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.

Hurley Surprised to Learn Dogs Not Allowed in the Courthouse

Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, was asked to leave the Roane County Courthouse last week because she had a dog with her. Hurley, who says she simply didn't know dogs weren't allowed in the courthouse, says the 11-pound dog is a service animal and therefore permitted in public places according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The dog was already registered as a service dog when she adopted it, she points out, saying that's why she got the dog so she could take it to the hospital to visit cancer patients. WATE reports

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Editorial: Sunshine Law Needs Uniformity, Penalties

In an editorial, the News Sentinel points out some “flaws” in the Tennessee Open Meetings Act that need to be addressed, for instance that there is no policy or law directing the 200 or more boards and commissions subject to the law to uniformly inform the public of their meetings. And, the paper says, there are no penalties for violations. The editorial praises Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed revisions to his administration's policy to create a uniform statewide protocol for responding to records requests.

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House Committee to Review 'Life Defense Act' This Week

Doctors who perform abortions in Tennessee could see their names listed online, and women who undergo the procedures could be unintentionally identified under a bill pending in the state legislature. House Bill 3808, known as the Life Defense Act of 2012, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, is scheduled to come up Wednesday in a state House committee.  Read more in the Tennessean

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Rep. Hawk Arrested on Domestic Assault Charges

According to the Greene County Sheriff's Department, Tennessee State Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, was arrested Sunday morning and charged with domestic assault. Hawk remained in the Greene County Jail as of Sunday evening. Hawk pleaded not guilty to the charge this morning in an appearance in Greene County General Sessions Court. He told the Greeneville Sun that he is innocent and "did not do what has been alleged against me. I did not harm my wife."

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Democrats Sue Over Redistricting Plan

Opponents of Republican-drawn lines for the Tennessee Senate are suing for the redistricting plan to be thrown out on the basis that it ignored proposals made by the Legislature’s Black Caucus, their lawyer, Bob Tuke, said Friday. Tennessee lawmakers in January approved new boundaries for the 132 seats in the Tennessee General Assembly and the state’s nine seats in the U.S. House. House Democrats had complained that the proposal, which placed five black incumbents into three seats, could reduce the number of African-Americans serving in the Legislature. The Leaf-Chronicle has the AP story

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'Conversation' Starts on Judicial Selection

Legislation, characterized by backers as a “conversation starter” on judicial selection, quickly emerged and cleared its first hurdle this week. HJR 753 by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, proposes to amend the Tennessee constitution to explicitly establish merit selection, performance evaluation and retention elections as the method for selecting appellate judges in Tennessee. The proposal also inserts a requirement that judges nominated by a commission and selected by the governor also be confirmed by both houses of the General Assembly before facing the voters. The Tennessee Bar Association has consistently and firmly expressed the view that it is critical that extension of the present plan be accomplished while a constitutional amendment is under discussion and that legislative confirmation causes practical problems of delay in filling vacancies while adding little to the process other than unwanted political influence.

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House Panel Acts on Voter ID Bills

The House State and Local Government Subcommittee today advanced a Democratic proposal to change Tennessee's new voter ID law, but rejected a second bill and delayed a third. The panel voted 4-3 in favor of a measure that would allow people without government-issued identification to vote after being photographed at the polling place. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said the bill would eliminate the need for voters who don't have the proper ID to cast provisional ballots. The panel went on to reject another Fitzhugh proposal to move the responsibility for making voter IDs to local election commissions instead of the state Department of Safety, and delayed until a later meeting, another Fitzhugh bill that would exempt people over age 60 from the ID requirement. Memphis Daily News has more

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Judicial Conduct Bill Wins Committee Nod

A compromise bill that would alter the handling of ethics complaints against judges won Senate Judiciary Committee approval Tuesday afternoon. The bill last week won approval from the House Judiciary Committee and was slated for action today at the House Government Operations Committee. The legislation would rename the Court of the Judiciary as the Board of Judicial Conduct, and would also change the appointing authorities and revise the standard for proceeding to a hearing. It would preserve the balance of 10 judges, three lawyers and three citizen members. Read more from the Tennessean

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Track Legislation of Interest to Tennessee Attorneys

The TBA has a number of tools to help you track action in the 107th Tennessee General Assembly. Watch TBA Today for regular news updates and follow the TBA Action List to track bills in the General Assembly that the TBA has a direct interest in -- those it has  initiated, taken a position on, or has a policy on. The TBA Watch List is a broader list of bills of interest to the Tennessee legal community.

'Don't Say Gay' Bill on Hold

Tennessee lawmakers backing the controversial "don’t say gay" legislation have agreed to put off debating the measure — a procedural move that usually signals they do not intend to pursue it. Legislators who had originally supported the measure are expected to shift their focus to an abstinence education measure.

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