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2019 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Alyssa Hansen
17 May, 2019
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Despite all of the post-session news surrounding House Speaker Glen Casada that has dominated headlines for the past couple of weeks, the legislature has wrapped up its business for the year. As usual, we were expecting to be the target of various attacks but seemed to come out relatively unscathed. However, we saw our fair share of bad legislation that was targeted at working families throughout the state. From Governor Lee's school voucher bill, to legislation that will have a chilling effect on Tennessee's already low voter turnout, our state has made national news several times so far in 2019 (and not for a good reason). Regardless of the Republican supermajority's dominance in both chambers, we want to thank each and every one of you who took the time to contact or visit your legislators to speak out against the many bad bills that we faced this year. Your participation in the legislative process is invaluable, and we thank you for your hard work.  

No matter what we encounter in the second half of the 111th General Assembly, we are ready to continue fighting for working families. Given that the legislative environment will likely not change over the next eight months, we currently do not plan to introduce any bills of our own next year. However, if there is a particular issue that you would like to see addressed, please contact us over the summer or fall. We're happy to meet with you and discuss options for getting a bill drafted and introduced. 

Now for the usual "numbers" portion of our legislative wrap-up. This year, nearly 1,600 bills were filed. As always, we read each and every summary as it was introduced. From there, we narrowed our list down to just under 250 bills that we felt would have the biggest impact on the entire labor movement. As we've done in the past, the top "good" and "bad" bills from this session are listed below. Remember, these are simply the bills that we've identified as the most influential for working families. Please let us know if you would like to see a complete list of everything that we tracked this year or are interested in having us generate a legislative scorecard for your local or CLC's endorsement purposes. To read more about this legislation, access video clips, and more, click on the bill number (House or Senate). You can access any of our legislative updates from this year at any time by visiting our website or clicking here. 

Top "Good" Bills

HB 901 by JerniganSB 481 by Gardenhire:  This piece of legislation makes it a Class A misdemeanor of aggravated assault to knowingly cause physical harm to a utility employee.

Status: Passed 98-0 in the House/Passed 27-5 in the Senate; bill will become law on July 1st, 2019

HB 273 by HulseySB 461 by Yarbro: T his bill would enact the "Save Tennessee Call Center Jobs Act of 2019," the main goal of which is to stop companies from sending jobs overseas and keeping jobs in Tennessee.  

Status: Sent to Summer Study in both the House and Senate

HB 216 by ClemmonsSB 255 by Kyle:  This bill would enact the "Tennessee Pay Equality Act."

Status: Failed in the House/Sent to General Subcommittee in the Senate

HB 707 by ThompsonSB 775 by Yarbro:  This good bill filed by the United Campus Workers would require the creation of a policy that would compensate adjunct faculty at public institutions of higher education at least $1,000 per credit hour taught. 

Status: Taken off notice in the House/Sent to General Subcommittee in the Senate

HB 1477 by HardawaySB 1318 by Kyle:  This bill would make it easier to vote in Tennessee. It would allow a valid photo ID issued by the state of Tennessee, the United States, or a student ID from a Tennessee college or university to be used for verifying a voter's identity.

Status: Failed in the House/Sent to General Subcommittee in the Senate

Honorable Mentions

HB  514 by Johnson, G.SB 647 by Kyle:  This bill would enact the "Tennessee State Family Leave Act" which deals with family and medical leave insurance benefits. 

Status: Failed in the House/Sent to General Subcommittee in the Senate

HB 316 by HicksSB 1442 by Bailey: This piece of legislation is designed to help firefighters who contract cancer on the job or within five years after retirement. It establishes a presumption that firefighters are at risk of developing cancer due to the nature of their work. Firefighters will have to undergo an annual exam every year to detect any cancer that may be present early, and state and local governments would be responsible for the cost associated with medical leave and treatment. While Davidson County already has a similar law in place, this bill will apply to the whole state. 

Status: Passed 94-0 in the House/Passed 33-0 in the Senate; bill is currently awaiting Governor Lee's signature. 

Top "Bad" Bills

HB 939 by Lamberth & DunnSB 795 by Johnson & Gresham:  A very dangerous piece of legislation, this is the caption bill that carries Governor Lee's "parent choice" proposal, otherwise known as the bill that would create a school voucher system in Tennessee. 

Status: Passed 50-48 in the House/Passed 20-13 in the Senate; bill is currently awaiting Governor Lee's signature but is also facing scrutiny from the FBI related to the circumstances surrounding its passage. 

HB 1079 by Rudd/SB 971 by Jackson: This dangerous piece of legislation dominated localstate, and national headlines during the last few weeks of the session. Among several things, it would encourage voter suppression and voter registration groups could be fined or penalized if deficient forms are submitted. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Tennessee NAACP have already filed suit against the state over this bill, and other groups are expected to do the same.    

Status: Passed 71-26 in the House/Passed 25-6 in the Senate; signed by Governor Lee on May 2nd.

HB 564 by DunnSB 482 by Gardenhire:  As originally written, this piece of the legislation said that if an LEA made payroll dues deduction available for one professional employees' organization, it must do so for any and all professional employees' organizations that are available and request to be included. However, as amended, the bill would require organizations (like the Tennessee Education Association) to have its members reauthorize their payroll dues deduction to a professional employee organization every year. This is not currently law and would make it more difficult for the TEA to receive dues from its members.  

Status: Passed 84-9-1 in the House/Failed to Pass in the Senate 8-19-2

HB 1087 by BrickenSB 569 by Bowling:  This is a dangerous piece of legislation that would have unintended consequences for local government employees. Under the bill as originally filed, they could be disciplined by a superior for calling their legislator or participating in their profession's Day on the Hill. Under the bill as first amended, local government employees could be fired.  The final amendment language would simply limit the damages that could be awarded under the Public Employee and Political Freedom Act. However, we still remained opposed to this bill during session. 

Status: Passed 63-27-2 in the House/Passed  29-0 in the Senate; bill is currently awaiting Governor Lee's signature. 

HB 1280 by Hill, T.SB 1428 by Bailey:  This bill is the Republicans' answer to the continued failure to expand Medicaid in Tennessee and would provide health care coverage for those caught in the gap through a block-grant program.

Status: Passed 68-21-1 in the House/Passed 24-5 in the Senate; bill is currently awaiting Governor Lee's signature. 

Dishonorable Mention

HB 563 by Zachary/SB 364 by Rose: Nearly identical to a bill that was filed in 2017 by now-Congressman Mark Green, this harmful legislation deals with local control, specifically the legislature's desire to eradicate it. The bill prohibits state and local governments from taking discriminatory action against a business based on the business's internal policies. In the past, it has been dubbed a "license to discriminate." 

Status: Passed 68-22 in the House/Action Deferred Until 2020 in the Senate