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Victory for Democracy as Representatives Jones & Pearson are Reappointed

Alyssa Hansen
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Just over a week ago, Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were unjustly expelled from the Tennessee General Assembly.

As of yesterday morning, both men have now been reappointed to their old seats after votes by Nashville's Metro Council and the Shelby County Commission earlier this week and sworn in as legislators once again.

While Representatives Jones and Pearson will still have to run in special elections later this year, the events of the past week are clear proof that democracy won.

Instead of addressing the serious and deadly problem of gun violence, the supermajority chose to engage in expulsion proceedings that did nothing but showcase their blatant abuse of power.

While we celebrate the fact that these two representatives are back at the Capitol, we know that the fight for democracy is far from over. 

As Representative Gloria Johnson pointed out, it's crucial that folks know what's going on and pay attention to what's happening at the Capitol.

That's absolutely been the case throughout the past week, but that awareness needs to continue and we're committed to doing our part (as we've always done) to make that happen for our members and allies.

Before summarizing the bills that are still on our radar, we'd like to share a quick update on HB 1342/SB 650.

Due to slight differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill (including an amendment filed on the Senate floor dealing with clawback provisions), lawmakers have not been able to agree on a final version just yet.

At this point, a conference committee will likely be appointed in the coming days so that differences can be addressed. However, we are still waiting for that to happen.

To be clear, the legislation has already passed and we are NOT expecting any major changes. This is simply the final step in the legislative process when members from both chambers cannot agree on one version of the bill.

As session moves toward what could be its final two weeks, things will start to move VERY quickly and can change at a moment's notice, so please keep an eye on these updates and social media.

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

Note: Budget discussions are either already underway or are scheduled to begin next week in both chambers. Nearly all of the bills listed below are set to be heard in the Finance, Ways & Means Committee or on the House/Senate floor. We're continuing to watch numerous caption bills closely for any late-filed amendments that impact working families.

-HB 329/SB 281: Another example of a bad (caption) bill that's filed almost every year, this would eliminate automatic payroll dues deduction for professional educators' organizations (like the Tennessee Education Association) and create an unnecessary financial burden. This year, however, a pay raise is deliberately included in the same bill.
Note: This bill has already passed in the Senate and is scheduled to be heard on the House floor on Monday (April 17th). However, the section eliminating automatic payroll dues deduction was REMOVED in the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee last week. If the bill were to pass the House in its current form, lawmakers in both chambers would have to agree on the same version or the legislation would head to a conference committee. We'll continue to keep you updated as this bill moves toward final passage.

-HB 1197/SB 1335: This piece of legislation would overhaul appointments to the Metro Nashville Sports Authority; the mayor would be allowed to appoint three directors, while all other appointments would come from the governor, the speaker of the House, and the speaker of the Senate.

-HB 433/SB 12: Continuing to have a negative impact on public education across the state, this piece of legislation would expand Tennessee's school voucher program to include Hamilton County schools.
Note: This bill has already passed in the Senate.

-HB 1107/SB 1427: Another unnecessary power grab by the supermajority, this bill would vacate, reduce the number of members, and restructure Tennessee State University's Board of Trustees.

-HB 1060/SB 1285: Yet another sneaky caption bill and only a couple of years after the legislature chose to cut the amount of time that someone could receive unemployment benefits, this would add to the work search requirements needed to keep those benefits.

-HB 712/SB 108: This bill raises the wages of preferred service employees in the Department of Correction by 15%.  

-HB 1336/SB 1053: A good bill, this would enact the "Workers Need Child Care Act."

-HB 317/SB 269: Rather than classifying it as a day of special observance, this bill would make Juneteenth a legal holiday in Tennessee.
Note: This bill has already passed in the Senate.

-HJR 13: Another piece of legislation that made headlines earlier this session, this would authorize moving county elections from August to November, potentially confusing voters and giving the supermajority an additional opportunity to add to its power.