Lee adminstration to forgo legislative liaisons amid Capitol closure

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at the state Capitol on Sept. 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee will forgo the assistance of legislative liaisons while the Capitol complex is closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison first reported that Lee’s legislative director, Brent Easley, sent an email to lawmakers on Sunday night to inform them of the decision.

“After deliberation and conversations the Governor has had this weekend, we will not have legislative liaisons at the Cordell Hull Building tomorrow,” Easley wrote. “That will extend until a time to be determined.”

Private sector lobbyists had raised concerns that the ongoing presence of legislative liaisons while the rest of the public was kept out of the building would give an unfair advantage to the governor’s initiatives while lawmakers met behind closed doors.


Lobbyists included in Capitol ban but told remainder of session to focus on budget

Lawmakers await Gov. Bill Lee arrival for his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Lobbyists are to be included in the General Assembly’s decision to close access to the legislative office complex in the face of the coronavirus crisis, but legislative leaders have told the Tennessee Lobbyists Association that lawmakers will be “encouraged to only continue with legislation pertaining to the budget and funding.”

Presumably that would mean lawmakers would put hot-button issues on ice while charging ahead on getting the annual spending plan passed. But state funding is a major focus of many lobbying activities, so it remains to be seen how the plan would work in practice.

And as several observers have noted, encouraging members to act in a certain way isn’t the same as putting a hard stop to hearings on controversial bills. One way to underscore the plan to wary advocates would be to begin shutting down major committees early in the week to allow the finance panels to become the center of attention.

“It was confirmed to me that beginning on Monday, only members, staff, and media will have access to the CHB until further notice,” Steve Buttry, the chairman of the Tennessee Lobbyists Association and a former state lawmaker, said in an email to members. “This means lobbyists will not have access to the building during the closure to the public.

“I was also told that the goal is an expedited session. Members are being encouraged to only continue with legislation pertaining to the budget and funding,” he said. “Obviously the situation is very fluid.”

Richardson named partner at McMahan Winstead lobbying firm

Anna Richardson will become a parter in the lobbying firm founded by David McMahan and Beth Winstead. Richardson joined the prominent contract lobbying outfit in 2011 after serving as a legislative staffer, including for newly-elected Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin). The firm will be renamed McMahan Winstead & Richardson on Jan. 1.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE – McMahan Winstead today announced Anna M. Richardson will join David McMahan and Beth Winstead as a partner with the firm effective January 1. The firm will officially change its name to McMahan Winstead & Richardson on that date.

“Eight years ago, Anna brought her extensive legislative experience and legal expertise to our firm giving our clients unmatched representation in the Tennessee General Assembly. Her contributions have brought our firm to new heights,” said David McMahan. “Joining Beth and me as a partner is the next logical step for Anna and well-deserved. Our firm is built on honesty, loyalty and hard work. Anna displays all three on a daily basis. We could not be more excited about this new partnership.

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Former Rep. Gerald McCormick joins Ingram Group

Former House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has joined the Ingram Group lobbying firm in Nashville, which also recently hired Alexia Poe, the former communications director for Gov. Bill Haslam.

Here’s a release from the Ingram Group:

KNOXVILLE, TN – Retiring Tennessee State Representative and former Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has joined The Ingram Group, founder Tom Ingram announced today.McCormick will provide general consulting services with an emphasis on expanding state government relations practices for the Nashville and Washington based boutique strategic consulting firm which was founded over 35 years ago.

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Claude Ramsey — former deputy governor, mayor and legislator — dies aged 75

Claude Ramsey, who rose from third-generation Hamilton County strawberry farmer to deputy governor of Tennessee, died Monday at the age of 75, reports the Times Free Press.

In more than 40 years of public service, he was elected five times as county mayor, four times as assessor of property, twice to the Tennessee General Assembly and once as county commissioner. Ramsey never lost an election.

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TennCare backs off initiative aimed at making doctors more cost conscious

After months of resisting pressure from doctors, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, known as TennCare, is slowing down an initiative meant to make physicians more cost conscious, reports WPLN. The Tennessee Medical Association has complained about the so-called “episodes of care” payment model since its inception, though doctors initially cooperated with state officials in designing the program.

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Washington lobbyist, Sprint chairman host Blackburn fundraiser

Burb from Politico Influence, a daily Politico feature on lobbying in Washington:

The lobbyist David Carmen and Elizabeth Carmen will host a fundraiser for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who’s running for Senate, at their home in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington on Tuesday evening, according to an invitation obtained by PI. The twist: One of the co-hosts is Marcelo Claure, the new executive chairman of Sprint and the chief operating officer of SoftBank, which owns most of Sprint.

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Legislators authorize utilities funding chambers of commerce (updated and corrected)

Legislation authorizing natural gas utility companies to provide funding to local chambers of commerce was approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The House initially spurned the bill, but then reconsidered and approved it in the waning moments of the 2018 session.

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Legislature mandates that state health insurance cover experimental cancer treatment

An experimental cancer treatment has won a rare endorsement from the Tennessee legislature despite some criticism, reports WPLN. The measure requires insurance coverage of proton therapy, which benefits a Knoxville-based company that is building a treatment center in Franklin.

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De-annexation bill dead; sponsor blames city lobbyists

An effort to enact legislation allowing disgruntled residents in some areas of Tennessee cities to vote to secede is dead for the year, reports the Times Free Press. The House sponsor, Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) blames lobbyists for municipalities.

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