legislators

11th-hour push would dial up per diems for lawmakers

As the 110th General Assembly works its way toward adjournment, lawmakers are making an 11-hour push to pad their expense accounts.

As Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports, the bill sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams of Cookeville (HB1941) would stop using the federal reimbursement rate for hotels and instead use a new formula based on Nashville’s downtown business district. Williams told the House Government Operations Committee on Monday that the change would result in an additional $30 to $60 per night, depending one hotel prices. (The current federal rate is $170 per night.)

Lawmakers receive the daily hotel reimbursement regardless of the price they pay for hotels, or if they rent their own apartments when they are in town on legislative business (or even if they sleep in their offices for free).

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GOP legislators spurned renewed Haslam pitch for Medicaid expansion in private meeting

Gov.  Bill Haslam asked Republican legislative leaders earlier this month if they would reconsider Medicaid expansion legislation, which was rejected when he initially proposed the idea three years ago, reports The Tennessean. House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally were open to discussing the idea but others were not and the notion was dropped.

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Rep. Harold Love Jr. running for Nashville mayor

Calling himself a “coalition builder,” Democratic state Rep. Harold Love Jr. has announced he will be running for Nashville mayor at the same time he’s running for reelection to the state House, reports The Tennessean. If he wins both races, Love says he’ll resign from the House District 58 seat.

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Sen. Thelma Harper officially announces she won’t seek reelection

News release from Senate Democratic Caucus

NASHVILLE – After nearly 40 years of public service, state Sen. Thelma Harper announced today that she would not seek re-election to the 19th Senatorial District.

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Rep. Byrd cites support from former players, ‘no comment’ on allegations

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) and Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) attend a committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro), who is accused of sexual misconduct with three teenagers when he was a 28-year-old basketball coach, says he has received the support of 66 former players as he embarks on his re-election campaign. As for the allegations from three decades ago? “No comment,” he said.

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Lawmaker cites satirical website to nix hazing bill

A lawmaker misquoted an article on the satirical website The Onion in supporting efforts to deep-six a bill targeting hazing among college sororities and fraternities.

“I’m reading right here on The Onion a report about Kentucky seniors who hazed freshman basketball players,” said Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough).

Van Huss appears to have been referring to a 2016 article on the satire website titled: “New Report Reveals Kentucky Seniors Forced To Endure Brutal Hazing From Freshman Players.”

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Byrd running for re-election despite sexual misconduct scandal

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) has announced he will seek re-election despite allegations of sexual misconduct with three of his teenage basketball players when he was their 28-year-old high school basketball coach.

Byrd spent much of Thursday’s floor session wandering around House chamber trying to drum up support among fellow lawmakers, embracing some of them and exchanging cell phone numbers. Byrd, who incorporates his nickname “Coach” and the outline of a basketball in his logo, may well benefit from this week’s candidate filing deadline to avoid serious opposition in this year’s election.

But Republicans worried about tighter-than-usual races in other districts likely won’t welcome having to defend inevitable political attacks based on Byrd’s candidacy.

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Appeals court rejects legislators’ intervention in lesbian couple’s child custody dispute

The state Court of Appeals has rejected an attempt by 52 state representatives and 19 state senators to intervene in a divorce dispute over child custody between Sabrina Witt and Erica Witt, two Knoxville women who were married in Washington, D.C., reports the News Sentinel.

The opinion, written by Court of Appeals Chief Judge Michael Swiney also declares that the legislators should pay costs involved in appealing the trial court’s decision dismissing their motion to intervene.

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Businessman Paul Harper, husband of state senator, dies aged 79

Nashville businessman Paul Wilson Harper, husband of state Sen. Thelma Harper, has died at age 79 “after a year of slowly declining health,” reports the Tennessee Tribune.

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Rep. David Byrd accused of sexual misconduct; Harwell says he should resign

State Rep. David  Byrd has been accused by three women of having inappropriate sexual contact with them while he was a high school basketball coach and they were teenagers, according to WSMV. House Speaker Beth Harwell promptly called for the Waynesboro Republican to resign from his House seat after being provided a secretly-recorded tape of Byrd apologizing to one of the women. Continue reading