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What We're Watching: Week of April 22

Alyssa Hansen
19 Apr, 2019
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As the legislative session continues to quickly wind down, we want to take a moment to reiterate one of our points from last week's update. With essentially all committees now closed (with the exception of Finance and a couple of Senate committees that are hearing their final calendars),  we'll continue to note more legislation that's being heard on the floor. Please continue to 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 the last minute, so we want to make sure that you know what bills lawmakers are discussing, even if it's Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning. This is also the point when any late-session surprises are likely to happen, so we will be monitoring committees and calendars closely to note any legislation that a lawmaker might try to sneak in without anyone noticing.  Last week, we highlighted key legislation that we are continuing to watch during these final weeks.  On Tuesday, the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee will hear Governor Lee's school voucher legislation just before it is heard on the House Floor at 9:00 a.m. Once again, the bill easily passed out of a House committee on a voice vote. Lawmakers continue to rush 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. At this point, the Senate is even considering limiting the program to Davidson and Shelby Counties, which is very different than the version that's moving through the House. We encourage you to take a few minutes and call or e-mail the members of the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee (contact information can be found by clicking on the committee name above) and your state representative 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.  Another dangerous education-related bill will likely be heard on the Senate Floor at some point next week. As originally written,  HB 564/SB 482 said that if an LEA made 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. However, as amended, the bill  would require organizations (like the Tennessee Education Association) to have its members reauthorize their payroll dues deduction to a professional employee organization every year. This not currently law and would make it more difficult for the TEA to receive dues from its members.  While it has happened many times in the past, this is  yet another attempt to go after the membership of the Tennessee Education Association. Because we expect the bill to be heard on the Senate Floor this week, we ask that you please contact your senator and ask them to vote "no" on SB 482. This is unnecessary legislation that does not address a current problem; it simply makes it more difficult for the TEA to maintain its membership. 

Monday, April 22nd Senate Floor Session, 5:00 p.m., Senate ChamberSenate Bill 971 (HB 1079):  This dangerous piece of legislation has dominated localstate, and  national headlines over t he past couple of weeks. Among several things, it would encourage voter suppression and voter registration groups could be fined or penalized if deficient forms are submitted. 

Tuesday, April 23rd

Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee, 8:30 a.m., Senate Hearing Room ISenate 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 on the House Floor at 9:00 a.m., likely as the legislation is being heard in the Senate. We ask that you also contact your state representative and ask them to vote "no" on House Bill 939. 

Senate Health & Welfare Committee, 12:30 p.m., Senate Hearing Room I
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 Judiciary Committee, 1:00 p.m., Senate Hearing Room I
Senate Bill 569 (HB 1087):  This is a dangerous piece of legislation that would have unintended consequences for local government employees. Under the bill as originally filed, they could be disciplined by a superior for calling their legislator or participating in their profession's Day on the Hill. Under the bill as first amended, local government employees could be fired.  The latest amendment language would simply limit the damages that could be awarded under the Public Employee and Political Freedom Act. However, we still remain opposed to this bill.Note: This bill has already passed in the House.

Wednesday, April 24th

House Floor Session, 9:00 a.m., House Chamber While we do not yet know what legislation will be heard on the House Floor on Wednesday morning, there is a good chance that we'll see bills that we've been watching on the agenda. As always, we will let you know about any legislation (good or bad) that is on the floor calendar. House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee, House Hearing Room IHouse Bill 900 (SB 689):  This bill restores longevity pay for executive branch employees who were hired after June 30, 2015.Note: While this bill is scheduled to be heard immediately following the House Floor session, there is a strong chance it may not be heard until the committee's Thursday meeting.