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.

Former Legislative Assistant Stole More Than $12,000, Audit Shows

A new audit shows the former legislative assistant of Minority Leader Karen Camper stole more than $12,500 over three years, The Daily Memphian reports. Former assistant Derrick Tibbs admitted to theft last month and resigned. Camper was told about the situation in early December by Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville, whose signature was forged on the checks. In a letter last year to the caucus notifying members of her intent to pursue the minority leader position, Camper said as caucus treasurer she had “scrutinized” every payment made by the caucus.
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Lawmaker Accused of Sexual Misconduct with Teens Named Education Committee Chair

Tennessee House Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, who was accused of inappropriate sexual conduct against multiple teens while serving as a high school basketball coach, has been named chairman of an education subcommittee, The Tennessean reports. New House Speaker Glen Casada, who appointed Byrd to the position, said that he "cannot make actions based on accusations," citing Byrd's overwhelming reelection victory in his district to support his choice. Byrd publicly denied any wrongdoing, but apologized to one of the women in a phone call she recorded.
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Tennessee Attorney Announces 2020 Bid for U.S. Senate

James Mackler, the attorney who dropped out of the 2018 Democratic primary when former Gov. Phil Bredesen entered the race, has announced he will again seek the position of U.S. Senator, The Tennessean reports. Mackler becomes the first candidate of any party to declare his intent to run for the open senate being vacated by Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2020.
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Lee Appoints Judge Gibson as Senior Advisor, Names Other Cabinet-Level Positions

Governor-elect Bill Lee today announced his appointment of Judge Brandon Gibson of Crockett County to serve as a Senior Adviser in the Office of the Governor, The Jackson Sun reports. Gibson currently serves as a judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section. Her new role as a senior adviser will include a broad portfolio with emphasis on long-term initiatives, such as criminal justice reform and prioritizing the needs of rural communities. Additionally, Lee recently appointed attorneys to two other cabinet positions: Jennifer Nichols to lead the Department of Children's Services and Gabe Roberts to lead the Division of TennCare.

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31 New Faces at Capitol as Legislature Set to Begin Session

The Tennessee General Assembly will begin tomorrow, with 31 new members and without several longtime leaders, The Tennessean reports. Former House Speaker Beth Harwell and former House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh are among those gone, paving the way for new leadership. Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, is poised to become the next House Speaker, and is already making plans to bring back three key subcommittees.
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U.S. Rep. Cohen Announces Re-election Bids for 2020, 2022

Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen announced today that he will run for re-election in both 2020 and 2022, The Commercial Appeal reports. Cohen was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 after 24 years in the Tennessee State Senate. He previously was a Shelby County commissioner. He won his seventh consecutive term in the U.S. House in November with around 80 percent of the vote.

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Corker Aides to Form Public Affairs Firm

Two top aides to retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker are setting up a public affairs and government relations firm in the new year, the Nashville Post reports. Corker Communications Director Micah Johnson and Chief of Staff Todd Womack will launch Bridge Public Affairs, with offices in Chattanooga, Nashville and Washington, D.C. Johnson joined Corker’s staff shortly after graduating form the University of Tennessee in 2010, leaving only briefly to work on Marco Rubio’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. Womack has worked with Corker for his entire tenure in the Senate and served as his communications director when Corker was mayor of Chattanooga.

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Bill Lee Plans Jan. 19 Inauguration

Governor-elect Bill Lee has announced the schedule for his inauguration next month, The Nashville Post reports. The events will mostly be held on Jan. 19, beginning with a worship service at the Ryman Auditorium followed by the inaugural ceremony at Legislative Plaza at 11 a.m. The oath of office will be administered by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins.
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Haslam Considers 2020 Senate Bid

After yesterday’s announcement that U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander will retire at the end of his current term, Gov. Bill Haslam said he is considering making a run for the seat, The Tennessean reports. “Obviously, you want to think seriously about an opportunity like that," Haslam said. "It's too important of a role and I care too much about the future of our state and country to not at least seriously consider it." He did not provide a timeline on when he might reach a decision.
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AG Opinion Could Pave Way for Legal Sports Betting

A recent opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has created a path for legislation to allow gambling on sporting events, The Daily Memphian reports. The opinion, issued Dec. 14, says the General Assembly “may legalize the contest solely through legislative action without a constitutional amendment” as long as the sport is based on skill and not predominantly on “chance.” Sen. Brian Kelsey, who is considering legislation related to the matter, said that if allowed, sports betting should be limited to the four largest cities in Tennessee.
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