Nashville DA Glenn Funk can refuse to enforce the transgender bathroom sign law, lawyers say

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk is not backing down on his decision to not enforce the controversial transgender bathroom sign legislation once it becomes law July 1.

This is despite backlash from Republican lawmakers including East Tennessee Representative John Ragan who said the action from Funk is “offensive.”

The law requires businesses to notify the public if their bathrooms are inclusive.

“Every person is welcomed and valued in Nashville. Enforcement of transphobic and homophobic laws is contrary to those values. My office will not promote hate,” Funk said in a letter.

Abby Rubenfeld, a Nashville Civil Rights attorney with Rubenfeld Law Office said, “General Funk’s response was completely appropriate, I mean he has limited resources, he has to make priorities about enforcement of laws and that’s just the accepted part of his job.”

There’s been continued outcry from Republican lawmakers who say it’s their job to write the laws and its Funk’s job to enforce them.

“The only thing, I think that’s different about this situation is — it’s a controversial law and then the district attorney has taken a more blanket approach,” said Melanie Wilson, Lindsay Young Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

Funk also said district attorneys have “discretion of when and under what circumstances to enforce laws enacted by the legislative branch and signed by the executive.”

Something Wilson, a former federal prosecutor, says is correct.

“Even in Tennessee there are Attorney General opinions, there’s a statue that gives broad unfettered discretion to the prosecution to pick and choose and I think it’s likely that the district attorney is going to be upheld in exercising his discretion,” Wilson said.

Tennessee is the first state to require such signage, something Rubenfeld says will be struck down if challenged in court.

“I mean these laws are unconstitutional and our legislature should quit wasting time,” Rubenfeld said. “I mean we have an attorney general who could’ve given them an opinion before they passed it that it was unconstitutional and it’s unnecessary, that’s the more important point to me.”

It’s unclear how the law will be enforced or if any other district attorney will also refuse to enforce the law.

News 2 reached out to Rep. John Ragan for comment and received an emailed statement in part saying Funk is acting outside of his legal authority.

District Attorney General Funk maintains that he has complete discretion to declare that he, alone, “has the discretion to decide when and under what circumstances to enforce laws enacted by the legislature and signed by the executive branch.” If this sounds like an individual is exercising power that “is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind,” that’s because it certainly

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Nashville DA won’t enforce new bathroom sign law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville’s top prosecutor said Monday that he will not enforce a newly enacted law that requires businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they let transgender people use multiperson bathrooms and other facilities associated with their gender identity.

“I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville,” Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk said in a statement. “Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values. My office will not promote hate.”

Funk’s office clarified that this refusal to enforce “transphobic or homophobic laws” specifically included the first-of-its kind measure signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee earlier this month.

The move, along with the flurry of other anti-transgender laws approved by Lee, has sparked alarm among LGBTQ advocates. Many have decried the latest measure as discriminatory and said the required signs are “offensive and humiliating.” The law will go into effect July 1.

However, questions have remained about how specifically it will be enforced.

Republican Rep. Tim Rudd, who sponsored the legislation, told a legislative committee in March that the bill “does not provide any fines or penalties at this point,” and the amended version passed by that committee became law. Rudd has also said that the law could be enforced by people filing lawsuits or district attorneys asking a judge to force businesses to comply.

Yet Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference President Amy Weirich argued that the language in the new law “doesn’t speak to anything having to do with enforcement.”

“The way it’s written, I don’t see anything that allows or provides me the responsibility or right to go to civil court and ask a judge to enforce it,” said Weirich, Shelby County’s district attorney.

Lee did not have a strong reaction when pressed by reporters Monday on Funk’s refusal to enforce the bathroom sign law.

“I think his decision will be his own,” he said. “I signed the law; it’s his decision how he wants to respond to it.”

Lee’s response was markedly different than when Funk announced in September he would not enforce a new law that required abortion providers to tell their patients it may be possible to reverse the action of abortion medication half-way through the procedure. Funk said at the time he believed the law was unconstitutional.

Without naming Funk, Lee’s office tweeted that, “A district attorney purposefully disregarding current, duly enacted laws by the legislature is a grave matter that threatens our justice system and has serious consequences.”

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Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.

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Nashville DA won’t enforce new bathroom sign law | National News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville’s top prosecutor said Monday that he will not enforce a newly enacted law that requires businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they let transgender people use multiperson bathrooms and other facilities associated with their gender identity.

“I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville,” Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk said in a statement. “Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values. My office will not promote hate.”

Funk’s office clarified that this refusal to enforce “transphobic or homophobic laws” specifically included the first-of-its kind measure signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee earlier this month.

The move, along with the flurry of other anti-transgender laws approved by Lee, has sparked alarm among LGBTQ advocates. Many have decried the latest measure as discriminatory and said the required signs are “offensive and humiliating.” The law will go into effect July 1.

However, questions have remained about how specifically it will be enforced.

Republican Rep. Tim Rudd, who sponsored the legislation, told a legislative committee in March that the bill “does not provide any fines or penalties at this point,” and the amended version passed by that committee became law. Rudd has also said that the law could be enforced by people filing lawsuits or district attorneys asking a judge to force businesses to comply.

Yet Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference President Amy Weirich argued that the language in the new law “doesn’t speak to anything having to do with enforcement.”

“The way it’s written, I don’t see anything that allows or provides me the responsibility or right to go to civil court and ask a judge to enforce it,” said Weirich, Shelby County’s district attorney.

Lee did not have a strong reaction when pressed by reporters Monday on Funk’s refusal to enforce the bathroom sign law.

“I think his decision will be his own,” he said. “I signed the law; it’s his decision how he wants to respond to it.”

Lee’s response was markedly different than when Funk announced in September he would not enforce a new law that required abortion providers to tell their patients it may be possible to reverse the action of abortion medication half-way through the procedure. Funk said at the time he believed the law was unconstitutional.

Without naming Funk, Lee’s office tweeted that, “A district attorney purposefully disregarding current, duly enacted laws by the legislature is a grave matter that threatens our justice system and has serious consequences.”

———

Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Tennessee bathroom law sponsor now says it has penalties | National News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The sponsor of Tennessee’s new law requiring businesses and government facilities to post signs if they let transgender people use the bathrooms of their choice now says owners and officials who refuse could face up to six months in jail — a penalty that went unmentioned during legislative hearings and debate.

The question of who would do the enforcing remains murky as well.

Republican Rep. Tim Rudd, who sponsored the bathroom sign bill, said a class B misdemeanor could apply to those who won’t post the signs within 30 days of being warned they’re breaking the law. That seems to contradict what Rudd told fellow lawmakers in March. He said then that the bill version that would become law “does not provide any fines or penalties at this point.”

He has since argued that he was telling the truth because while the bill itself was silent about any penalty, it was inserted into a chapter of existing building code law that already penalizes a number of violations. This law broadly defines such violations as a class B misdemeanor for non-compliance with such things as smoke alarm requirements and air conditioning regulations. Such crimes are punishable by the jail time and a $500 maximum fine. The Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported on the criminal penalties.

The Tennessee law, approved with nearly all Republicans in both chambers in favor and almost all Democrats opposed, was signed by Gov. Bill Lee on May 17. It’s one of five new state laws this year that have drawn backlash from LGBTQ advocates, including the Human Rights Campaign, which decried the sign mandate as discriminatory and “offensive and humiliating.” The American Civil Liberties Union is recruiting businesses as possible plaintiffs in a likely lawsuit. The requirement begins July 1.

This week, Rudd said he did intend for the law to carry the criminal penalty and only “answered the question he was asked” during the committee meeting in March. When the AP asked him earlier this month about enforcement and penalties, Rudd did not mention the criminal penalties, saying district attorneys could ask a judge to force compliance and judges could seek “whatever judicial remedies the court deems appropriate” if a business won’t post the signs, or people could file civil lawsuits.

In the March committee meeting, Rudd also said there would be “no state department overseeing this right now because there is no fine” and said it would be possible “someone could press charges, then it would be up to a sheriff and a DA to investigate.”

“So all the questions I got — ‘does your bill provide any penalties?’ — well, no, it’s already in code. I wasn’t asked that question,” Rudd told The Associated Press.

Democratic Rep. Bill Beck, who asked Rudd about what penalties would exist, said he misled his fellow lawmakers.

“It was a misleading statement to the entire, full State Committee, some 20 representatives,” Beck, who opposed the bill, told the AP. “Very discouraging to pass

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‘We Have Law Enforcement Watching’

At a White House rally on Saturday, President Donald Trump doubled-down on his claims of “crooked” and “fraudulent” ballots found and submitted for the upcoming presidential election, repeating that there are “tremendous problems” with mail-in voting.



a crowd of people standing in front of a building: U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a rally in support of law and order on the South Lawn of the White House on October 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump invited over two thousand guests to hear him speak just a week after he was hospitalized for COVID-19.


© Samuel Corum/Getty Images/Getty
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a rally in support of law and order on the South Lawn of the White House on October 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump invited over two thousand guests to hear him speak just a week after he was hospitalized for COVID-19.

“Did you see how many crooked ballots are being found and turned back in and fraudulent? Just what I said,” the president said during his 20-minute speech. “Then they’ll say, ‘He doesn’t believe in freedom.’ I totally believe in freedom…what we’re doing is freedom.”

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He cited the nearly 50,000 voters who received incorrect absentee ballots this week in Franklin County—home to Ohio’s capital and largest city—accounting for almost 21% of the ballots sent out in the county. Franklin County residents reported misprinted information on the ballot, including for a congressional race.

The county’s Board of Elections released a statement on Friday stating that all replacement ballots will be sent out and received within 72 hours and that every voter will be allotted only one ballot while sorting systems will not accept replacement ballots submitted by any individual who voted in-person.

“We want to make it clear that every voter who received an inaccurate ballot will receive a corrected ballot,” the statement reads. “Stringent tracking measures are in place to guarantee that a voter can only cast one vote.”

The Franklin County error was one of several isolated incidents tweeted out by Trump this week to back his claims that mail-in voting is filled with fraud. He also pointed to a New Jersey postal employee accused of dumping 99 ballots—which were placed back in the mail stream for delivery—and a Texas mayoral candidate arrested by the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, for forging at least 84 voter registration applications.

How To Vote By Mail And Make Sure Your Ballot Counts In The November Election

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Trump proceeded to falsely state that “every day” there’s a story about fraudulent ballots.

Although cases of voting fraud remain extremely rare, the president has utilized his social media and campaigning platform to hone in on isolated errors in the voting system and amplify false and unfounded claims that mail-in voting will lead to widespread fraud.

“Some thrown out, they happen to have the name Trump,” he said during the rally, referring to a small number of military ballots that were allegedly “discarded” in Pennsylvania last month.

In a statement on September 24, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, David Freed, announced that his office and the FBI were investigating this incident, which occurred in Luzerne County. Freed said that the nine recovered military ballots were found in an outside dumpster, “improperly opened” by the election staff and “discarded.”

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Trump to return to public events with ‘law and order’ address at White House

Defiant in the face of slipping opinion polls, and determined to justify his implausible claim of a full recovery from his encounter with Covid-19, Donald Trump will return to public events on Saturday with a “law and order” address to 2,000 invited guests from the White House balcony.



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images


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Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Related: ‘A surreal reality show’: Trump’s terrible week after his Covid diagnosis

Questions about the president’s health are still swirling following the refusal of doctors or aides to reveal when Trump last tested negative for coronavirus, and today’s lunchtime in-person event – just six days after he left Walter Reed medical center following a three-night stay – appears to counter his own government’s health guidelines over large gatherings and social distancing.



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Donald Trump walks from Marine One after arriving on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington DC, on 1 October.


© Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Donald Trump walks from Marine One after arriving on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington DC, on 1 October.

But after another tumultuous week in which Trump lost further ground to his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and with the 3 November general election little more than three weeks away, the president is seizing an opportunity to try to reposition himself in the race, despite the apparent health risk to attendees from a man likely to still be contagious.

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In a Friday night interview on Fox News, Trump, who was given a cocktail of antiviral drugs and strong steroids during his hospital stay, insisted he was “medication-free”.

“We pretty much finished, and now we’ll see how things go. But pretty much nothing,” Trump said when Fox medical analyst Dr Marc Siegel asked the president what medications he was still taking.

Earlier in the day, Dr Sean Conley, Trump’s personal physician, issued a letter clearing the president to return to in-person campaign events, but omitting any medical justification, including crucial information about any negative coronavirus tests.

In the Friday interview, Trump said he had been tested, but gave a vague answer about it. “I haven’t even found out numbers or anything yet,” he said. “But I’ve been retested and I know I’m at either the bottom of the scale or free.”

Trump’s speech today at the White House South Lawn will address “law and order” and protests around the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd and racial issues, sources revealed on Friday.

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Can Pelosi Invoke 25th Amendment To Remove Trump From White House? What The Law States, How It’s Implemented

KEY POINTS

  • President Trump has been given two experimental treatments and a powerful steroid to treat COVID-19
  • Pelosi questioned Trump’s recent behavior, saying he appears to be in an “altered state”
  • Trump responded, calling Pelosi crazy

Democratic lawmakers say they are concerned about President Donald Trump’s mental state following treatment for COVID-19 and introduced legislation Friday to create a commission to determine if the president is fit for office under the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The discussion comes just 24 days before the Nov.3 election.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said there never has been a good time to set up the commission but the current situation has focused everyone’s attention.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied this is just another attempt by Democrats to go around the voting process.

“This is not about President Trump. He will face the judgment of voters. But he shows the need to create a process for future presidents,” Pelosi said.

The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967 to clarify the process, and though it calls for such a commission, one never was set up.

Historically, the practice has been for the vice president to succeed to the nation’s highest office, if the president was out of the picture.

George H.W. Bush became acting president in July 1985 while Ronald Reagan underwent a colonoscopy, but not when Reagan was shot in 1981. Richard Cheney became acting president in June 2002 and July 2007 while George W. Bush underwent colonoscopies. In all three cases, the president sent letters to the speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate, making the appointments. Subsequent letters then were submitted rescinding the appointments.

The last time a vice president succeeded to the presidency due to the death of a president was 1963 when Lyndon Johnson became president after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

If the vice president and majority of the president’s cabinet determine the president is unable to perform the duties of office, they can issue a declaration and transfer power to the vice president.

Pelosi Thursday said the president appears to be “in an altered state right now,” citing the powerful steroid dexamethasone he was prescribed to treat COVID-19. The steroid is known for causing aggression, irritability and interference with thought processes. She also mentioned Trump bragging about the medications he was given, all of which still are undergoing evaluation.

Trump responded by calling Pelosi crazy.

Pelosi cited Trump’s tweet Tuesday ordering an end to stimulus negotiations while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted he had stopped going to the White House in August because he was dissatisfied with the precautions being taken against spread of the coronavirus.

This is not the first time invoking the 25th Amendment has come up during Trump’s presidency. The New York Times reported former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested it two years ago during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The order of succession is laid out by the Presidential Succession Act of 1947:

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House Democrats pushed through an aid package with little chance of becoming law.

House Democrats on Thursday pushed through a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan that would provide aid to families, schools, restaurants, businesses and airline workers, advancing a wish list with little chance of becoming law.

The pandemic relief measure passed the House on a 214-to-207 vote, with at least 17 Democrats joining Republicans in opposing it. The handful of moderate Democrats who bucked their party argued that with negotiations still taking place with the Trump administration, the chamber should vote on a bipartisan deal.

Republicans had already panned the relief bill as too large.

The decision to put it to a vote anyway on Thursday evening reflected mounting anxiety among some rank-and-file Democrats at the prospect of facing voters next month without being able to point to some action to provide relief. There was also a desire among some party members to formalize their latest offer.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that there was still a chance that the talks would produce a deal, but the vote shined a light on the continued failure of Congress and the White House to come together on a new package, and the dwindling chances that they can do so before lawmakers scatter to campaign for re-election.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with each other for about 50 minutes, with Mr. Mnuchin taking an offer of a $1.6 trillion package to Ms. Pelosi’s Capitol Hill suite.

Ms. Pelosi told reporters that she did not expect a resolution on a stimulus package to emerge Thursday. But she said that she was reviewing documents sent by the Treasury Department and that “we’re going back and forth with our paper and conversation.”

During the stalemate, several industries, notably airlines, are running into severe financial constraints as the virus persists and people continue to shy away from traveling. United Airlines and American Airlines began furloughs of 30,000 workers on Thursday after Congress was unable to come up with a fresh aid package for the industry.

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House Democrats discuss tougher antitrust law, some Republicans agree

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel discussed ways to tighten antitrust laws on Thursday, with two Republicans on the Democrat-dominated panel indicating potential support for some changes.

FILE PHOTO: The chamber of the House of Representatives stands at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The antitrust subcommittee, chaired by Representative David Cicilline, is expected to release a much-anticipated report into the four big tech companies — Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O, Facebook Inc FB.O, Apple APPL.O and Alphabet’s Google GOOGL.O — as soon as Monday.

In the hearing, Cicilline said the tech companies used strategies such as self-preferencing and predatory pricing to grow. “These once-scrappy, underdog startups have grown into the kinds of monopolies we last saw more than a century ago,” he said.

One witness, Bill Baer, who headed the Justice Department Antitrust Division during the Obama administration, argued to the committee that successive court rulings over the years have made it harder to block a merger.

“If courts are unwilling to step back from this overreach, legislation may well be needed to re-set the boundaries,” he said.

Representative Ken Buck, a Republican, appeared swayed by calls for tougher antitrust law, including giving more funding to the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission.

“We also need to seriously consider increasing scrutiny on big tech companies, including shifting the burden of proof required for a market dominant company to prove that a merger is not anti-competitive,” he said.

Representative Kelly Armstrong, a Republican, said he agreed with Buck on the need for “more money, more resources, (and) more enforcement.” He indicated he would be interested in discussing “tweaks” to antitrust law.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, repeated his concern that Big Tech firms were “out to get conservatives.”

The Justice Department is also probing the big four tech platforms, and is expected to file a lawsuit against Google next week.

Facebook and Amazon also face inquiries by the FTC, while U.S. state attorneys general are looking at Facebook and Google.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose; editing by Richard Pullin

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House committee holds hearing on repeal of bailout law

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The alleged corruption that led to passage of a nuclear plant bailout law and questions about whether the bailout was financially necessary demand the law’s immediate repeal and replacement, Democratic and Republican lawmakers testified Thursday.

Supporters of the energy policy contained within the law who worry a repeal throws the baby “out with the bath water” overlook the enormous problems with the law, said Rep. Laura Lanese.

“I would counter that what we have now isn’t bathwater, but mud,” Lanese told the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight, created to hear the repeal. “And once you have mud, you can’t cleanly separate the dirt from the water and still have confidence you got rid of all the dirt.”

At issue is the law passed last year and known as HB6, which would add a fee to every electricity bill in the state and direct over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo.

The law is now at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe that led to the ouster of former GOP House Speaker Larry Householder. Federal prosecutors in July accused Householder and four others of shepherding energy company money for personal and political use as part of an effort to pass the legislation, then kill any attempt to repeal it at the ballot.

Federal documents make clear the company was Akron-based FirstEnergy.

While FirstEnergy and its executives have denied wrongdoing and have not been criminally charged, federal investigators say the company secretly funneled millions to secure a $1 billion legislative bailout for two unprofitable Ohio nuclear plants then operated by an independently controlled subsidiary called FirstEnergy Solutions.

In addition to the corruption charges, there’s evidence that the plants didn’t need the bailout, said Lanese and fellow GOP Rep. Dave Greenspan. They noted that a FirstEnergy spinoff company announced an $800 million stock buyback in May, after the law was passed.

In addition, a portion of the bill also provided guaranteed profits for the company even if revenue dips, which could be worth $350 million to FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries, they said.

“The owner and operator of the nuclear plants has cash flow and is profitable today, months before the first cent from House Bill 6 is set to reach them,” Greenspan said.

In addition, by favoring nuclear energy over other clean energy options, the bill created winners and losers, Greenspan said.

Democratic Reps. Michael O’Brien, of Warren, and Michael Skindell, of suburban Cleveland, also testified in favor of a repeal. The effort has broad bipartisan support, including backing from Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

Householder was removed from his leadership post in a unanimous vote following his arrest. He was one of the driving forces behind the energy law.

Householder remains a state lawmaker, has pleaded not guilty to a corruption charge and says he’s innocent and will fight the charge.

Newly elected House Speaker Bob Cupp and Republican committee chairperson Rep. Jim Hoops have

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