What We're Watching: Week of March 18

As several subcommittees continue announcing their final calendars (many of which will be heard this week), our updates are getting longer and including bills that cover a wide range of issues. From voting rights, to pay equality, we are watching hundreds of pieces of legislation that would have an impact on working families throughout Tennessee. As we noted in the most recent update, the bills that we list are just a few of the dozens that we are monitoring during a typical week. We have also added several pieces of legislation to our main tracked bills list at the request of some of our affiliates. This document is always growing and changing, so please let us know if there is a particular piece of legislation (good or bad) that you are interested in but do not see on this list. 
 
Because this week's update is the longest one yet this session, there are a few important items that we'd like to point out. First, Governor Lee recently unveiled some more details about his "education savings account" bill, which is his plan to create a school voucher system in Tennessee and take money away from public education. Despite the fancy name, we know that this is a dangerous bill that could have dire consequences for both parents and students throughout the state. This Tuesday (March 19th), the legislation will start moving its way through the House and is scheduled to be heard in the Curriculum, Testing & Innovation Subcommittee. We encourage you to take a few minutes and  call or e-mail the legislators who are on the committee  and ask them to vote "no" on House Bill 939. The future of public education in Tennessee is at stake, and we need to do our part to make sure that this legislation does not pass. 
 
There are several other new bills that are listed in this week's update, including ones that deal with affordable housing in Nashville, paid leave, and voting rights. Please look over next week's agenda carefully and let us know if you have any questions. We say it often, but it's worth repeating: please share these updates with your locals and CLCs so that we can keep our members informed and up-to-date. The more that we know about what's going on at the Capitol, the better-prepared we are to fight back against the bad bills and work to pass the good ones!

Monday, March 18th

House Consumer & Human Resources Committee, 2:30 p.m., House Hearing Room II

House Bill 856 (SB 815):  This bill expands the types of employers who are subject to the requirements of the Healthy Workplace Act by adding private employers to the list.

Tuesday, March 19th

Senate State & Local Government Committee, 10:30 a.m., Senate Hearing Room I

Senate Bill 1303 (HB 1398):  Similar to another bill that was voted down, this piece of legislation would require a person to declare a statewide party affiliation before they could vote in a primary election. Its companion bill failed in the House this past week.

Senate Bill 90 (HB 133): One of many election-related items that are on the calendar, this bill would allow a person to use their driver's license from another state to establish their identity so that the Department of Safety could issue a photo ID card for voting in Tennessee. 
Note: This bill will also be heard in the House Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m.

Senate Bill 503 (HB 768): In an effort to get more young people registered to vote, this piece of legislation would require county election commissions to hold extra registrations at public and private high schools in both the fall and spring. High schools would also be required to provide opportunities for students to register to vote online. 
Note: This bill will also be heard in the House Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. 

Senate Bill 837 (HB 1002): This bill would require anyone who applies for a driver's license or photo ID card to be automatically registered to vote after their 18th birthday. 

Senate Bill 176 (HB 201): Attempting to tackle the lack of affordable housing in Nashville and Davidson County, this would enact the "Affordable Rental Property Act."

Senate Bill 777 (HB 334): This piece of legislation would require the Department of Safety to automatically register a person to vote based off of the information on an application for a driver's license or photo ID card, unless the person opts out of doing so. 

Senate Bill 1017 (HB 1095): Another good bill, this would require a brief summary of any question that is to be voted on, regardless of length. 

Senate Bill 196 (HB 261): This bill 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 Commerce Committee at 1:30 p.m.

Senate Bill 1093 (HB 965): This piece of legislation would allow a person who registers to vote by mail to cast their first vote by absentee ballot.

House Curriculum, Testing & Innovation Subcommittee, 12:00 p.m., House Hearing Room IV

House Bill 939 (SB 795): 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. We encourage you to contact the members on this committee and ask them to vote "no" on this bill. 

Senate Commerce & Labor Committee, 1:00 p.m., Senate Hearing Room I

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. 

House Commerce Committee, 1:30 p.m., House Hearing Room III

House Bill 614 (SB 1167): One of several hateful anti-immigrant bills filed by Representative Bruce Griffey, this piece of legislation would prohibit landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. 

House Employee Affairs Subcommittee, 3:00 p.m., House Hearing Room IV

House Bill 273 (SB 461):  As we have noted in previous updates, this bill would  enact the "Save Tennessee Call Center Jobs Act of 2019," the main goal of which is to stop companies from sending jobs overseas and keeping jobs in Tennessee.  

House Bill 986 (SB 758): This piece of legislation would enact the "Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act" and outlines reasonable accommodations that must be made for pregnant employees.

House Bill 216 (SB 255): Another good bill, this would enact the "Tennessee Pay Equality Act."

House Bill 363 (SB 420): This piece of legislation would require employers to provide four hours of paid or unpaid leave each year for parental involvement in schools. 

House Bill 514 (SB 647): This bill would enact the "Tennessee State Family Leave Act" which deals with family and medical leave insurance benefits.

Wednesday, March 20th

House Education Committee, 8:30 a.m., House Hearing Room I

House Bill 564 (SB 482): Yet another 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.
Note: This bill will also be heard in the Senate Education Committee at 2:30 p.m.

House Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee, 8:45 a.m., House Hearing Room II

House Bill 547 (SB 589): This good bill would allow people who have been convicted of certain infamous crimes to get their right to vote back after completing their sentence (imprisonment, parole, etc.) 

House Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee, 9:00 a.m., House Hearing Room IV

House Bill 1477 (SB 1318): 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.
Note: Several of the bills that will be heard in this committee will also be heard on Tuesday in the Senate State & Local Government Committee.

House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee, 11:00 a.m., House Hearing Room III

House Bill 1280 (SB 1428):
 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. 

House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, 2:00 p.m., House Hearing Room III

House Bill 250 (SB 342): This bill allows TWRA officers to authorize payroll dues deductions for certain organizations. 

House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, 3:30 p.m., House Hearing Room II

House Bill 901 (SB 481): This piece of legislation would make it a Class A misdemeanor of aggravated assault to knowingly cause physical harm to a utility employee.
Note: This bill will also be heard on the Senate floor on Monday.