2022 Legislative Preview: What Lies Ahead for the Second Half of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly
Between the regular session that began in January and the three special sessions that were held over the course of the past year, 2021 saw plenty of legislative action and developments. As we noted in our post-session recap back in May, this was undoubtedly one of the most difficult legislative sessions in quite some time for working families. Through multiple bills, the Republican supermajority made it abundantly clear that it is pro-business and anti-worker. Multiple bad bills passed both chambers, and the countless good bills that were filed hardly saw the light of the day or weren't even given a fair shot at a committee hearing. For a full summary of where things left off earlier this year, click here. You can also access any of our legislative updates from this past year by clicking on the "Legislative Updates" section of our website.
Now, it's time to prepare for the start of a new legislative session that begins in just a few weeks. Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene at noon on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022. Because this was only the first half of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly, anything that was taken off notice, sent to general subcommittee, etc. can be brought back next year. We like to say that nothing is ever truly dead at the legislature, especially when it's only the first year of a particular session. Lawmakers can play lots of games to suspend the rules and bring back bills that were previously assumed to no longer be a threat. Given that 2021 was not an election year, there will be no two-week reorganization period; lawmakers will simply begin their regular business after the first week. Because of this, we expect that bills will tentatively begin moving during the week of January 17th, and committee calendars will start filling up very quickly. While the Tennessee General Assembly is still made up of 27 Republicans and 6 Democrats in the Senate and 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats in the House, newly-elected Representative Greg Vital will fill the seat previously held by Mike Carter, who passed away earlier this year.
Between now and the start of session, we'll continue reading through any and all filed legislation to flag anything that may affected working families in either a positive or negative way. As of right now, our weekly legislative updates will likely start in mid-to-late January. This timeline has the potential to be altered to accommodate any early calls to action that may need to be issued. We'll also be sure to share important dates like bill filing deadlines and a potential adjournment timeline once it is made available. Because 2022 is an election year, we anticipate that business will move fairly quickly over the next few months so that legislators who are running for re-election can continue raising money (this is not able to happen while they are in session).
Below, we've listed some of the bills or issues we know we will see or expect to see during this legislative session. Please keep in mind that this is by no means a full or complete list, just a summary of some of the major issues that we anticipate facing over the coming months. As always, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out. We look forward to working with all of you to ensure that Tennessee's labor movement has a strong voice during this legislative session.
Filed & Potentially Soon-to-be-Filed Legislation
Several of the bills listed below will likely sound very familiar, especially if they did not pass both chambers this past year and have a high likelihood of coming back in 2022. If a particular piece of legislation was introduced in 2021, we've also included its current status heading into a new legislative session.
-Legislation impacting union elections. Following the October special session to approve the massive incentive package that was offered to Ford to build its Blue Oval City at the Memphis Regional Megasite in West Tennessee, Representative Robin Smith announced her intention to introduce legislation that would prohibit using the card check certification process for future union elections. While the legality of this is highly questionable, this is an issue that we will need to watch closely.
-Legislation "fixing" some of the actions taken during the COVID-19 special session. Although Governor Bill Lee signed the massive COVID-related omnibus bill that was passed in the middle of the night in late October, several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed a serious interest in undoing parts of that new law. As you may remember, this special session was a rare instance of the Republican supermajority at odds with the business community.
-Redistricting. While we are still waiting to see what the final maps that will be submitted for approval look like, there's been no shortage of rumblings about some of the likely scenarios that we'll see in the coming months. Because lawmakers ultimately have to approve the final maps, this could easily be one of the first orders of business during this session. Maps must be finalized by the candidate qualifying deadline of April 7th, 2022.
-Legislation dealing with equal pay for equal work, paid leave policies, and pre-empting the decisions of local governments. These are some of the issues that we see discussed nearly every year, so we'll be watching for any bills on these topics.
-HB 1210/SB 878: A bad piece of legislation directed at the Tennessee Education Association, this was a caption bill that sought to eliminate automatic payroll dues deduction for TEA members, placing an unnecessary financial burden on the organization. Because this is still "alive" in the Senate, it could easily come back next year.
Status: Failed in the House, Passed the Senate Education Committee
-HB 513/SB 843: Sent to summer study in the Senate after powerful testimony by Justin Jones and others (but passed on the final day of session in the House), this bill would give immunity to anyone who claims while driving that they "unintentionally" hurt or killed someone who is protesting. This legislation also further criminalizes peaceful protesting and requires protestors to obtain a permit before any actions. We anticipate that this will come back in 2022.
Status: Passed the House 70-23, Sent to Summer Study in the Senate