The House gave final approval Monday night to a bill requiring newspapers that publish public notices to post them on their website as well at no extra charge.
The bill cleared the House on a 94-1 vote and now goes to the governor for his expected signature.
In brief debate, Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, told sponsor Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, that it seemed inappropriate to “be telling the newspaper what they can and can’t charge for.”
Haynes said the bill is supported by the Tennessee Press Association.
“They are committed to open government and this is one more service they can provide to make government more open and more transparent,” Haynes said. “To give more people the opportunity to see public notices, they’re willing to take that cost on.”
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The State Senate approved legislation today requiring newspapers that print public notices to post them on the Internet. Senate Bill 461, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman), is supported by the Tennessee Press Association.
Action on the bill was taken during “Sunshine Week,” an annual time to highlight the importance of maintaining open government nationwide. Yager said the legislation recognizes the growing use of the Internet as a source of information, while preserving the integrity of using an independent agency for public notice by newspapers of general circulation.
Current law requires public notices be given on a variety of matters of importance to the public, including government meetings, bid announcements, notice of parental termination, foreclosure notices, public sale of private property, back tax notices, estate notices and zoning changes, to name a few. Local governments, looking for ways to reduce expenditures have suggested they can save money by posting notices on their websites rather than posting them in a local newspaper.
“My experience in local government gives me a greater appreciation of the importance of this issue,” said Yager, who served as Roane County Executive for 24 years before being elected to the State Senate. “Using an independent agency, the local newspaper, builds integrity in the process. To give even the appearance of manipulating mandatory public notices, tarnishes the reputation of government because it undermines the concept of independence and transparency.”
In addition, the legislation calls for the newspapers to post public notices on a central statewide website. Every newspaper that publishes public notices must post on their website homepage a link to the public notice section and another link to the Tennessee Press Association’s statewide repository website.
“This bill combines the best of both worlds. It keeps public notices in places where more people can find them by ensuring the widest distribution,” said Senator Yager. “This measure comes with no extra costs to taxpayers, and promotes government transparency, efficiency and public trust. I am pleased that it has been approved by the full Senate and honored for its passage during a week that embraces openness in government.”
News release from Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus today released the following statement appointing the Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee John Ryder as the new RNC General Counsel:
“I am delighted to announce that I have appointed John Ryder as the new General Counsel of the RNC,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “I am confident that John’s legal expertise and political experience make him the ideal choice. His understanding of the inner workings of the Committee from his tenure as an RNC Committeeman and a delegate will be an invaluable asset in providing the RNC with guidance and leadership as we move ahead. I look forward to working with John as we continue to assemble the resources needed to be victorious in 2013, 2014, 2016 and beyond.”
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Chairman Priebus, the members of the RNC and the RNC legal staff. I know that we can build upon the solid foundation established by Chairman Priebus and our previous General Counsel and pave a constructive path forward,” said John Ryder, who lives in Memphis.
Chris Devaney, the Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, remarked, “Today, RNC Chairman Reince Preibus named Tennessee’s National Committeeman John Ryder to the post of RNC General Counsel. Tennessee has certainly been blessed to have strong leaders at the national level and John’s appointment to this important position is another indication of that. I want to congratulate John on his new role and know that he will do an outstanding job for our national Party.”
Biography for John Ryder:
John Ryder was first elected as the National Committeeman from Tennessee in May of 1996 and served from 1996-2004 and from 2008 to the present. He was the chairman of the Redistricting Committee and the RNC Presidential Nominating Schedule Committee. He was a delegate for the 1984, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Republican National Conventions. Ryder served on the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee and currently serves on the Rules Committee.
Ryder is a member of the Memphis, Tennessee law firm: Harris, Shelton, Hanover & Walsh. He is a past Chairman of the Board of Opera Memphis, a member of the Economic Club of Memphis and a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Previously, Ryder was the co-chairman of the Southern Region and director of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. He is vice President for Judicial Affairs for the Republican National Lawyers Association and serves as Senior Advisor to the Memphis Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society.
Mr. Ryder’s appointment is subject to RNC confirmation.
Since July 2011, Chuck Fleischmann’s campaign has earmarked $51,523 in donor funds to pay Chip Saltsman’s legal fees in a lawsuit 600 miles away from Washington, D.C., according to Chris Carrolll. Campaign finance records show the latest payment, $15,000, came on Nov. 14. Fleischmann’s office announced Saltsman’s resignation as chief of staff a month later.
After spending $1.3 million on the 2012 election cycle, the Fleischmann campaign reported $50,990 on hand and $226,538 in debts, according to the latest filings.
Last week, Fleischmann and his Nashville-based attorney declined to respond to inquiries about whether the Republican congressman’s campaign will continue paying Saltsman’s bills this year. Saltsman and his attorney did not return a detailed phone message seeking comment Thursday.
The legal fees stem from a 2-year-old Davidson County Circuit Court lawsuit filed by a rival political operative. Former Robin Smith aide Mark Winslow is suing Fleischmann and Saltsman over advertising claims the duo made in the 2010 election. Winslow seeks $750,000 in damages.
Fleischmann edged Smith and became the Republican nominee after a bitter 3rd District primary season. The lawsuit alleges defamation, inducement to breach a contract and invasion of privacy.
After Fleischmann’s campaign consulted with the Federal Election Commission in 2011, the agency determined that using donations to defend Saltsman was allowable because the lawsuit involves “allegations directly relating to campaign activities engaged in by Mr. Saltsman.”
…Meanwhile, attorneys continue to litigate the lawsuit, which is entering its third year after being filed in January 2011. Gary Blackburn, Winslow’s attorney, filed a motion to add the Tennessee Republican Party as a defendant last week.
A trial could be months away, Blackburn said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform has rated Tennessee as the 26th best state information in ‘legal climate for business.’
That’s down from 19th in 2010, the year before Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform law was enacted. That law has multiple provisions, including new limits on damages that can be awarded to plaintiffs bringing lawsuits against businesses, and was promoted by the governor as making Tennessee more business-friendly.
The Chamber group rates Delaware as the best state for businesses in dealing with the civil justice system,, West Virginia the worst.
The group’s national news release, which focuses on what the Chamber considers the “worst” states, is HERE. The state-by-state ratings map is HERE.
The Tennessee “detailed” page is HERE.
Legislation calling for drug testing of welfare applicants leaves unclear who will pay for the tests, reports the Tennessean, and it could face a court challenge from the ACLU or others. The legislation’s latest fiscal note said TANF beneficiaries would cover the costs of the drug tests, estimated at one time to be around $30 apiece. But its Senate sponsor, Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said after the bill passed that the Department of Human Services would try to help people pay for screenings and possibly the drug tests. A DHS official, Valisa Thompson, said development of the program will not start until July, so nothing specific about it has been determined — including who will bear what costs.
“The department will develop the plan with a goal of minimizing financial impact for all parties,” Thompson said in a statement.
But even as officials develop an implementation plan for the program — estimated to cost more than $200,000 on average in each of the next three years — they may have to confront constitutional questions.
…(Attorney General Bob) Cooper has yet to weigh in formally on the current bill, but others say the new law might not withstand a constitutional challenge.
“I don’t think it comes close. It’s undefined and unspecified,” said Ed Rubin, a professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University. “It just allows for general surveillance. It doesn’t provide any probable cause, which is required by the Fourth Amendment.”
Rubin said that while the Fourth Amendment does allow people seeking certain jobs, such as airplane pilots and machinery operators, to undergo mandatory drug tests, cases like these occur when public safety is at stake.
“That rationale is completely lacking here,” he said. “There is no plausible public safety argument from the general Fourth Amendment.”
The legislation also has drawn criticism from the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a letter to the governor calling the bill into question and urging Haslam to veto it.
The organization has not yet decided to sue the state, said Hedy Weinberg, executive director for the ACLU’s Tennessee chapter. State chapters of the ACLU sued over similar legislation in Florida and Michigan. The state already expects to spend more than $100,000 in legal costs, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Weinberg said the legislation lacks clear guidelines and needs clarification, including its implementation policy and treatment referral process, but still might not pass the legal test.
“The bottom line is that it targets a certain socioeconomic group of people without suspicion or probable cause,” she said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would require agencies to verify that applicants for public benefits are legal residents has passed the Senate.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin was approved 29-2 on Monday. The companion bill was to be heard on the House floor later in the day.
The proposal was delayed in the House last year because the cost of the measure was a little over $1 million. But House sponsor Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, told The Associated Press on Monday that the tab has been reduced to around $100,000.
He said every applicant won’t have to be verified because there are other processes in place to prove legal residence.
Sponsors say the intention is to make sure that individuals lawfully in Tennessee get the benefits first.
— Note: The legislation contains multiple exemptions, many involving interrelation with federal laws, that lowered the fiscal note.
Knox County election officials have asked the state to decide a legal question about the Knox County residency of a Democrat hopeful for state House of Representatives, .the News Sentinel reports
Shelley Breeding has filed paperwork to run in the newly created 89th District, which lies entirely in Knox County. But her residential property lies partly in Anderson County and partly in Knox County, said Knox County Election Coordinator Cliff Rodgers.
“At this point, we are waiting on guidance” from the state election coordinator’s office, Rodgers said. “We hope to hear from them soon.”
He said an employee in his office noticed that KGIS showed part of her property was in Anderson County.
“Her mailbox and her driveway are in Knox County, but her house is entirely in Anderson County,” Rodgers said. The real estate taxes on the property “are paid to the Anderson County trustee’s office, through her mortgage company.”
The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that gives some legal cover to gun-carry permit holders who get caught with a firearm on posted property, reports WPLN. It’s not a “get out of jail free” card, but it gives an out-of-bounds gun carrier a legal excuse.
Representative Jeremy Faison, a Republican from Cosby, says his bill is supposed to cover inadvertent slip-ups – you can say you didn’t see the sign saying “No Guns Allowed.” Even at a university.
“You brought up the University of Tennessee. This is not saying it’s OK to have a gun there. It’s saying, you have a defense, should you have had a gun.”
Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner of Nashville later called the measure a dangerous bill.
“You know, you could actually carry a gun here, to the legislature, and if it was discovered on you, you’d just say, ‘I forgot I had it in my pocket,’ and they really… They gave ’em an out, there.”
The Senate companion piece is still in Senate Judiciary Committee, but it could move out to the Senate floor easily — the bill’s Senate sponsor, Mae Beavers, chairs the Judiciary Committee.
The bill (HB3499) took on additional importance later Thursday morning, when Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey told a business group that a “guns in parking lots” bill won’t pass this year. Property owners had fought that measure, which would have forced them to let employees keep their firearms in a locked car on the employer’s parking lot.
The bill passed the House 67-22-1 with an amendment (pdf) that rewrites it. The new version says a handgun carry permit holder has an “affirmative defense” to being charged with “carrying a firearm for the purpose of going armed.”
…The sponsor, Faison, explains what the bill is intended to do:
“First of all, if you’re a licensed permit holder, and you have a gun, and you were not supposed to have it in a place, that was posted – you didn’t see the posting — and for whatever reason it was found that you had a gun. And no nefarious things were happening, you hadn’t broke the law any other way, but you happened to have a gun there. We’re just saying that you have a defense, an affirmative defense, in the state of Tennessee.”
The Republican redistricting mantra, recited repeatedly before and during the unveiling of the official state House and Senate maps last week, was declaring the result of the party’s first-ever Tennessee reapportionment would be “fair and legal.”
Whether the work product now on display and ready for rocketing through the Legislature this week meets that standard is as debatable as whether Fox News is “fair and balanced” as repeatedly proclaimed by the network — at least on the fairness front.
Fairness is in the eyes of the beholder. Or maybe the beholder’s political mindset.
On an objective basis, it’s reasonable to say the redistricting plans are fair enough to make their fairness debatable. Going beyond that is a matter of partisan opinion.
On the legal front, the answer will be provided by the court system. Democrats say they are virtually certain to file a court challenge, barring some last-minute changes before enactment. Treatment of minorities in the House plan seems to be a particular source of Democratic hopes for courtroom success.