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What We're Watching: Week of February 17

Alyssa Hansen
17 Feb, 2020
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Welcome to the second half of the 111th Tennessee General Assembly! This year is already off to a busy start, and we're grateful to stand in solidarity with all of you as we fight to ensure that the priorities of working families are heard loud and clear at the legislature. As our office has done for the past several years during session, we will send out these updates every Friday (except for this one, of course!) to keep you informed as to what's happening at the Capitol, highlight what bills we'll be watching over the next few days, and alert you to any actions that we are asking you to undertake. These will also be posted under the "Legislative Updates" section of our website. Whether it's a phone call, e-mail, or a visit with your legislator, you have immense power to make a difference and effect change. Our lobbying work is nothing without all of you, and we are counting on the strength and support of all of our members to achieve our victories, both large and small.  Even though the legislative session has only been underway for about a month, many of you have already taken action against SJR 648 (aka The "Kelsey Amendment") during its journey through the Senate. As we've noted, this harmful resolution seeks to enshrine Tennessee's Right to Work law in the state constitution. Despite false benefits touted by supporters, these laws do absolutely noting positive for working families. They keep wages low (Tennessee is at the top of the list for the number of minimum wage jobs), drive up the number of workplace deaths, and increase poverty rates, just to name a few. Last month, President Billy Dycus testified against this resolution in the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee and emphasized his concerns to lawmakers. Unfortunately, after both his remarks and many calls and e-mails to senators from all of you, this resolution passed the full Senate by a vote of 24-5 this past Monday. You can watch a video of the discussion by clicking here.  Our attention now turns to the House, where the amendment's first stop will be the House Employee Affairs Subcommittee. While it will not be heard this week, you can still take action now and make sure that the group of representatives who will hear it first knows that working families are strongly opposed to HJR 687. Direct phone numbers and e-mail addresses for the legislators on this subcommittee can be found here. A call script is also included for you to use. If you prefer, you can send a pre-written letter to your representative by clicking here and typing in your information. Keep in mind that this will be a multi-year process, and we will have several opportunities to hopefully stop this dangerous resolution. The legislation must pass this year AND during either the first or second half of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly before going on the ballot in 2022. We will keep you updated weekly (at the very least) as to what is happening with this major piece of legislation and arm you with the tools that you will need to help take action against it and stand with working families throughout the state.  While this issue is obviously at the top of our legislative priorities, there are still many other bills that we are watching. After much reading and sifting through the 1,500+ bills that were filed since lawmakers adjourned in May, we finally have a tentative list of all of the legislation that we'll be keeping an eye on this year. We encourage you to take a look at this document, which can be accessed here, and let us know if there is anything that you might personally be watching and feel that we should add. Please keep in mind that this document is ever-evolving and changing. As we start to see what certain caption bills actually aim to do, some items will drop off and others will be added. One final important note: any of our tracked bills from last year that were not voted down are still technically "alive" and can be heard at any point during session. To read last year's list of monitored legislation, click here. We know that this is a lot of information, but we want to make sure that everyone is not only aware of what we are doing but also empowered to help us take action in support of all of Tennessee's working families. 
Tuesday, February 18th Senate State & Local Government Committee, 10:30 a.m., Senate Hearing Room ISenate Bill 741 (HB 1207): This legislation authorizes state agencies to provide child care services for state employees.Senate Bill 1773 (HB 2045): According to this bill, the amount that the state will match to an employee's optional retirement plan would increase to $75.House State Committee, 10:30 a.m., House Hearing Room IHouse Bill 1615 (SB 1578): Focused on correctional employees, this bill authorizes the Department of Corrections to contribute state funds toward the funeral expenses of any of its employees who are killed in the line of duty. House Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee, 4:30 p.m., House Hearing Room IIHouse Joint Resolution 779: This absurd resolution from Representative Micah Van Huss condemns CNN and the Washington Post and classifies them as "fake news." House K-12 Subcommittee, 4:30 p.m., House Hearing Room IIIHouse Bill 1648 (SB 1822): This good bill requires Local Education Agencies to provide an opportunity for enrollment in a pre-K program to all children who are four years old by the end of each September. 
Wednesday, February 19thHouse Education Committee, 9:00 a.m., House Hearing Room IHouse Bill 1589 (SB 1593): This legislation enacts the "Tennessee Anti-Lunch Shaming Act" and prohibits a school from taking action against a student who can't pay for a meal or who has an outstanding meal debt. House Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee, 10:00 a.m., House Hearing Room IVHouse Bill 2862 (SB 2266): Attempting to make it easier to vote, this good bill allows any Tennessean who is registered to vote to do so absentee for any reason after verifying his or her identity.Senate Education Committee, 3:00 p.m., Senate Hearing Room ISenate Bill 1982 (HB 2460): According to this legislation, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development would be required to establish a three-year pilot program to help adults over the age of 19 earn their high school diploma.House Public Service & Employees Subcommittee, 3:30 p.m., House Hearing Room IVHouse Bill 1994 (SB 2203): This bill deals with executive branch employees who are engaged in executive service and prohibits them from lobbying for 12 months after leaving state service.