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Tennessee General Assembly Passes $52.8 Billion Budget on Thursday

Alyssa Hansen
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Just hours after we noted that lawmakers had not passed a budget as of early Thursday afternoon, both chambers resolved their differences between the two versions of the legislation and sent it to Governor Bill Lee for his signature.

Among the notable items included in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year are $500 million in bonds to go towards a new Titans stadium, rerouting $200 million that was supposed to help with relocating schools that are in floodplains to the state's already-overflowing rainy day fund, and eliminating the professional privilege tax for doctors.

Some of the provisions labor-friendly legislators attempted to add as amendments to the budget (but were ultimately voted down by the Republican supermajority) include a 90-day freeze on gas taxes and the sales tax on food and cutting the governor's salary for a "lack of effort" in doing his job.

While Tennessee families will get a 30-day cut on the grocery tax and a one-year cut to the license plate registration fee, it pales in comparison to the very real problems that are facing our state and the help that is needed.

Instead of ensuring that Tennesseans can earn a living wage and are able to provide for themselves and their families, lawmakers have once again put their incredibly out-of-touch priorities on full display just in the past week alone by criminalizing homelessness, eliminating taxes on some of their wealthiest constituents, and handing out a few afterthought breaks to the rest of us.

As we've said time and time again, the only way to change what happens at the Capitol and the kind of legislation that gets passed is to vote for candidates who support working families. Otherwise, we'll continue to see the same pattern of behavior year after year.

Shifting our focus to the work that still lies ahead, lawmakers will now turn their attention to the many bills that have been placed behind the budget, meaning that funding was not initially available for them (and still may not be).

One of those is SB 2383/HB 2397, which requires that contracts for the construction, maintenance, etc. of public buildings contain a provision that the iron and steel used for the project be made in the United States. Or, in other words, the legislation requires that some taxpayer-funded projects use products that are "Made in America" whenever possible.

Reinvesting Tennessee's tax dollars back into our state's workers and businesses is good for the economy AND supports products made right here at home.

Please take a few minutes to send a quick note to your legislators and ask them to support HB 2397/SB 2383. The message is pre-written and will be sent directly to your respective lawmakers; all you have to do is enter your address.

Once again, thank you for taking action to support good jobs and American workers!

While it's still difficult to predict if lawmakers will adjourn next week or push session into early May, we will not be sending out a legislative update next week since the majority of business has been completed. Please keep an eye on your inboxes over the coming weeks for our annual legislative wrap-up detailing the victories and struggles we faced over the past several months. Once lawmakers have officially adjourned sine die, we'll turn our full and complete focus to the upcoming elections.

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

-SB 2204/HB 2659: A sneaky caption bill, this is yet another dig at the strong working relationship between Ford and the UAW. The House version seeks to prohibit organizations that contract with the Memphis Regional Megasite from giving any preference to union-friendly contractors AND requires them to report how much is spent on work performed by union members.
Note: This bill has passed both the House and Senate. However, as we've noted, the Senate's version is different than what the House passed. Recently, the Senate did NOT agree to what the lower chamber passed, which is good news. This will be heard on the House Message Calendar this Monday (April 25th). As a reminder, if the two chambers can't resolve their differences between the bills, the next step would be for the legislation to go to a conference committee.

-SB 2383/HB 2397: This piece of legislation requires that contracts for the construction, maintenance, etc. of public buildings contain a provision that the iron and steel used for the project be made in the United States. Click here to take action and tell your lawmakers to buy American!

-HB 2143/SB 2396: The caption to this legislation carries Governor Bill Lee's proposed overhaul of Tennessee's K-12 school funding formula. You can learn more about the legislation and take action against it by clicking here.
Note: This bill will be heard in both chambers' Finance Committees this week.

-HB 2278/SB 2602: As announced earlier in session, this bill calls for a study to be conducted on the possibility of expanding railroad passenger service via Amtrak. 
Note: This bill has already passed the Senate.

-HB 2246/SB 2077: A piece of legislation that has made headlines this session, this would preempt local governments' ability to regulate the location of oil and gas pipelines.
Note: This bill will be heard on the House floor on Monday.

-HB 1201/SB 1005: In light of the ongoing federal investigation into several lawmakers, this piece of legislation seeks to sharpen disclosure requirements and make additional ethics changes.
Note: This bill has passed both chambers with bipartisan support, but legislators need to work out some differences.