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What We're Watching: Week of April 15

Alyssa Hansen
12 Apr, 2019
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With the end of the legislative session likely just weeks away, we are starting to see things move even faster on the Hill. Nearly all of the subcommittees are closed in the House, and both chambers are adding extra floor sessions to their calendars. As we mentioned last week, we'll continue to note more legislation that's being heard on the floor, especially since that will be the only place where bills will be heard during the final days. Please keep a close eye on our Facebook page for last-minute details about any legislation that will be heard on the House or Senate floor. Those calendars often aren't available until after this update is sent out, so we want to make sure that you know what bills lawmakers are discussing, even if it's Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning.  Despite the General Assembly's upcoming adjournment, there are still several key pieces of legislation that we're watching closely. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee will hear Governor Lee's school voucher legislation before being heard in the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee the next day. This past week, the bill easily passed out of a House subcommittee on a voice vote with essentially little to no debate. Lawmakers are simply rushing this dangerous bill through the committee process, rather than considering the negative impact that this legislation will have on students, parents, and teachers throughout the state. We encourage you to take a few minutes and call or e-mail the members of both of these committees (contact information can be found by clicking on the committee names above) and ask them to vote "no" on this bill. The future of public education in Tennessee is at stake, and we need to do our part to stop this legislation.  On an administrative note, some of our affiliates have asked about a legislative scorecard on particular lawmakers. If there is a specific group of legislators or bills that you are watching and would like to see the vote count, please let us know. We are happy to run a legislative scorecard that's customized to your interests so that we can all hold lawmakers accountable to working families when election season gets closer.

Tuesday, April 16th Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee, 8:30 a.m., Senate Hearing Room I

Senate Bill 795 (HB 939):  A very dangerous piece of legislation,  this is the caption bill that carries Governor Lee's "parent choice" proposal, otherwise known as the bill that would create a school voucher system in Tennessee. There have been countless amendments filed over the past few weeks. As we have done in the last several legislative updates, we encourage you to  contact the members on this committee and ask them to vote "no" on this bill.Note: This bill will also be heard in the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday immediately following the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee. We ask that you also contact the members on this committee and ask them to vote "no" on House Bill 939.

Senate State & Local Government Committee, 10:00 a.m., Senate Hearing Room I

Senate Bill 364 (HB 563): Nearly identical to a bill that was filed in 2017 by now-Congressman Mark Green,  this harmful legislation deals with local control, specifically the legislature's desire to eradicate it. The bill prohibits state and local governments from taking discriminatory action against a business based on the business's internal policies. In the past, it has been dubbed a "license to discriminate." Note: This legislation has already passed in the House.

Senate Bill 1318 (HB 1477): This bill would make it easier to vote in Tennessee. It would allow a valid photo ID issued by the state of Tennessee, the United States, or a student ID from a Tennessee college or university to be used for verifying a voter's identity.

Senate Bill 196 (HB 261): This piece of legislation makes several changes to the "Right to Earn a Living Act," which became law in 2016. Despite its name, this was a dangerous bill that  loosened licensing requirements in Tennessee and was backed by the NFIB and the Beacon Center of Tennessee.Note: This bill will also be heard in the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee on Wednesday immediately following the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee.

House Education Committee, 11:00 a.m., House Hearing Room I

House Bill 707 (SB 775):  This good bill filed by the United Campus Workers would require the creation of a policy that would compensate adjunct faculty at public institutions of higher education at least $1,000 per credit hour taught. Note: This bill will also be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.

Senate Commerce & Labor Committee, 3:00 p.m., Senate Hearing Room I

Senate Bill 1165 (HB 1239):  According to this bill, private employers with 25 or more employees and governmental entities would be required to comply with the E-Verify program. While the bill as amended only drops the number of employees from 50 to 25, an explanation as to how the bill would be harmful to workers in its original form can be found by clicking here.   

Senate Bill 464 (HB 1050):  This good piece of legislation authorizes the governor to expand Medicaid in Tennessee. This committee will also hear a nearly-identical bill (SB 1029/HB 1430) on the same subject. 

Senate Bill 941 (HB 859): This bill creates the office of apprenticeship and work-study programs and provides a tax credit to organizations that participate in the program. 

Senate Bill 1428 (HB 1280): This bill is the Republicans' answer to the continued failure to expand Medicaid in Tennessee and would provide health care coverage for those caught in the gap through a block-grant program.

Senate Bill 1438 (HB 372): This caption bill deals with the Department of Labor & Workforce Development. However, we will not know exactly what the bill does until it is heard in committee. Another caption bill that deals with workers' compensation is also on the agenda (SB 1439/HB 374).

Wednesday, April 17th

Senate Education Committee, 2:30 p.m., Senate Hearing Room I

Senate Bill 482 (HB 564):  A repeat of legislation that we've seen in the past, this bill says that if an LEA is going to make payroll dues deduction available for one professional employees' organization, it must do so for any and all professional employees' organizations that are available and request to be included. This would incorporate groups like PET (Professional Educators of Tennessee) and is yet another attempt to go after the membership of the Tennessee Education Association.