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.

State House Passes TennCare Block Grant Plan

The Tennessee House of Representatives has voted in favor a controversial plan to radically restructure the financing of the state's TennCare program, the Tennessean reports. The bill, HB 1280/SB 1428, could make Tennessee the first and only state to fund its Medicaid program through an annual lump sum payment instead of funding that is tied to enrollment and state spending. Currently the state receives more than $7.5 billion annually from the federal government for the program. Gov. Bill Lee has signaled support for the measure, but in the Senate the bill's fate in unclear.
read more »

TBA Legislative Update from Washington D.C.

This week's TBA Video Legislative Update was recorded on location in Washington, D.C., during the American Bar Association's Day on the Hill. TBA President Jason Pannu, lobbyist Brad Lampley and Kirsten Jacobson from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services filmed the remote segment in between meetings with Tennessee's congressional delegation. Watch it here on the TBA Facebook page and see previous updates on the TBA YouTube page.
read more »

Staples Steps Down from Democratic Leadership Role Following Ethics Subcommittee Investigation

Rep. Rick Staples, the Knoxville Democrat who violated the state legislature's sexual harassment policy, is stepping down from his leadership position in the House Democratic Caucus, the Tennessean reports. Staples, who has served as assistant minority leader, made the decision after the House Ethics Subcommittee, following an internal investigation, found Staples violated the General Assembly's sexual harassment policy. He previously apologized if his actions were "misinterpreted" by a woman who said Staples inappropriately grabbed her waist and made comments about her appearance, though he called the situation a "political character assassination."
read more »

TBA Goes to Washington for ABA Day on the Hill

A delegation of eight lawyers from Tennessee are representing the state during this year’s ABA Day on the Hill events. Today’s visits included meetings with U.S. Reps. David Kustoff, Scott DesJarlais, Steve Cohen and Tim Burchett, as well as Sen. Lamar Alexander. The delegation will meet with Sen. Marsha Blackburn on Thursday. The main topics for discussion are increased funding for the Legal Services Corporation and maintaining the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Today’s agenda also included a presentation by Kirsten Jacobson on her own connection to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the important work of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services. 
read more »

State Government Honors Former State Rep. Ben West Jr.

Flags over the state capitol flew at half-staff on Saturday in memory of former State Rep. Ben West Jr., who died last week at 78. The longtime Nashville-area legislator served 26 years before stepping down in 2010, the Tennessee Journal reports. West's father was former Nashville mayor Ben West. His brother was the late Jay West, a former Metro council member and vice mayor.

read more »

Budget, Major Legislation Still Moving Through General Assembly

A majority of House subcommittees are now closed and with full committees in both houses either on their final calendars or closed for business, the end of the session is in site. Leaders continue to aim for a May 1 adjournment, with the target date for a completed budget April 25. There are, of course, unanticipated delays that can arise from major pieces of legislation whose fate has yet to be determined. This year that includes bills on school choice and education savings accounts, sports gaming and medical marijuana. Floor activity will also increase for the remainder of April, as the bulk of legislation that survived the committee process now advances for floor votes. Lengthy floor meetings in the House and Senate chambers will become a regular occurrence.

read more »

Lt. Gov. Forecasts Tough Road in Senate for Adoption Bill

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally says he thinks a House-passed bill that is seen as an effort to stop same-sex couples from adopting children, will face a difficult path in the Senate, the Daily Memphian reports. The bill, HB836, would prevent the state from penalizing private adoption agencies that refuse to grant adoption services to couples based on religious and moral beliefs.

read more »

Legislative Update: TBA Bills Win Senate Approval

Public Policy Director Berkley Schwarz hosts this week’s Facebook livestream video legislative update, joined by TBA lobbyist Brad Lampley. The two update progress on TBA bills they’re helping move through the Senate and House of Representatives. You can view all the TBA’s legislative updates on YouTube and make sure to catch future updates every Thursday afternoon on the TBA’s Facebook page.

read more »

House Rep. Rick Staples Faces Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

Knoxville Democratic Rep. Rick Staples is facing disciplinary action after an internal investigation determined he violated the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, the Tennessean reports. Staples is expected to be removed from the House Ethics Committee, to which Speaker Glen Casada appointed him in January. The woman who's complaint launched the investigation is involved in Democratic politics in the state and said Staples had made inappropriate remarks to her on previous occasions, and she decided to move forward with a complaint now since she said this time Staples touched her inappropriately.
read more »

Bill Would Place Restrictions on Voter Registration Efforts, Impose Penalties for Deficient Forms

Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office is behind a new bill that would require groups leading voter registration efforts to undergo training and potentially face fines for submitting too many incomplete forms, the Tennessean reports. The proposal also would assess a civil penalty against groups that turn in more than 100 deficient voter registration applications. This week, HB 1079 and SB 971 are set to be heard in legislative committees in their respective chambers. The measure is being met with criticism from groups who organize voter registration drives. They say that it discourages groups from being involved in the registration process.
read more »