2020 Legislative Session Wrap-Up, Part 1
23 Apr, 2020
Late last night, the second half of the 111th Tennessee General Assembly recessed until at least June 1st, 2020 (if not later). To say that the proceedings around passing the budget were anything but business as usual would be an understatement. Governor Bill Lee's proposed budget was made public, put before lawmakers, discussed, and passed all within less than 24 hours. For a thorough, detailed recap of the week's (and especially Thursday's) proceedings, we recommend reading through this article from The Tennessean. Passing the budget is always a very detailed-oriented affair filled with weeks of debate, but the events of the past several days left many of us with whiplash. Unfortunately and disappointingly, the process was rushed and did not fully take into account the needs of all Tennesseans. The Senate approved the budget on a 29-0 vote, while the House passed it on an 87-3 vote (Representatives Gloria Johnson, Vincent Dixie, and G.A. Hardaway voted "no.") Some of the highlights (both the good, the bad, and the ugly) of Governor Lee's scaled-down, $39.8 billion budget include...
- While the governor has put $150 million towards public health issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is only making a small increase to the uninsured adult health care safety net.
- Money originally allocated for teacher pay raises has been cut in half.
- Despite the cuts made after the governor's initial proposal in February, the approved budget still contains nearly $40 million to implement Tennessee's school voucher plan.
- An additional $30 million is being set aside for TEMA's ongoing response and clean-up related to the March 3rd tornado.
- Representative Bo Mitchell asked the House to remove funding for Governor Lee's school voucher program from the budget.
- Representative Bill Beck introduced an amendment aimed at helping the hospitality industry that is facing an extremely difficult future in light of COVID-19 closures.
- Representative Gloria Johnson advocated for universal vote-by-mail during a pandemic.
- Representative John Ray Clemmons introduced an amendment that would have expanded Medicaid in Tennessee (doing this would be a major help in dealing with COVID-19 in our state).