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Supermajority's Toxic Behavior Peaks (Again) After House Floor Session

Alyssa Hansen
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In our Legislative Preview that was sent out in December, we described the current environment at the Capitol as being "messier than ever." Keep in mind that's when lawmakers weren't in session.

Now that two months have passed, we can confidently say that statement couldn't be more accurate. Not only is the legislature a messy place to be, it's also toxic, spiteful, and vindictive.

As we saw during the House floor session on Thursday, it's now become virtually impossible for lawmakers to get along with their counterparts across the aisle.

This is yet another example of what is bound to happen when one political party holds too much power and is continued proof that the supermajority is out-of-control.

Instead of focusing on the issues that are important to working families, lawmakers would rather grab headlines for playing political games and decide which group of their constituents is the next target of mean-spirited legislation.

We say it over and over again, but it bears repeating: the only way reasonable Tennesseans are going to be able to get ANYTHING done is to change who we send to Nashville to represent our interests. Otherwise, this authoritarian, bullying behavior that we're seeing will simply be allowed to continue with virtually zero accountability.

Shifting our focus to the coming days, even more committees are set to hold their final meetings, with some taking place this past week.

As a reminder, this is the time when things begin moving quickly. We'll keep you updated as legislators inch closer to adjournment, especially because this is when the supermajority likes to rush through controversial bills at the last minute with little or no debate. 

One very important item to note is that the statewide school voucher scheme legislation is NOT scheduled to be heard in either chamber next week. As always, keep in mind that's subject to change. Lawmakers love to throw curveballs at the last minute, especially when they think the public isn't paying attention.

Rest assured that we'll continue to keep an eye out for any unexpected surprises affecting working families until the minute both chambers adjourn sine die, which could be in about a month from now.

Don't forget to check our social media throughout the week for important updates as we enter these hectic, tense, (hopefully) final weeks of session.

A Brief Look at Some of the Additional Legislation That We're Watching Next Week

-HB 2031/SB 2570: Potentially having major implications for strikes or rallies, this piece of legislation would increase the penalty for blocking a highway, street, etc. from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony.

-HB 2043/SB 1934: Among other things, this good bill would eliminate the sales tax on groceries.

-HB 2033/SB 1888: This piece of legislation seeks to add party affiliation to voter registration forms in Tennessee. 

-HB 2155/SB 1938: While this is hopefully all that it does (although we're skeptical), this bill seeks to name the law prohibiting automatic payroll dues deduction for professional educators' organizations that passed last year the "Michael Maren Paycheck Protection Act."

-HB 1196/SB 1290: A caption bill with sponsors who aren't labor-friendly, this piece of legislation claims to deal with the public listing of apprenticeship programs. Because this is likely not what the bill actually does, we'll be watching closely to see how it's amended.

-HB 1889/SB 2102: A bill with powerful sponsors (House Majority Leader William Lamberth and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson), this would enact the "State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management (STREAM) Act" and consolidate power under the commissioner of General Services for decision-making related to all executive branch leases. You can read more about this seemingly innocent (but potentially dangerous) administration bill here.There are concerns that this could be another outsourcing/privatization push, so we'll be watching this bill closely.

-HB 1892/SB 2100: This piece of legislation authorizes the use of third-party examiners or inspectors instead of local ones for certain processes.

-HB 2602/SB 2646: Seeking to address an important issue that hasn't been solved in 15 years (thanks in large part to the supermajority), this would increase Tennessee's minimum wage to $20. A similar bill (HB 2396/SB 2409) would increase the minimum hourly wage for food delivery employees to $12.

-SB 1807/HB 2070: A good bill, this would create the Office of Rail and Public Transportation and require the entity to (among its other responsibilities) determine the specifics of what is needed to undertake passenger rail service in Tennessee.

-HB 2113/SB 2017: As we learned recently, this proposal shortens the amount of time that someone has to begin a cause of action for unpaid wages for hours worked, overtime, etc. to three years.
NOTE: This bill will be heard on the House floor on Monday night.

-HJR 797: Nearly-identical to a bill that has already passed the House, this resolution would prohibit a legislator who is expelled from the Tennessee General Assembly from being reelected to, reappointed by, or employed by the body.

-HB 2080/SB 1968: A bill that has generated lots of headlines, this would block an individual who currently holds elected office from holding another elected office in Tennessee at the same time. At least one Republican representative already does what the legislation is trying to prevent, but Democrats have said that they believe this is specifically-targeted at Representative Gloria Johnson, who is currently running for both the U.S. Senate and her Tennessee House seat.

-HB 417/SB 383: Among other things, this piece of legislation would prohibit employers from asking about or requiring an applicant to provide their past pay history. 

-HB 1554/SB 1545: This bill seeks to establish a program that would allow state employees to receive as much as six weeks of paid leave if they become a foster parent.