mike bell

New TNJ edition alert: Casada’s fall, Bell bows out, Durham decision

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) checks his phone in the House chamber in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

In this week’s edition of the print edition of The Tennessee Journal:

— Casada won’t run again after fall from speaker to delivery driver. Could run for Williamson County clerk be next?

— Redistricting: Bell, Casada retirements grant breathing room to mapmakers.

— Lee favorite bows out, leaving wide-open competition for Supreme Court opening.

— We have a ruling over ousted Rep. Durham’s record penalty for campaign finance violations.

— A shakeup at the top in Gov. Bill Lee’s office.

Also: Hagerty hits fellow Republicans over infrastructure vote, the Barretts host a fundraiser for Ketron, Trump endorses Fleischmann, and mirrors on the ceiling at the governor’s mansion (shudder).

As always, access your copy of the TNJ here or subscribe here.

Bell won’t seek re-election to Tenn. Senate

Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) attends a redistricting hearing on Oct. 18, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Judiciary Chair Mike Bell (R-Riceville) isn’t seeking re-election next year.

Here’s the release:

NASHVILLE – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) announced today that he will not be a candidate for re-election in 2022. Bell was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2006 before moving to the State Senate in 2010 where he represents Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk Counties in Senate District 9.

“It has been the highest honor of my life to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly,” said Sen. Bell. “I am incredibly thankful for the continued support, friendship and kindness of my constituents who have entrusted me to represent them for the past 15 years. Just as I knew it was time for me to run for office in 2006, I feel it is now time to move to the next chapter of my life and pass the leadership mantle for this district to a new state senator.”

Bell said he is making the announcement early enough to provide prospective candidates plenty of time to come forward and meet with the people of the district.

“I love representing the people of this district,” added Bell who regularly attends community and school functions in the district. “It has truly been a joy to get to know members of our civic, business, school, volunteer firefighters, sportsmen, veteran groups, and other community organizations. Their input has been a tremendous asset to me while serving in the General Assembly and I will miss that constant contact very much. I also couldn’t have done this job without the encouragement of my wife and children and am very appreciative of their support.”

“This is a tremendous loss for the Senate and the State,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally. “Mike has brought a true working-class perspective to the Senate that has been simply invaluable. An authentic citizen legislator, Mike has served with distinction as chairman of both the Judiciary and Government Operations committees while at the same time owning and operating his own small business. A consistent conservative and a true friend, Mike Bell has championed the cause of Life and the Second Amendment with impassioned advocacy. His commitment to those two issues, in particular, has resulted in successful legislative victories on multiple occasions. I have always considered him a very close friend and hope to continue to call on him for advice and counsel. I congratulate him on a well-deserved retirement from the legislature and wish him the best of luck on what comes next.”

Bell has served in several leadership positions during his legislative tenure. In addition to chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee, he led the Senate Government Operations Committee from 2012 to 2018 where he pushed for greater accountability of Tennessee’s boards and commissions to make them more effective and customer-friendly. In the House of Representatives, he chaired the Children and Family Subcommittee and was Freshman Leader in the Republican Caucus. 

In addition, he currently serves as Chairman of the General Assembly’s Sportmen’s Caucus and is a member of the Executive Council for the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), receiving several awards on behalf of his efforts to preserve hunting and fishing. He serves as Chairman of Tennessee’s Asian Carp Advisory Commission to study and provide advice regarding the best methods for mitigating the invasion of Asian carp into the state’s lakes and river systems.

During his legislative tenure, Bell has been a strong advocate of Second Amendment rights, including sponsoring the law establishing the right to carry a firearm without a permit. Other key laws sponsored by Bell include:

  • Legislation revamping the state’s Textbook Commission to provide for greater transparency and more public input in the textbook selection process;
  • Several bills removing unfair restrictions concerning the eligibility of home school students for Tennessee’s lottery scholarships;
  • Legislation to protect Tennesseans’ access to healthcare through telehealth services;
  • The Broadband Accessibility Act to improve access to broadband through investment, deregulation and education, spurring development in rural areas to open them up to job growth;
  • Legislation creating volunteer firefighter grants for equipment and the new law to provide them with an annual $600 payment upon completion of training;
  • Numerous laws strengthening penalties for human trafficking and providing support for victims;
  • Legislation to make the Board of Judicial Conduct more responsive to the public; and
  • Several laws protecting unborn children, including legislation excluding facilities in Tennessee that perform abortion from receiving Tennessee taxpayer money.

He was also was a strong legislative supporter for the Bradley County Tennessee Veterans Home. 

Bell will continue to serve until a new state senator is elected in the regular general election on November 8, 2022.

Partisan statewide chancery court idea dropped in House, replaced by new appeals court

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A Senate proposal to create a statewide chancery court made up of three judges elected in statewide partisan elections has been dropped in the House. Instead, the lower chamber wants to create a new “court of special appeals,” made up of three new judges who would stand for yes-no retention elections.

The new panel could take up case in which the attorney general intervenes on behalf of the state, and it would be the court of original jurisdiction for any challenges of redistricting plans.

Former lawmakers or governors would not be eligible to serve on the new intermediate court of appeals. Members would be appointed by the governor, though nominees would have to be confirmed by a joint convention of the General Assembly.

Senate Judiciary Chair Mike Bell (R-Riceville) has been a main proponent of holding popular elections for a statewide chancery court. The conflicting versions of the court proposals could lead to the need for a conference committee to see if the two chambers can work out their differences.

Here’s the full House amendment sponsored by Rep. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville):

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 16, is amended by adding the following as a new chapter:

16-7-101.

There is created and established an appellate court to be designated and styled the court of special appeals of Tennessee.

16-7-102.

(a) The court of special appeals is composed of three (3) judges, one (1) from each grand division of the state.

(b)

(1) Immediately preceding appointment, each Judge must be at least thirty (30) years of age, must have been a resident of the state for at least five (5) consecutive years, and must have been a resident of the grand division from which the judge is appointed for at least one (1) year. For purposes of this section, resident has the same meaning as defined in § 2-1-104. The judges must be duly licensed to practice law in this state.

(2) In order to ensure fairness, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and to avoid political bias, a former member of the general assembly or a former governor shall not serve as a judge of the court of special appeals.

(c) The governor shall appoint three (3) persons to serve as judges of the court of special appeals and vacancies on the court of special appeals must be filled by the governor. Each judge of the court of special appeals will be elected by the qualified voters of the state in a statewide retention election conducted in accordance with title 17, chapter 4, part 1. A judge of the court of special appeals must qualify as a candidate and be elected by the qualified voters of the state.

The initial terms of the judges begin on October 1, 2021. The oath of office for each judge of the court of special appeals must be filed and entered on the minutes of the court in the grand division from which the judge resides. The oath must likewise be filed and entered on the records in the office of the secretary of state at Nashville.

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