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.

Byrd Out as Education Subcommittee Chair

Citing bipartisan concerns over the controversy surrounding Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesville, House Speaker Glen Casada has removed him from his chairmanship of an education subcommittee, The Tennessean reports. Byrd faces allegations from women who accused him of sexual misconduct during his time as a high school basketball coach. Casada said his decision was not about the allegations but because the situation had become a distraction. Byrd said Thursday he had no intention of resigning. 
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Governor's School Voucher Proposal Passes House Committee

Gov. Bill Lee's school voucher proposal passed a key hurdle today when it gained approval from the House Education Committee, The Tennessean reports. In an unusual move and a signal of how important the legislation is, House Speaker Glen Casada made an appearance at the meeting to cast a rare vote, moving the educational savings account program forward by a 14-9 margin. Lawmakers amended the proposal, but did not detail those changes before the vote. The amendment includes changes to remove home schooling, cap the program and require the state's education department to verify the legal status of students.
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TBA, Governor Opposes Bill Requiring Legislative Confirmation for Judicial Appointments

A bill currently making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly would require legislative confirmation for the governor’s picks for vacant lower-court judgeships and other local judicial positions, The Nashville Post reports. The TBA opposes the bill, with Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson saying  it "adds an unnecessary delay and political layer to the process." Gov. Bill Lee spokesperson Laine Arnold said the administration also opposes the bill because "our current process already provides a high level of accountability as these positions are often up for election within a short time from the governor’s appointment."
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TBA Legislative Update: Committees Begin Closing Down

Legislative activity continued at an active pace last week as committees juggled executive branch budget hearings, bills, a flood of last-minute amendments — which were filed due to committee closures — and the announcement of final calendars for several key committees. By the end of the week, the House Property and Casualty Subcommittee, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee and the House Cities and Counties Subcommittee all closed subject to the call of the chair, with many others expected to follow suit this week. Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, chair of the Finance Ways and Means Committee, also announced that the Senate is halfway through the budget hearing process, with an anticipated completion in two weeks. Leadership continues to target an early May adjournment, which means the bulk of legislation for 2019 will have its fate determined within the next month.
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Haslam Meets with Pence to Discuss Possible U.S. Senate Bid

Former Gov. Bill Haslam met with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House this week as the Knoxville Republican continues eyeing a potential run for the U.S. Senate, Knoxnews reports. Haslam has been mulling a run for the upper chamber since U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander announced in December he would not seek re-election. He previously said he would announce his decision in the early months of 2019. Other Republicans weighing a Senate bid include U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, orthopedic trauma surgeon Manny Sethi and U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Clarksville. Nashville attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler is the only Democrat to enter the race so far. 
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TBA ED Joycelyn Stevenson Today's Guest on Legislative Update

This week's video TBA Legislative Update is now available on Facebook. Joining Government Affairs Director Berkley Schwarz and Communications Coordinator Katharine Heriges for this edition is TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson, who talks about what role she has to play in the bar association's legislative agenda, as well as the ins-and-outs of what goes on behind the scenes at the TBA. Check out future installments by logging onto Facebook every Thursday afternoon, and catch up on previous updates on the TBA's YouTube channel.
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Rep. Towns Fined Another $10K for Campaign Finance Violations

State Rep. Joe Towns’ civil penalties reached $45,000 Wednesday after the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance fined him another $10,000 for failing to file campaign reports, The Daily Memphian reports. The Registry now has assessed four outstanding $10,000 civil penalties against Towns for failing to file reports and late filing and another $5,000 penalty for late filing of an appointment of treasurer. Wednesday’s penalty was for the third period in 2018. Towns said he has no intention of paying any of the fines but plans to run for re-election in 2020.
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Rose Wins State Senate Special Election

Covington businessman Paul Rose is the new state senator from District 32, The Daily Memphian reports. Rose was the winner over Democratic nominee Eric Coleman in yesterday’s special general election for the seat, keeping it in the Republican column. Rose will fill the unfinished term of former Sen. Mark Norris, who was nominated and confirmed last year as a federal judge. Rose's term runs to the end of 2020.
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CATALYST Students Visit Legislature for Day on the Hill

Students from the Chattanooga School of the Arts and Sciences visited the Tennessee legislature today as a part of the TBA Young Lawyers Division CATALYST program. The program solicited ideas for legislation from schools across the state, helped the students compose their own legislation, and then selected one bill to introduce at the General Assembly. The students who wrote the bill toured the Capitol today and met with Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, as well as lobbyists and other government leaders.
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Sen. Kelsey Proposes Increasing Campaign Finance Limits for Senators

Legislation by state Sen. Brian Kelsey that could dramatically increase Senate candidate fundraising is scheduled to be heard in a committee this week, The Daily Memphian reports. Kelsey introduced his legislation recently with a handwritten amendment that rewrote the bill during a State and Local Government Committee meeting. He told committee members the amendment “was basically doubling” campaign contribution limits on the Senate side to mirror House campaign contribution limits.
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