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2023 Legislative Preview: New Lawmakers Get to Work and Headline-Grabbing Bills Make News Already

Alyssa Hansen
18 Jan, 2023
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With the 2022 General Election behind us, we now turn our focus back to the Tennessee General Assembly and the recently-convened legislative session. As of last Tuesday (January 10th), the 113th Tennessee General Assembly is now in session. Because this is an entirely new class of lawmakers, the legislature is currently in the midst of its organizational recess: the Senate will resume its regular session on January 24th, and the House will reconvene on January 30th. As we outlined in our most recent weekly calendar, the last day for lawmakers to file bills is January 31st in the House and February 2nd in the Senate (note that this second date has changed).

While there are lots of newcomers to the Tennessee General Assembly, the makeup of both chambers has barely shifted. In the House, Republicans hold 75 seats and Democrats hold 23 seats. Following the death of longtime State Representative Barbara Cooper in October, a special election is currently underway to fill her seat. Additional details about that process can be found here. In the Senate, the numbers are unchanged at 27 Republicans and six Democrats. Think Tennessee, a non-partisan organization, has compiled the names of the new legislators who were sworn in last week. You can view the entire list by clicking here and scrolling down to the "New Members" section. There's also information about the new legislative districts that were drawn last year. In terms of leadership, Cameron Sexton is still Speaker of the House. Representative William Lamberth is the House Majority Leader, and Representative Jeremy Faison is the Caucus Chairman. The Democrats are led by Representative Karen Camper and Representative John Ray Clemmons. In the upper chamber, Senator Randy McNally will continue serving as the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate. For a list of committee assignments, click here for the House and here for the Senate.

You may have also seen the news that the public now has access to the Tennessee House Dashboard application, which allows constituents to see committee and floor calendars, legislation, amendments, and much more. Now, Tennesseans have the same access to this information as their representatives and can see updates in real time. Please note that this is different and much more detailed than what's already provided on the General Assembly's regular website. Access to the Dashboard is free, but you must create an account. If you're interested in doing so, click here. For a legislature that often relies on political games, tricks, and backroom deals, this is a welcome step forward in transparency.

Now for a quick recap of what happened last year and what we expect to see in the coming weeks. For a full summary of where things left off in the spring, click here. You can also access any of our legislative updates from 2022 by clicking on the "Legislative Updates" section of our website. We've already started and will continue reading through any and all filed legislation to flag anything that may affect working families in either a positive or negative way. As of right now, our weekly legislative updates will likely start in mid-February. This timeline has the potential to be altered to accommodate any early calls to action that may need to be sent out.

Below, we've listed some of the bills or issues we 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

These are some of the issues/bills that we've either dealt with or anticipate encountering. Given Republicans' continued dominance in both chambers, we expect to see a handful of bad legislation aimed at workers, the labor movement, local control, etc.

-Legislation impacting union elections. Two identical bills were filed last year that would tie the hands of private businesses that may want to locate in Tennessee in the future by making them ineligible to receive state monies or be required to return them if any votes on worker representation are not held by a secret ballot election. We sent out numerous calls to action on this, and your advocacy played a major role in stopping these pieces of legislation. However, leadership indicated at the end of session that they are likely to bring this back in 2023.

-Legislation impacting union work at the Memphis Regional Megasite. Last session, a sneaky caption bill that was another dig at the strong working relationship between Ford and the UAW originally sought to prohibit organizations that contract with the Memphis Regional Megasite from giving any preference to union-friendly contractors AND would require them to report how much is spent on work performed by union members. The Senate version of the bill (which ultimately became law) is much less harmful, and the reporting requirements will no longer be in effect after July 2025. However, it wouldn't be surprising to see anti-worker lawmakers go after what they didn't get last year.

-Legislation reducing the size of Nashville's Metro Council from 40 members to 20 members. Already filed as House Bill 48/Senate Bill 87 and sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth and Senator Bo Watson, this is a petty, vindictive retaliation by the supermajority for the Council blocking the 2024 Republican National Convention and an attack on local control. This is one of the first major pieces of legislation that we expect will be calendared quickly.

-Legislation dealing with equal pay for equal work, paid leave policies, and pre-empting the decisions of local governments. These are some of theissues that we see discussed nearly every year, so we'll be watching for any bills on these topics.

-More constitutional amendments. Continued proof that the supermajority does not value the sanctity of the Tennessee Constitution (especially after our fight against Amendment 1 for nearly three years) and is continuing to abuse its power, a proposal has already been introduced that would move county elections from August to November, likely confusing voters.