Democratic View Of Top State Senate Issues - Feb. 28

  • Wednesday, February 28, 2024
  • Brandon Puttbrese

VOUCHER SCAM: Gov. Lee’s $919 million voucher bill gets first Senate hearing

  • 3 p.m. Education — The Senate Education Committee will review Gov. Bill Lee’s voucher proposal and alternative version drafted by the committee chairman, but a vote on the controversial legislation is not expected until next week.
  • The governor’s preferred legislation carries a hefty price tag of $919 million a year if the voucher scam is opened up to all private school students in the state.
  • It would also begin by diverting at least $140 million away from our already underfunded public schools, according to the fiscal note. The Senate-drafted scheme carries a similar price tag.
  • All of this funding for private schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers and don’t have to serve all students.
  • Not to mention, vouchers don’t work for students. The last time Lee’s education commissioner appeared before this committee, she told senators that test results from Gov. Lee’s existing voucher program “aren’t anything to write home about.”
  • Poor test scores are a consistent finding in more than a decade of recent research on large-scale voucher programs, according to education policy expert Josh Cowen.
  • Voucher bill 1 - SB 0503 *Johnson, Lundberg (HB 1183 by *Lamberth, White)
  • Voucher bill 2 - SB 2787 *Johnson, Lundberg (HB 2468 by *Lamberth)

Scandal-plagued DCS would get new oversight under Sen. Oliver bill

  • 8:30 a.m. Government Operations — SB 1806, by Sen. Charlane Oliver, would create new oversight for the Department of Children’s Services by requiring agency officials to submit summaries of new policies and guidelines to the legislature every month.
  • Policies at the department have attracted plenty of negative attention recently. In addition to chronic understaffing and morale issues, WPLN reported that juvenile detention centers were violating state law while NewsChannel 5 reported that a 12-year-old boy at a transitional home was hog-tied by a masked security guard.
  • Early this week, the department inexplicably withdrew updated rules for juvenile detention and restraints.

Sen. Oliver introduces legislation to ease Tennessee’s child care crisis

  • 1 p.m. Health & Welfare — Sen. Charlane Oliver wants to tackle the child care crisis head on with a legislative package aimed at lowering costs for working parents, increasing availability and investing in the state’s underpaid caregiving workforce.
  • A recent study that examined Tennessee’s child care crisis found that inadequate child care resulted in $2.6 billion of economic losses annually for workers, businesses and taxpayers.
  • SB 2063 creates a pilot program to study how support for child care workers who are eligible for public assistance affects availability and quality.
  • SB 2064 expands eligibility for the Smart Steps child care payment assistance program for parents.
  • SB 1805 modernizes the calculation used to set day care reimbursement rates to reflect true costs.
  • SB 2207 eliminates or reduces co-payment requirements for some parents utilizing state child care assistance.

Sen. Campbell seeks to save lives by studying suicide in Tennessee

  • 1 p.m. Health & Welfare — SB 1787, by Sen. Heidi Campbell, would require state health officials to produce an annual report on suicide, including the number of suicides statewide, broken down by locations and demographics.
  • Tennessee’s suicide rate is 18% higher than the national rate and suicide rates are on the rise nationally.
  • The goal of the study is to better inform policymakers on suicide trends with the hope that the information will produce recommendations that reduce suicide risks.

Sen. Lamar bill would increase child health coverage in Tennessee

  • 1 p.m. Health & Welfare —To get more Tennessee kids health coverage and keep them insured, state Sen. London Lamar, D-Memphis, is proposing legislation to implement continuous eligibility for children enrolled in TennCare and CoverKids. Read the press release here.
  • Under SB 1828, by Sen. Lamar, children under age 18 who have coverage through TennCare or CoverKids would be automatically renewed.
  • The Kid’s Health Care Report Card says 5.3% of Tennessee children are uninsured and state estimates suggest that two-thirds of those children are eligible for one of the state’s youth insurance programs, TennCare or CoverKids. Many of the children have had health coverage through state programs, but fell off due to procedural issues.

Bible ban? GOP bill bans books containing nudity, depictions of sex and ‘excessive violence’

  • 3 p.m. Education – SB 1060, by Sen. Joey Hensley, amends the Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022 to ban books and materials from school libraries that “contain nudity” or depictions of “sexual excitement, sexual conduct, excess violence or sadomasochistic abuse.”
  • The bill also creates a 60-day deadline for local school officials to respond to book challenges. If the school district does not respond, complainants may ask the state Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission to intervene.

YESTERDAY: TNGOP spikes two bill to prevent gun violence

  • Medicaid for violence prevention. WATCHSB 1685, by Sen. London Lamar, would have allowed the state of Tennessee to invest in community organizations working to reduce violent crime and shootings by using federal Medicaid funds.
  • Despite having one of the worst gun violence death rates in the nation, Republicans blocked a vote on the bill.
  • The funding could have been used to amplify crime-reduction efforts happening in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, where city leaders said last year’s 33% drop in murders was due to these collaborative community-based programs.
  • Close the gun transfer loophole. WATCHSB 1654, by Sen. Heidi Campbell, would have created a Class A misdemeanor for giving a firearm to a person known to be prohibited by law from possessing a gun.
  • It’s illegal under state law to sell a firearm to a person legally prohibited from possessing, but it’s completely legal to give or loan them a gun.

Full schedule:

8:30 a.m. Government Operations

1. SB 1862 *Haile, Campbell (HB 1863 by *Faison, Behn)

Dieticians and Nutritionists- As introduced, enacts the "Dietitian Licensure Compact." - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 63 and Title 68.

2. SB 2098 *Johnson, Massey, Yager (HB 2089 by *Lamberth)

Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities- As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Disability and Aging Act of 2024."

3. SB 1806 *Oliver (HB 2046 by *Chism)

Children's Services, Dept. of- As introduced, requires the department to submit written summaries of policies and guidelines adopted by it to the chairs of the government operations committees of each house, with the policies and guidelines to be posted on the subsequent joint rule review committee agenda for the month following the submission of the summaries. - Amends TCA Title 4 and Title 37.

4. SB 1613 *Roberts (HB 1756 by *Ragan)

Sunset Laws- As introduced, extends the department of transportation to June 30, 2028; requires the department to report back to the government operations committee by December 31, 2024, to update the committee on its progress in addressing the findings and observations set forth in the December 2023 performance audit report. - Amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 29 and Title 4, Chapter 3.

5. SB 1612 *Roberts (HB 1755 by *Ragan)

Sunset Laws- As introduced, extends the department of labor and workforce development to June 30, 2028.

6. SB 1611 *Roberts (HB 1754 by *Ragan)

Sunset Laws- As introduced, extends the department of general services to June 30, 2028. - Amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 29 and Title 4, Chapter 3.

10 a.m. Transportation and Safety

1. SB 1717 *Hensley (HB 1730 by *Capley, Lamberth, Hill, Barrett, Todd, Butler, Lafferty, Reedy, Doggett, Keisling, Bricken, McCalmon, Fritts, Vital, Littleton, Moody)

Driver Licenses- As introduced, requires all written driver license examinations to be administered in English only; prohibits use of a translation dictionary, electronic device, or interpreter to assist with the examination. - Amends TCA Title 55, Chapter 50, Part 3.

2. SB 2181 *Hensley (HB 2383 by *Crawford)

Motor Vehicles- As introduced, authorizes motorcycles to be operated on certain limited access highway and interstate shoulders to proceed to nearest exit when speed of traffic is 25 miles per hour or less.

3. SB 1996 *Kyle (HB 2175 by *Clemmons)

Traffic Safety- As introduced, requires the department of transportation to establish and administer a student pedestrian protection grant program; under certain conditions, authorizes grants to be awarded to local governments for designing, constructing, and repairing sidewalk infrastructure around public schools.

4. SB 2242 *Yarbro (HB 2390 by *Glynn)

Driver Licenses- As introduced, exempts minors from fees for hardship licenses; exempts persons over 18 from fees for issuance and renewal of noncommercial licenses upon submission of documentation showing the person's income falls below the federal poverty level. - Amends TCA Title 55, Chapter 50.

5. SB 2568 *Taylor, Rose, Johnson, Yager (HB 2034 by *Barrett, Richey, Capley, Fritts, Grills, Todd, Doggett, Faison, Zachary, Cochran, Martin B, Bricken, Butler)

Driver Licenses- As introduced, requires the department of safety to redesign temporary driver licenses and permits and temporary photo identification licenses issued to qualified noncitizens so that the licenses may be easily distinguished from driver and photo identification licenses issued to residents of this state who are United States citizens; reduces from eight years to two years the maximum period of time for which a temporary license or permit may be issued. - Amends TCA Title 55, Chapter 50.

6. SB 1807 *Campbell (HB 2070 by *Powell, Clemmons, Parkinson)

Transportation, Dept. of- As introduced, establishes the office of rail and public transportation within the department; requires, among other duties and responsibilities, the office to determine the costs and requirements, including engineering, needed to implement passenger rail service on certain corridors in this state. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 54, Chapter 1; Title 64 and Title 65.

7. SB 1650 *Campbell (HB 1612 by *Clemmons)

Highways, Roads and Bridges- As introduced, requires approval by the governing body of each local government in which a proposed user fee facility is located prior to development of the facility; removes authority of the department of transportation to expend funds from the transportation modernization fund to develop a user fee facility.

8. SB 2771 *Bowling (HB 1623 by *Hale)

Traffic Safety- As introduced, authorizes a county or municipality to hire employees or appoint volunteers to divert vehicular traffic or temporarily close a lane to certain vehicular traffic within a marked school zone during the period of time that it is necessary to provide convenience for vehicles dropping off or picking up students from school; requires warning signs be posted in advance of the school zone. - Amends TCA Title 39; Title 54 and Title 55.

9. SB 2779 *Bowling (HB 2621 by *Martin G)

Railroads- As introduced, increases from $10 to $25, the minimum fine amount for persons or corporations owning or operating a railroad in this state who violate the requirements to make and furnish good and sufficient crossings on the public highways crossed by them, and to keep such crossings in lawful repair at their own expense. - Amends TCA Title 65.

Budget Hearing: TN Department of Transportation

11:30 a.m. Energy, Agriculture And Natural Resources

1. SB 2377 *Watson (HB 2842 by *Vital)

Environment and Conservation, Department of- As introduced, prohibits the department from regulating or otherwise overseeing farming activities involving topsoil, rock removal, or the building of a pond when such activities are conducted in an area that is less than five acres in size, and the property on which the activities occur has a greenbelt classification pursuant to the Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Land Act of 1976.

2. SB 2376 *Watson (HB 2620 by *Martin G)

Water Pollution- As introduced, removes requirement that installers of subsurface sewage disposal systems pay a renewal fee as a condition to renewing a septic system installer license. - Amends TCA Title 68, Chapter 221.

3. SB 1978 *Kyle (HB 2085 by *Jones)

Naming and Designating- As introduced, designates the bog turtle as an official state reptile. - Amends TCA Section 4-1-321.

4. SB 2324 *Yager (HB 2095 by *Keisling)

Taxes, Gasoline, Petroleum Products- As introduced, requires that a grant awarded to a marina from the portion of gasoline tax revenues apportioned to the wildlife resources fund for public and environmental infrastructure at marinas be based on the amount of gasoline sold at the marina receiving the grant. - Amends TCA Section 67-3-901.

5. SB 2115 *Swann (HB 2831 by *Camper)

Boats, Boating- As introduced, increases from 12 to 16 the minimum age for operating a personal watercraft without direct adult supervision; requires persons operating personal watercraft to maintain financial responsibility in same amounts applicable to motor vehicles. - Amends TCA Title 69, Chapter 9.

6. SB 1942 *Hensley (HB 1618 by *Richey, Warner, Grills, McCalmon, Hulsey, Capley, Fritts, Hurt)

Game and Fish Laws- As introduced, authorizes a person to hunt on or over privately owned land where bait is present; specifies that written consent and compliance with other requirements to catch or kill a wild animal on the land of another still apply. -


7. SB 2047 *Stevens (HB 2867 by *Martin B)

Parks, Natural Areas Preservation- As introduced, changes the name of Lake Halford in Carroll County to Carroll County 1,000 Acre Lake. - Amends TCA Section 4-1-412; Title 64, Chapter 1, Part 8 and Section 70-1-302.

8. SB 2424 *Walley (HB 2541 by *Marsh)

Energy- As introduced, authorizes mayors of certain local governments to enter into voluntary agreements for energy infrastructure improvements for clean or renewable energy; requires that agreements be approved either by resolution of the respective legislative bodies of such local governments or in accordance with statutory requirements.

9. SB 2039 *Rose (HB 2263 by *Darby, Haston)

Conservation- As introduced, requires that appointees to the fish and wildlife commission participate in activities regulated by the commission; requires the commission and wildlife resource agency to encourage hunting, angling, and trapping as preferred methods of wildlife management and conservation within this state. - Amends TCA Title 70.

10. SB 2069 *Johnson, Lowe (HB 1674 by *Lamberth, Cochran, Wright)

Forests and Forest Products- As introduced, authorizes the commissioner of agriculture and the state forester to promulgate rules for purposes of managing state forests; authorizes the commissioner and state forester to request assistance from law enforcement agencies for enforcement of provisions related to state forests; creates the Tennessee State Forest Resources Fund; makes additional changes related to the management of state forests. - Amends TCA Title 11, Chapter 4, Part 3 and Section 11-4-409.

11. SB 2708 *Southerland (HB 2878 by *Todd)

Air Pollution- As introduced, specifies that for purposes of air quality control, all equipment used in the process of producing nonmetallic materials contained within an aggregate processing facility or asphalt plant, including crushers, screens, conveyors, and feeders, is considered one air contaminant source. - Amends TCA Title 68.

12. SB 2089 *Johnson, Southerland, Campbell (HB 1689 by *Lamberth, Cochran, Grills, Hardaway, Marsh, Vital, Travis, Shaw, Richey)

Solid Waste Disposal- As introduced, expands the permitted uses for money received by a county for each tire sold in the county to include removal of illegally disposed waste tires from public or private property; authorizes the department of environment and conservation to provide funds to a local government for the investigation and clean-up of unpermitted waste tire disposal sites; makes other related changes. - Amends TCA Section 67-4-1610 and Title 68, Chapter 211.

Presentations: Tennessee Forestry Commission Annual Report

Presentation: Tennessee Environmental Council by Jeff Barrie, CEO

Budget Hearing: Department of Tourist Development

1 p.m. Health & Welfare

Budget Hearing: Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth

Presentation: Ballad Health, “Ballad Health Academy”

1. SB 1805 *Oliver (HB 1962 by *Powell)

Human Services, Dept. of- As introduced, requires the department to utilize cost estimation models to determine the cost of day care when setting the annual day care reimbursement rate. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 5; Title 6; Title 7; Title 68 and Title 71.

2. SB 2207 *Oliver (HB 2822 by *Camper)

Human Services, Dept. of- As introduced, requires the department to eliminate or reduce co-payment requirements for persons who are receiving child care payment assistance through programs administered by the department based on the persons' household income. - Amends TCA Title 4 and Title 71.

3. SB 2064 *Oliver (HB 2233 by *Freeman)

Human Services, Dept. of- As introduced, expands eligibility for the Smart Steps child care payment assistance program for parents or guardians whose income is less than 100 percent of the state median income; requires the payments to be funded by state funds. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 9 and Title 71.

5. SB 2340 *Yager (HB 1998 by *Hicks G)

TennCare- As introduced, requires the bureau to reimburse certain public or private ground-based ambulance services that bill for transports at a rate not less than 67.5 percent of the federal medicare program's allowable charge for participating providers for emergency services and 100 percent of the federal medicare program's allowable charge for participating providers for nonemergency services. - Amends TCA Title 71.

6. SB 2810 *Reeves (HB 2622 by *Martin G, Terry)

Pharmacy, Pharmacists- As introduced, allows the board of pharmacy to license ambulatory surgical treatment centers if certain criteria are met. - Amends TCA Title 63 and Title 68.

7. SB 2403 *Briggs (HB 2361 by *Carringer)

Health Care- As introduced, clarifies that one of the persons appointed to the medical cannabis commission by the speaker of the senate must be a specialist in the area of substance abuse prevention. - Amends TCA Title 4 and Title 68, Chapter 7.

8. SB 1787 *Campbell (HB 2327 by *Freeman, Gillespie)

Mental Illness- As introduced, requires the department of health to produce an annual report on suicide, including the number of completed and attempted suicides statewide, as well as broken down by county, and other demographics, including age, race, and ethnicity, and the method or means used of the attempted or completed suicide. - Amends TCA Title 33; Title 63 and Title 68.

9. SB 1657 *Campbell (HB 1846 by *Clemmons)

Health, Dept. of- As introduced, requires the department to make an annual report to the governor on the total number of firearm injuries and deaths in this state per 100,000 people; requires the attorney general and reporter to assist the department, upon request, in collecting information necessary for the report. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 8; Title 39; Title 63 and Title 68.

10. SB 1727 *Jackson (HB 1862 by *Faison)

Medical Occupations- As introduced, enacts the Physician Assistant (PA) Licensure Compact. - Amends TCA Title 63 and Title 68.

11. SB 1884 *Jackson (HB 2544 by *Haston, Martin B, Hurt, Shaw)

Hospitals and Health Care Facilities- As introduced, requires a government-owned hospital or health system to submit a report to the health facilities commission disclosing certain information on administrative bonuses or salary increases and any disbursements and contractor costs on an annual basis and prior to asking for public funds or ending services; requires the health facilities commission to post reported information from government-owned hospitals or health systems on its public website. - Amends TCA Title 68.

12. SB 2230 *Jackson, Crowe (HB 2545 by *Martin B, Haston, Hurt, Shaw)

Medical Occupations- As introduced, defines "hospital-based laboratory" and "hospital-based laboratory supervisor" for purposes of the Tennessee Medical Laboratory Act; provides hospital-based laboratory supervisors the authority to supervise up to four hospital-based laboratories located in rural counties; makes certain other changes relative to hospital-based laboratories. - Amends TCA Title 68.

13. SB 1828 *Lamar (HB 2214 by *Parkinson)

TennCare- As introduced, requires that on and after July 1, 2025, a minor who is enrolled in TennCare medicaid or the CoverKids program remains eligible for TennCare medicaid and the CoverKids program until the minor reaches 18 years of age; prohibits the bureau from subjecting the minor to a redetermination of eligibility or disenrollment except under certain circumstances; requires the director to submit any necessary federal waiver request by December 31, 2024. - Amends TCA Title 71.

14. SB 1739 *Lamar (HB 2225 by *Love)

Health Care- As introduced, adds doula services performed by a person with a verification of certification to the list of services that may be provided as medical assistance under the TennCare program; directs the department of health to establish by rule a process for the verification of certification to a person who demonstrates that the person has completed a doula training program that meets certain requirements. - Amends TCA Title 63 and Title 71.

15. SB 1673 *Massey (HB 1625 by *Zachary, Moon, Whitson, Davis, Lamberth, Vital, Faison)

Mental Illness- As introduced, requires a qualified mental health professional or behavior analyst to warn or protect an identified victim or group of people when the professional or analyst determines that a service recipient has communicated an intent for actual threat of bodily harm; requires the professional or behavior analyst to report such threat; provides immunity from civil, criminal, and regulatory liability for a professional or analyst who takes reasonable action to warn or protect identified victims or groups and to report such threat . - Amends TCA Section 33-3-206.

16. SB 2117 *Massey, Yager (HB 2261 by *Wright, Vital, Davis, Zachary, McKenzie, Carringer, Butler, Sherrell, Hale, Sexton, Keisling, Crawford, Holsclaw, Hill, Hulsey, Hawk, Gillespie, White, Leatherwood, Haston, Todd)

Hospitals and Health Care Facilities- As introduced, defines a home for the aged that houses three or fewer nonrelated persons as a tier 1 home for the aged that is subject to licensure and regulation by the department of intellectual and developmental disabilities; defines a home for the aged that houses four or more nonrelated persons as a tier 2 home for the aged that is subject to licensure and regulation by the health facilities commission; makes other related changes to the meaning of a home for the aged. - Amends TCA Title 68.

17. SB 1791 *Massey (HB 1973 by *Hawk)

Health Care- As introduced, requires all infants born in this state to be screened for specific genetic, metabolic, or other heritable conditions, including, but not limited to, conditions listed on the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP); allows the department of health to require newborn screening for conditions not listed on the RUSP; requires certain implementation and reporting requirements regarding such newborn screening. - Amends TCA Title 68, Chapter 5, Part 4.

18. SB 1670 *Massey (HB 1922 by *Butler, Leatherwood, Wright, Sherrell, Russell, Hemmer, McCalmon, Capley, Hawk, Hill, Bulso, Cepicky)

Children- As introduced, adds certain assisted-care living facilities, nursing homes, and emergency communications centers as locations where a newborn safety device may be located. - Amends TCA Title 36, Chapter 1, Part 1 and Title 68, Chapter 11, Part 2.

19. SB 2269 *Yarbro (HB 2406 by *McKenzie)

Human Services, Dept. of- As introduced, directs the department to identify federal and state regulations that inhibit the efficient processing of applications and delivery of benefits for the food assistance program; requires the department to submit any necessary waiver applications by October 31; requires the department to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the general assembly by December 31. - Amends TCA Title 71.

20. SB 2159 *Haile, Massey (HB 2321 by *Hazlewood)

Hospitals and Health Care Facilities- As introduced, increases the amount of personal needs allowance from $50 to $70 for long-term nursing home residents. - Amends TCA Title 71.

21. SB 2275 *Haile (HB 2907 by *Kumar)

Health Care- As introduced, prohibits physicians from prescribing, administering, or dispensing medication for, or otherwise treating, themselves, immediate family, and other specified individuals except for specified or emergency situations; prohibits a physician's supervisee from prescribing, administering, or dispensing medication for, or otherwise treating, the physician or the physician's immediate family except for emergency situations.

3 p.m. Education

Budget Hearing: Tennessee Technological University

Budget Hearing: Austin Peay State University

Budget Hearing: University of Memphis

1. SB 0503 *Johnson, Lundberg (HB 1183 by *Lamberth, White, Cepicky, Moody, Slater, Garrett)

Education- Voucher bill

2. SB 2787 *Johnson, Lundberg (HB 2468 by *Lamberth)

Education- Voucher bill 2

3. SB 2141 *Reeves (HB 2311 by *Baum)

Education- As introduced, requires the principal or head of a school that maintains an opioid antagonist at the school to ensure that the opioid antagonist is stored in accordance with manufacturer instructions; prohibits a school from prohibiting a student, employee, or visitor from possessing an opioid antagonist while the person is on school property or attending a school-sponsored activity held at a location that is not school property. - Amends TCA Title 49.

4. SB 2582 *Taylor (HB 2687 by *Doggett, Ragan, Eldridge, White, Moody, Hakeem)

Local Education Agencies- As introduced, revises the instruction required as part of a family life curriculum; requires the Tennessee joint task force on children's justice and child sexual abuse, in consultation with the children's services advisory council, to annually recommend certain age-appropriate curricula to the department of education; revises the information that LEAs and public charter schools must annually provide to the department of children's services. - Amends TCA Title 37 and Title 49.

5. SB 2267 *Yarbro (HB 2410 by *Dixie)

Child Abuse- As introduced, requires a school to comply with the obligation to report suspected child abuse or neglect in order for the school to qualify as a school in which a student may be enrolled to satisfy school attendance requirements; specifies that certain training and reporting requirements apply to nonpublic schools; prohibits persons who knowingly fail to comply, or who knowingly prevent compliance, with the obligation to report suspected child abuse or neglect from serving as a teacher or in any position requiring proximity to children in certain settings; adds nonpublic schools to the entities required to investigate persons applying for or holding a position requiring proximity to school children. - Amends TCA Title 37 and Title 49.

6. SB 1656 *Campbell (HB 1847 by *Clemmons, Behn)

Teachers, Principals and School Personnel- As introduced, requires the department of education to allocate to each local education agency sufficient funds for the LEA to employ on

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