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What's Ahead For 2020?

Alyssa Hansen
10 Feb, 2020
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Just over seven months ago, legislators adjourned for the first half of the 111th General Assembly and are scheduled to reconvene in roughly 30 days. There's been quite a lot of activity during that time, including Speaker Casada's resignation from his leadership position, a special session, and plenty of controversy surrounding the vote on Governor Bill Lee's school voucher bill. As has been the case for the last few years, we were expecting an onslaught of bad bills aimed at hurting working families. Fortunately, we did not see anywhere near the number of anti-labor bills that are typically introduced. There was nothing that dealt with a ban on collective bargaining, payroll dues deduction for public employees, or other dangerous issues we've encountered before. The bad legislation that was filed and passed, however, was nothing to take lightly at all. Between the state adopting a school voucher program and attempting to penalize voter registration groups for submitting deficient forms, it was clear that lawmakers did not have all Tennesseans' best interests at heart. To read our legislative recap that was sent out in May, click here.  As a reminder, the legislature will reconvene at noon on Tuesday, January 14th, 2020. Given that there is no reorganization scheduled this year, lawmakers will get right to work and will likely want to finish their business quickly so that those who are running for re-election can raise money. Our weekly legislative updates will likely start in late January and will be posted on our website. Please keep in mind that you can always find updates from past years by clicking on the "Tennessee Updates" tab from the drop-down menu. Once session officially begins, we'll be reading through any and all new bills that have been filed. Because this is the second half of the 111th General Assembly, any legislation last year that was either taken off notice or not run can be reintroduced at any time. Due to the current makeup of the General Assembly and the difficulty of even getting a bill successfully heard in a committee, we do not plan on filing any legislation of our own this year. However, we will continue to do our part to lobby for any bills that our affiliates have filed and fight back against anything that is harmful to working families.  We've listed the leadership changes that have occurred in the General Assembly since May, as well as what bills or issue we expect to see. Please remember that this is by no means a final or complete list, just a summary of what we are expecting. To help ensure that all of our members are informed and educated about all legislation that we'll be watching, please let us know if you have any questions about bills that are on our radar and share this information with your locals and CLCs. We look forward to another productive legislative session standing up for working families throughout our state! 
House vs. Senate   The Tennessee Senate is still made up of 28 Republicans and 5 Democrats, while there are 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats in the House. Earlier this year, the Senate gained two new members. Bill Powers won the election to succeed now-Congressman Mark Green in State Senate District 22, and Paul Rose became the senator for Senate District 32 after Mark Norris was nominated to serve as a federal judge. This did not change the makeup of the Senate. In the House, Casey Hood was appointed as an interim representative to fill the seat previously held by Bill Sanderson until his resignation in July. A special election will be held this Thursday ( December 19th) to elect a permanent replacement.       In terms of leadership, the House underwent some major changes after session adjourned. Following an overwhelming vote of no confidence by House Republicans, Glen Casada officially resigned his position as Speaker of the House on August 2nd. However, he is still a member of the Tennessee General Assembly and has not said whether or not he'll run for re-election. After Representative Casada's resignation, Representative Cameron Sexton became the new Speaker and Representative Jeremy Faison became the new House Republican Caucus Chairman.    
Pending & Potential Legislation   These are some of the major issues/bills that we dealt with last year that  didn't  pass. Whether it got hung up in the committee system or was simply never calendared, this legislation either poses the most danger, or we expect it to be brought back in 2020. HB 273 by Hulsey/   SB 461 by Yarbro: Th is 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.  Status: Sent to Summer Study in both the House and Senate
HB 707 by Thompson/   SB 775 by Yarbro:  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. Status: Taken off notice in the House/Sent to General Subcommittee in the Senate
HB 564 by Dunn/  SB 482 by Gardenhire: 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 is not currently law and would make it more difficult for the TEA to receive dues from its members.  Status: Passed 84-9-1 in the House/Failed to Pass in the Senate 8-19-2
HB 563 by Zachary/  SB 364 by Rose: 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." You can read more about the bill here. Status: Passed 68-22 in the House/Action Deferred Until 2020 in the Senate
Other Issues
  1. Payroll dues deductions. Almost annually, a bill is filed that would eliminate payroll dues deductions for public employees. Fortunately, the bills have failed to gain any traction, but that could easily change.   
  2. Workers' Comp. In the past, a bill that would essentially make workers' compensation optional has popped up in committee every now and again. There has been bipartisan opposition to this legislation, but we expect to see it (or any attempt to chip away at workers' compensation) come back in some form. 
  3. Memorandums of Understanding. In 2015, former Representative Jeremy Durham and Senator Brian Kelsey filed a bill that would ban collective bargaining agreements between public employees and local governments, utility districts and other entities. Multiple groups stepped up to ensure that this bill was defeated before it had a chance to see any movement. However, this is a piece of legislation that always has a strong likelihood of being filed again by another anti-labor lawmaker.
  4. Peaceful protesting. Following the death of a UAW member during the strike against General Motors earlier this year, we would not be surprised if legislators attempt to limit or restrict peaceful protesting in some form. Back in 2017, Representative Matthew Hill and former Senator Bill Ketron filed legislation that would have given immunity to drivers who hurt someone who is blocking traffic while protesting.