition for receiving welfare and the reduction of the sales tax on groceries are among new laws taking effect in Tennessee. The welfare legislation requires new welfare applicants to undergo a special screening process. If suspicion is raised after the screening, then the applicant will be tested for drugs. The proposal differs from an original version that would have required blanket testing. The Tennessean has more [subscription required]

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Opinion: Tenn. Plan a National Model, Don't Change It

In an opinion piece in the Tennessean today, American Bar Association President William T. 'Bill' Robinson explains how Tennessee's system for selecting appellate court judges, the Tennessee Plan, is nationally respected as "an open process that is as free from political influence as possible." He warns that a proposed constitutional amendment would change the system "for the worse" and would "politicize the courts and diminish the perception of appellate judges as fair, impartial and well-qualified." The proposed amendment allows the governor to appoint judges who have gone through no public screening process, with no assurance that a broad candidate pool had been considered, he points out, saying "it is critical for courts to be insulated from undue political influence."

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Editorial: State Should Stop Trying to Pass Immigration Legislation

In an editorial, the Commercial Appeal says the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling this week in the Arizona immigration law case "should send a message to Tennessee's legislators that they should stop trying to pass similar legislation."

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Cooper Staffer Seeks to Replace Arriola

While a handful of names have been bandied about as potential successors to Davidson County clerk John Arriola, the one getting the most play so far is that of Brenda Wynn, a fixture in Nashville government and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper’s office, according to the Tennessean’s In Session Blog. Wynn is vying for the temporary appointment by the Metro Council in August, and said she would run for the Democratic nomination when voters elect the clerk on a more permanent basis in November. Wynn was the first director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods under then-Mayor Bill Purcell and has been Cooper’s director of community outreach since he took office in 2003.

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