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.

Sen. Green Launches Bid for Governor

Tennessee Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, has filed paperwork indicating he will seek the governor’s office in 2018. He is the first to formally file for the state’s highest office, though other Republicans are expected to join the race, the Tennessean reports. Green is the CEO of AlignMD, an emergency room management company. Yesterday, he filed 10 bills for consideration in the new legislative session, including one that would eliminate the state privilege tax paid by doctors and other professionals.

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Chambers of Commerce Lobby for Internet Tax

The state’s four largest chambers of commerce have joined forces to push the legislature to impose a tax on Internet sales, the Tennessean reports. A joint legislative agenda from the Chattanooga, Knoxville Memphis and Nashville chambers lists the tax among their top priorities for the 2017 legislative session. Tennessee currently charges a sales tax, but lacks enforcement for out-of-state retailers that do not pay it according to the paper.

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Schumer, Democrats Prepared to Block Trump Court Pick

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer says he is prepared to block President-elect Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee if he or she is not in the “mainstream.” In an interview yesterday, Schumer said it is “hard for me to imagine a nominee that Donald Trump would choose that would get Republican support that we could support.” Asked if he would do his best to hold the seat open, Schumer responded, “Absolutely.” Schumer also said Democrats will push for a mainstream nominee, according to Roll Call.

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Black Named Interim House Budget Chair

U.S. Rep. Diane Black was named interim chair of the powerful House Budget Committee yesterday, placing her at the crux of the fight to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Tennessean reports. The interim title reportedly is necessary until Rep. Tom Price, the outgoing chair, is confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Black has represented Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District since 2010. She is the first woman to serve as chair of the committee.

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Groups Target Medical Malpractice System

Several medical groups want Tennessee lawmakers to replace the state’s malpractice system with one similar to that being used to settle workers’ compensation claims, Nashville Public Radio reports. One of these groups, the North Carolina-based organization Medical Justice, says it would like to make Tennessee the first state to do away with its medical malpractice system. On the other side of the issue, Andy Spears with Tennessee Citizen Action says the current system works fine and the threat of lawsuits forces doctors to take extra precautions.

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Opposition to AG Nominee Sessions Ramps Up

A number of liberal groups are calling for a delay of confirmation hearings for Sen. Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the U.S. Department of Justice. Three groups – the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, People for the American Way and Alliance for Justice – say the Jan. 10 hearing should be postponed citing gaps in Sessions’ record that were not addressed in the questionnaire he sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. WCYB has more from CNN. Meanwhile, the NAACP is staging a sit-in at Sessions’ office in Mobile and planning protests at other district offices across the state. Local Memphis and Roll Call report on those developments.

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Report: Rep. Black Top Contender for Budget Chair

U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin is the leading candidate to take the gavel of the powerful House Budget Committee, the Tennessean reports. If selected, the move would make her the fourth Tennessee lawmaker to chair a congressional committee and put her on the front lines of the battle to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Black’s name surfaced earlier this week in reports by Politico that she could move ahead of several federal lawmakers with more seniority.

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New Computer System to Detect Uninsured Motorists

The Tennessee Department of Revenue has installed a new online verification system that will detect motorists who drive without insurance on their cars and trucks. The system, which will be in place next month, will be available to law enforcement officers and county court clerks who register vehicles and issue license plates. It is a follow-through on a 2015 law enacted by the legislature with the declared intent of reducing uninsured drivers, Knoxnews reports. Under the new system, all insurance carriers registered to write personal automobile liability policies in the state must register with the department and provide policy information. The state will then check the reported policies against all registered vehicle information numbers.

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Foundation Raising Funds for Harry Burn Statue

The East Tennessee Foundation’s Suffrage Coalition has announced a public fundraising effort to honor East Tennessee legislator Harry Burn, who cast the crucial vote to approve the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. A statue of Burn will be installed on the southeast corner of Clinch Ave. and Market St. in front of the East Tennessee History Center. Designed by Alan LeQuire, it will feature Rep. Burn and his mother, whose historic letter to her son inspired him to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of suffrage. With that vote, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment and make it law. The group hopes to raise $400,000. Learn more from Knoxnews.

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Investigators May Scrutinize Durham Land Deals

Federal authorities likely will scrutinize real estate transactions involving embattled ex-lawmaker Jeremy Durham, former U.S. attorney Jerry Martin told the Tennessean last week. An analysis of property records by the paper reveals that Durham and his wife borrowed $881,800 from a local bank to finance the purchase of three plots of land and construction of three homes in Williamson County. Records also show they transferred the properties in “unusual transactions” to a Spring Hill alderman who built the homes. The Durhams could have made as much as $91,000 in profit, but the deals were not listed on any disclosure statements, the paper reports. Durham’s lawyer Peter Strianse said all real estate transactions were “completely legal and properly reported to the IRS.”

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