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What We're Watching: Week of April 29

Alyssa Hansen
26 Apr, 2019
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Despite the efforts of thousands of Tennesseans who contacted their legislators about several bad bills that made it to the floors of both chambers, this has been one of the most disappointing and disheartening weeks at the Capitol in quite a long time. On Tuesday morning, the House barely passed its version of Governor Lee's school voucher legislation. As you've likely heard by now, the initial vote was 49-49 until House Speaker Glen Casada "assured" Representative Jason Zachary that Knox County would be removed from the final version of the bill, causing him to change his vote and break the tie. These acts of bullying and cowardice as a means to pass bad legislation are sadly becoming all too common on the Hill. Less than 48 hours later, the Senate passed its version of the bill. Now, lawmakers will have to sort out the major differences before it can go to Governor Lee for his signature. Please continue to contact your state representative and senator and tell them that vouchers have no place in Tennessee. If you will be in Nashville on Monday, there will be a  rally against vouchers at the Capitol at noon. Let's ensure that our voices continue to be heard; this fight is not over, but we need to keep the pressure on lawmakers.  In the race to wrap up their work for the year, both chambers have now passed HB 1079/SB 971 as of Thursday afternoon. As a reminder, this dangerous piece of legislation has dominated localstate, and national headlines over the 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. Similar to the voucher bill, the differences between the two versions of this legislation must be addressed by lawmakers. As is needed with vouchers, please continue to contact your state representative and senator and remind them how dangerous this bill is to our democracy. In a state that has dismally-low voter participation, this would make it even more difficult to register new voters and criminalize any incomplete forms that are submitted.  While these two bad pieces of legislation have already passed in both chambers, we're still watching another bad bill that has yet to be heard on the Senate floor. In last week's update, we mentioned HB 564/SB 482. As originally written, the legislation 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 is 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 TEA's membership. Because the bill is scheduled to be heard on the Senate floor on Monday afternoon, 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 29th House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee, 1:00 p.m., House Hearing Room I House Bill 900 (SB 689): This bill restores longevity pay for executive branch employees who were hired after June 30, 2015. Senate Floor Session, 3:30 p.m., Senate Chamber Senate Bill 482 (HB 564): As originally written, this piece of legislation 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. 

Tuesday, April 30th

Senate Floor Session, 8:30 a.m., Senate Chamber

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.

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.