News

Impeachment Inquiry to Be Televised This Week

When the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump begins its public phase on Wednesday, people will have more ways to get the information than in 1973 during Nixon's impeachment hearings, Fox News reports. "People now have a far greater variety of options as to how to consume this," said professor Tobe Berkovitz, a former political media consultant who teaches communications at Boston University. "Everyone might watch the same hearing, but then people are going to divide into camps in terms of how they want to engage with the analysis," he said. "You're going to pick who you want to interpret and propagandize."  U.S. charge d’affaires in Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent are set to testify before Congress in a public hearing Wednesday, CNBC reports. The officials will testify together at 10 a.m. ET. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is scheduled to testify in public at 9 a.m. ET Friday.

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Eddie Jones Files for Sessions Court Clerk

Within days of Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton indicating he would not seek re-election, one county commissioner has filed a petition for the job and another is considering a run, the Daily Memphian reports. Shelby County Commissioner Eddie Jones filed his qualifying petition Wednesday while Commissioner Reginald Milton said he is thinking about a run for the post. Jones said if elected, he would like to lead the court through a reform of the bail system. The race to replace Stanton begins with the March 3 county primaries with winners advancing to the August general election.

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Feds Investigating State Sen. Kelsey’s Campaign Finance Transactions

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Memphis, is facing a grand jury probe concerning campaign finance transactions during his failed 2016 congressional bid, the Tennessean reports. Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey confirmed he’d been interviewed by a federal agent earlier this year, who asked if Kelsey gave Ramsey money with a request to “move it” to the West Tennessee lawmakers’ congressional campaign committee. Ramsey denies this happened. Nashville At-large Councilman Steve Glover and an unnamed lawmaker were also interviewed by federal agents. Glover gave money to Kelsey’s federal PAC months after receiving money from Kelsey’s state PAC. Kelsey says he welcomes any investigation because “all donations were made in compliance with the law and on the advice of counsel.”

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Judge Reduces Durham’s Campaign Finance Penalty

Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell on Friday called for the state Registry of Election Finance to reduce the fine it imposed on expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham after reviewing the registry’s actions and the fine it imposed in 2017. Darnell ruled that the $465,000 fine should be reduced to $110,000, the Tennessean reports. He also found that the registry failed to prove that Durham spent campaign money inappropriately on a number of expenses and that some of those expenses (e.g., investments, sunglasses, dry cleaning, a handgun carry permit and continuing education fees) were not at the time or are still not explicitly prohibited by state campaign finance law.

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Memphis State Rep. Takes Job at Lipscomb, Will Keep House Seat

State Rep. Mark White, a Republican from East Memphis, is taking a new job as director of Lipscomb University’s College of Leadership & Public Service. He will continue to live in East Memphis and retain his legislative seat in District 83, the Daily Memphian reports. White chairs the House Education Committee and with the new job will travel the state, primarily to rural areas, to develop leadership programs for public service. White earned a master of arts degree in conflict management from Lipscomb in 2018. He previously was a principal at Harding Academy in Memphis.

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House to Hold Budget Hearings Before Session Starts

At the direction of new House Speaker Cameron Sexton, the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee will move its 2020-2021 budget hearings to a November-December schedule, away from the long practice of holding them during the regular session. Explaining the move, Sexton told the Daily Memphian this week that holding the hearings in February and March "logjam the committee system" but holding them before the session gives lawmakers a better understanding of the budget plan and frees them up to concentrate on legislation once the session starts.

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Back by Popular Demand: ‘The Ethical Campaign’ Set for Dec. 2

This advanced level program covers all aspects of election law and ethics and is designed for state and local lawmakers; judges; candidates for executive, judicial or legislative positions; campaign chairs; campaign treasurers; and campaign legal counsel. This year’s program features William “Bill” Young, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance; Lucian Pera; Stephen Zralek; and Gif Thornton. Earn up to three hours of dual CLE credit.

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Former Nashville Mayor Returns to Law Firm

Former Nashville Mayor David Briley will return to his previous law firm of Bone McAllester Norton on Nov. 1, the firm announced today. Briley practiced at the firm from 2007 to 2018, focusing on civil, commercial and class-action litigation. He will resume his past practice areas and also advise clients on administrative and regulatory matters. Briley was elected vice mayor in 2015 and mayor in 2018. During his tenure, he helped bring Amazon and Alliance Bernstein jobs to the city, obtain final approval for a major league soccer expansion team, increase recognition for LGBT-owned businesses in government procurement, and push forward initiatives on affordable housing, community college and domestic violence prevention.

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Former House Speaker Launches Fundraising Firm

Former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada has started a new business, Right Way Consulting, providing fundraising services for Republican lawmakers, the Tennessean reports. Casada resigned from his leadership post in August after sexually explicit text messages to and from his chief of staff came to light.

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Nashville Consultant Is 3rd Democrat to Enter Senate Race

Diana Onyejiaka, a Nashville-based consultant and professor, has joined the Democratic field seeking to succeed Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Nashville Post reports. Onyejiaka graduated from Southern University Law Center — though she is not a practicing attorney — and runs DC Consult International, which focuses on international business and government relations. Onyejiaka also has taught law and government as an adjunct professor at Tennessee State University and Middle Tennessee State University and has worked as a mediator. She joins Nashville attorney James Mackler, who entered the Democratic primary back in January, and Memphis environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw, who announced earlier this month she is running.

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Former Memphis Senator Reggie Tate, 65, Dies

Former Memphis state senator Reggie Tate has died. He was found dead in his home this morning, the Commercial Appeal reports. The Shelby County Democrat, who was defeated in an August 2018 primary, was 65. Ken Jobe, spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus, said it appeared Tate had died of natural causes. "We carried meaningful legislation together that made a difference in the lives of many across the state of TN," tweeted Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a fellow Memphis Democrat who described Tate as a friend. "He always made us smile when he was around. He will be missed."

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Former State Rep. Rufus Jones Dies at 79

Former House State and Local Government Committee Chair Rufus Jones has died, The Tennessee Journal reports. He was 79. Jones represented his Memphis district from 1981 to 1996 before embarking on a lobbying career. He was succeeded in the House by Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis), who said in a statement that “Rep. Jones was a tireless public servant who always gave back and worked hard to open doors for the people of South Memphis.”

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Legislators Propose Compensating Student Athletes

Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown and Democratic state Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis plan to sponsor legislation in 2020 that will allow student athletes in the state to be paid for endorsements, the Daily Memphian reports. In addition, they hope to create a grant program funded by a portion of ticket sales to help student athletes who do not go on to play for a pro team after they graduate. This past April, the state Senate unanimously passed a resolution by Kelsey encouraging universities to work with athletic conferences to end the NCAA ban on compensating athletes.

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Criminal Justice Task Force to Focus First on Recidivism

Tennessee's incarceration rate is on the rise — defying a nationwide trend — but a new task force appointed by Gov. Bill Lee hopes to change that, Nashville Public Radio reports. The Criminal Justice Investment Task Force is first focused on reducing recidivism but eventually will turn to the larger issue: the state's prison population has grown almost 400% since 1978. Overall the number of new felony admissions to jails and prisons is down. But data suggests people are serving longer sentences, often for drug and property crimes, and are less likely to be granted parole.

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Belmont to Host Final 2020 Presidential Debate

Belmont University will host the final 2020 presidential debate on Oct. 22, The Tennessean reported today. The Commission on Presidential Debates selected Belmont from a pool of six finalists. Belmont previously hosted a presidential debate in 2008, when U.S. Sen. John McCain and former President Barack Obama met in a town hall format. The university was selected as an alternate for a presidential debate in 2016. The announcement was celebrated by a bipartisan slate of local officials, including Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Republican U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper.

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Memphis Doctor Files for Senate Run

Memphis doctor George Flinn filed paperwork Wednesday to enter the Republican U.S. Senate primary, the Nashville Post reports. Flinn has run several campaigns in recent years. Most recently he lost a 2018 primary challenge to U.S. Rep. David Kustoff. Flinn made his fortune from a radiology practice and ownership of broadcast stations. He joins Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi and former Ambassador Bill Hagerty in the race to replace retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander.

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Address Update for Columbia Court Square Program

The 2019 Court Square series is coming to Columbia on Oct. 23. The three-hour program will take place in the events center of First Farmers and Merchants Bank, 901 Nashville Hwy., Columbia 38401. Yesterday’s issue of TBAToday had the wrong street address.

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Court Square 2019: Join Us Oct. 23 in Columbia

The 2019 Court Square series is coming to Columbia on Oct. 23! This three-hour program is designed to provide attorneys with the latest developments in multiple areas of the law. Topics for this location include adoption law, legislative updates and current developments in legal ethics from the Board of Professional Responsibility. The program will take place at in the events center at the First Farmers and Merchants Bank, 901 Nashville Hwy., Columbia 38401.

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Memphis Democrat Joins U.S. Senate Race

Marquita Bradshaw, a Memphis environmentalist and activist with ties to national labor groups, is entering the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Lamar Alexander, the Nashville Post reports. Bradshaw has worked with the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club, the police accountability group Memphis United, the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, the American Federation of Government Employees and the AFL-CIO. Politics runs in her family: her uncle is state Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, and her mother has been fighting for environmental justice for decades. She joins Nashville attorney James Mackler in seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 election.

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Lee Names 2 to Group Exploring Fate of Bedford Forrest Bust

Gov. Bill Lee today announced the appointment of two new members to the state Capitol Commission, Knoxnews reports. Talk radio show host Hallerin Hill and Jackson Police Department Deputy Chief Tyreece Miller will join the group responsible for determining whether the controversial bust at the statehouse will be removed or altered to provide additional historical context. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a former Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The bust was installed in the Capitol in 1978 and has been the subject of repeated protests in recent years.

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Rep. Coley to be Honored for Fighting Human Trafficking

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence will honor state Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, in October for his advocacy on behalf of human trafficking victims and their families. The group says that Coley is a “tireless advocate” for women and children. “Though his hard work and commitment, Tennessee has some of the best laws in the country to address domestic violence and human trafficking,” the group’s executive director told the Daily Memphian. The recognition will take place at the group’s Pearls and Pinstripes Gala set for Oct. 4 at the Music City Center. Coley, the chairman of the House Higher Education Subcommittee, has announced he will not seek re-election in 2020.

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Former House Speaker Lands Job at MTSU

Former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell is joining Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) as a visiting professor of political science, WBIR-TV reports. The school says she will offer guest lectures, participate in panels and organize academic events with students. She also will assist a journalism class on state legislative coverage, work with the university chapters of the American Democracy Project and Free Speech Center, and mentor student interns who travel to Nashville for the General Assembly session. A longtime Republican lawmaker, Harwell was elected speaker in 2011. She left that role after her unsuccessful bid for governor last year.

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Former Chancellor Selected to Oversee Watchdog Agencies

Former Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young has been selected to serve as the next director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, the Tennessean reports. Young, who twice served in the state attorney general’s office, was chosen to succeed Drew Rawlins, who retired earlier this year. Young also previously served as deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and as director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. He was one of five candidates vying for the post.

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State Rep. Dickerson Denies Allegations of Health Care Fraud

State Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, has denied all allegations against him by state and federal officials in a wide-ranging case against Comprehensive Pain Specialists and its owners for allegedly defrauding Medicare and Medicaid. The lawsuit specifically identifies Dickerson as having submitted more than 750 false claims amounting to nearly $6.5 million for specimen validity, genetic and psychological testing, and for acupuncture. In a response filed this week, Dickerson denies the claims and any knowledge of a broader scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid, the Nashville Post reports.

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Former Judge Says House Member, Wife Undermined Her Appointment

A former Tennessee judge says the meddling of a Republican lawmaker and his wife was the reason she resigned just nine days after being appointed, the Tennessean reports. Gov. Bill Lee appointed Huntingdon attorney Jennifer King on Sept. 4 to fill the Chancery Court vacancy in the 24th Judicial District. On Sept. 13, King handed in her letter of resignation saying state Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, and his wife actively attempted to undermine the appointment by working with county officials to ensure King would not be the party’s nominee in the 2020 election. Other correspondence recently made public indicates that Griffey had urged the governor to select his wife for the post. When she was not named one of the top three nominees, he allegedly engaged in a campaign to discredit the three that were selected.

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