TBA Law Blog

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Posted by: Kate Prince on Feb 21, 2020

The State Capitol Commission heard arguments yesterday on what should be done with the bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest that currently resides in the state Capitol, the Tennessean reports. Rep. Sabi Kumar, R-Springfield, told the commission of a resolution he has filed to add memorials of civil rights advocates near any Civil War monument on Capitol grounds. A House committee is set to hear that resolution on Tuesday. Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, who chairs the commission, said no vote would be taken on removing the bust until a vacancy on the commission is filled.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Feb 20, 2020

The state House today passed a measure that would give Williamson County its own judicial district, the Nashville Post reports. The legislation, which would split Williamson from Hickman, Perry and Lewis counties in the state judicial system, failed in the House last year, but the $1.4 million needed for this move was included in Gov. Bill Lee's budget proposal. Williamson County would join Shelby, Davidson, Sullivan, Blount, Knox, Anderson, Hamilton, Coffee and Sumner counties as the only counties with their own judicial districts.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Feb 20, 2020

State lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a proposal that would amend controversial voter-registration restrictions passed last year, the Tennessean reports. Last year’s GOP-backed restrictions would allow the state to fine registration groups for turning in too many incomplete signup forms, a move that opponents say would suppress efforts to register more minorities and other voters. Two lawsuits were immediately filed against the measure and its implementation was blocked by a federal judge as it awaits trial in February 2021. Yesterday’s proposals would again change the rules for signing up new voters, adding a requirement that the state offer voluntary training on registration laws and requiring applications to be submitted within 15 days of a registration drive. The latest measures were approved by the House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee and must now pass the full House Local Committee before going to the House floor for consideration.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Feb 14, 2020

Tennessee’s Right to Work Law is one step closer to becoming engrained in the state Constitution, the Daily Memphian reports. The bill flew through the Senate this week, backed only by Republicans in a 24-5 vote. Since 1947, the state’s Right to Work law has prohibited agreements between companies and labor unions requiring all employees to pay union fees even if they benefit from a union contract. By adding language to the state Constitution, the resolution, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, would make the law difficult to repeal. The resolution must be passed in consecutive sessions of the General Assembly and then approved by a majority of voters participating in the ensuing governor’s election before it can be placed in the Constitution.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Feb 14, 2020

On a recent episode of the TBA Legislative Updates podcast, the TBA’s director of public policy and government affairs, Berkley Schwarz, and Adams and Reese attorney and TBA lobbyist, Brad Lampley, review the TBA initiatives, written and proposed by several TBA sections, that were introduced during session this week. The show livestreams on the TBA’s Facebook page every Thursday. Legislative Updates is part of the Tennessee Bar Association Podcast Network and can be found on the TBA's website or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Feb 13, 2020

Northeast Tennessee district attorneys have identified four legislative proposals they are asking state lawmakers to support this year to help fight crime, the Kingsport Times News reports. The bills would allow judges to sign search warrants to obtain electronic data stored outside the state; prohibit state prisoners from posting “party images” on social media that could be seen by family members of their victims; reclassify voluntary manslaughter to a Class B felony with an eight to 12-year jail term; and enhance penalties to those committing drug crimes with children in the home. The group also has expressed concern about the governor’s criminal justice reform initiative.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Feb 12, 2020

House lawmakers continue to push back against Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to allow resettlement of refugees in the state. Yesterday, a resolution objecting to the decision passed a House subcommittee by voice vote, the Nashville Post reports. Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, the Lancaster Republican who sponsored the measure said it’s not personal or mean spirited. A number of bills to chastise the governor or overturn his decision are making their way through the state legislature. Lee said in December that he would consent to continued participation in the federal resettlement program.

Posted by: Berkley Schwarz on Feb 11, 2020

The TBA joined today with several professional organizations for a “Day on the Hill” to encourage the Tennessee General Assembly to repeal or reduce the Professional Privilege Tax. The group was addressed by several lawmakers, including Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossvillle, both of whom are in support of a repeal. Gov. Bill Lee proposed a $200 reduction tax in last week’s State of the State address, while some administration officials and legislative leaders left the door open for further cuts, or to eliminate the tax altogether. The repeal or reduction of the tax remains a top legislative priority for TBA in 2020 and members can still help by contacting their elected officials through TBA Impact

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Feb 10, 2020

Tennessee has spent $221 million from state coffers to assist poor working families rather than using federal funds through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, even though it has more than $730 million in unused TANF funds, the Tennessee Comptroller told legislators last week. News of this arrangement broke at the end of 2019, but the comptroller's testimony was the first official look at the extent of the issue. The comptroller's report also found that the state is spending just 35% of its annual federal grant. The Commercial Appeal has more on the story.

Posted by: Barry Kolar on Feb 7, 2020

Show your support for legislation that would eliminate the professional privilege tax at the Professional Privilege Tax Lobby Day. The event will take place from 8 a.m. to noon at the Tennessee State Capitol. If you plan to attend, please send a quick email to publicpolicy@tnbar.org. Here's a schedule of events. The only door to the Capitol that is open early will be the first floor entry, west side.

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