Democratic View On Top Senate Issues: April 15

  • Monday, April 15, 2024
  • Brandon Puttbrese

Voucher scam sponsor: ‘We’re trying to throw the whole freaking (public education) system in the trash’

  • Noon CT Finance Sub/Finance — News Channel 5’s Phil Williams has unearthed an audio recording of the voucher scam’s House sponsor saying, “We’re trying to throw the whole freaking system in the trash.”
  • SB 0503 by Sen. Jack Johnson would create a new private school voucher program that uses public dollars to subsidize tuition at private schools.
  • The legislation is on the Senate Finance calendar today, but it’s unclear whether Republicans are ready to move the bill to the floor for a vote.

Jillian’s Law broadens state’s use of involuntary commitment, prohibits some gun purchases

  • Senate Regular Calendar — SB 1769 by Sen. Jon Lundberg would expand the state’s use of involuntary commitments for people adjudicated a mental defective.
  • The bill requires that people committed remain institutionalized until “competency” is restored or until a court approves an out-patient treatment plan.
  • The legislation, which also bars these people from possessing firearms, is named after Jillian Ludwig, a Belmont student who was killed by a stray bullet fired from a man adjudicated incompetent to stand trial.

Bill allows Attorney General to give himself a $50K raise despite declining caseloads

  • Senate Regular Calendar — SB 1820, by Sen. Paul Rose, allows the Attorney General to increase his own salary and fix compensation for staff.
  • The Attorney General’s current salary is $219,000. The fiscal memo says the legislation is expected to result in a $50,179 raise for the AG.
  • The raise comes as the Attorney General’s new caseloads have decreased by 43% since 2018. In FY17-18, the AG’s new caseload was 8,541 compared to 4,842 inFY22-23.
  • State funding for the office’s budget has increased $24.1 million over the same timeframe.

Covenant School: Bill limits access to child autopsies, preserves in-person review

  • Senate Regular Calendar SB 2020, by Sen. Shane Reeves

Bill designates ‘Memphis barbecue’ an official state food

  • Senate Message Calendar - SB 2648 by Sen. Sara Kyle, as amended by the House, designates Memphis barbecue as an official state food.

TUESDAY: Finance chairman projected $52.8B budget vote for Tuesday

  • The chairman of the Senate finance committee said a vote on the state budget bills could come as early as Tuesday – with the caveat that there are still a “couple bills that leadership are working out.” [Watch 1:42:00 timestamp]
  • The bills chairman Bo Watson referenced are SB 0503 and SB 2103 — Gov. Bill Lee’s voucher scam and corporate handout respectively.
  • Lee’s voucher scam legislation has stalled in committee for three weeks as elected school boards and county commissions from across the state have passed resolutions in opposition to the scam.
  • It seems Republicans aren’t eager to endorse Gov. Lee’s voucher scam for a few reasons:
    • diverts public education funds away from neighborhood schools;
    • uses public tax dollars to subsidize private school tuition for wealthy families;
    • the state’s existing voucher program isn’t working;
    • these expensive new entitlement programs are budget busters
  • The Senate version has a low-ball estimate of $75 million in year one and $278 million by year two. The House version estimates a $397 million price tag in year one. The governor only included $144 million in his budget recommendation to launch this program.
  • The Tennessean reports that House Republicans intend to pay for their voucher legislation by reassigning dollars earmarked currently for K-12 teacher raises and benefits.

12 p.m. CT Appropriations Subcommittee & Finance

Bills Before the Budget

1. SB 2690 *Southerland (HB 2793 by *Faison, Carr)

Taxes, Sales- As introduced, extends the deadline by which a distressed rural county must apply to be eligible to retain the sales and use tax generated from a commercial development district from December 31, 2024, to December 31, 2030.

2. SB 2703 *Southerland (HB 2158 by *Davis, Cepicky)

Local Education Agencies- Encourages each local education agency (LEA) to use the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) funds to employ or contract for at least one school nurse for every 750 student members of the LEA. If an LEA does not employ or contract for the number of school nurses recommended for the 2024-25 school year, or for a subsequent school year, then the LEA's director of schools is required to submit a report to the Department of Education (DOE) by May 1 of the respective school year that includes certain school nurse information and an explanation for the decision.

3. SB 1055 *Rose (HB 0587 by *Gant, Doggett, Moody, Davis, Carringer, Sherrell, Gillespie, Howell, Hulsey, Lamberth, Russell)

DUI Offenses- As introduced, lowers the threshold for enhancing the minimum sentence of a person convicted of driving under the influence of an intoxicant, from a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 percent or more to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or more. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 13; Title 55, Chapter 10, Part 4 and Title 69, Chapter 9, Part 2.

4. SB 1972 *Rose (HB 2692 by *Doggett, Hardaway, Towns, Lamberth, Moody, Russell, Gillespie, Davis, Howell, Hulsey, Johnson G, Farmer, Carringer, Fritts)

Domestic Violence- As introduced, requires the court to order an offender to wear a global positioning monitoring system device under certain circumstances unless the court finds the offender no longer poses a threat to the alleged victim or public safety; specifies that a cellular device application or electronic receptor device provided to the victim must be capable of notifying the victim if the offender is within a prescribed proximity of the victim's cellular device or electronic receptor device; requires a county or municipality utilizing global positioning monitoring system devices to enter into a written agreement with a qualified contract service provider; removes civil and criminal liability under certain circumstances.

5. SB 2112 *Niceley, Campbell, Crowe (HB 2244 by *Farmer)

Local Government, General- Allows a mixed-use development including a sports facility to be added to the tourism development zone located in Sevierville. It must be adopted by a 2/3s vote of the local government. It permits a privilege tax up to 5% of sales within the mixed-use development and allows more than one rate to be charged within the qualified public use facility.

6. SB 2770 *Bowling (HB 1872 by *Fritts, Barrett, Keisling, Todd, White, Russell, Hurt, Capley, Butler, Warner, Lamberth, Stevens)

Criminal Offenses- As introduced, authorizes the enhancement of criminal penalties up to life in prison without parole upon conviction of violent crimes by illegal aliens; conviction of possession of a firearm or deadly weapon by an illegal alien; or conviction of a violent crime on the property of a school by any person.


7. SB 2968 *Campbell

Davidson County - Subject to local approval, creates the East Bank Development Authority for the metropolitan government of Nashville and Davidson County.

8. SB 2877 *Kyle (HB 2961 by *Hardaway)

Evidence- As introduced, directs the Tennessee advisory committee on intergovernmental relations (TACIR), with the assistance of the Tennessee bureau of investigation, the district attorneys general conference, and the department of safety, to study the feasibility of a Shelby County crime lab and the impact of such a crime lab on public health, safety, education, housing, and the economy for citizens and visitors of Shelby County, the city of Memphis, this state, and the Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi tri-state region; requires TACIR to submit a report of the study findings to the general assembly by January 14, 2025. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 8 and Title 38.

9. SB 2427 *Jackson (HB 2607 by *Carringer)

Alcoholic Beverages- As introduced, authorizes retail package store licensees and beer permittees to sell hemp-based products; prohibits retail package store licensees from charging certain fees. - Amends TCA Title 57, Chapter 3 and Title 57, Chapter 5.

10. SB 2801 *Massey (HB 2921 by *Sexton)

TennCare- As introduced, requires all TennCare health benefit plans to provide coverage and reimbursement for mental health services and treatment to the same extent that the plans provide coverage and reimbursement for the treatment of alcoholism and drug dependence.

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

Education- Gov. Bill Lee’s Private School Voucher Scam

12. HJR 1055 *Whitson

Memorials, Recognition - Child Abuse Awareness Month, April 2024 -

13. SB 2238 *Yarbro (HB 2467 by *Stevens)

Taxes, Real Property- As introduced, authorizes a county to create a program by which an owner of real property in the county may apply for a classification of the property as zoning-exempt property, which values the property based on the zoning classification that existed at the time the owner came into possession of the property and its current use. - Amends TCA Title 67, Chapter 5.

3:30 p.m. 4/15 Senate Regular Calendar

1. SB 1769 *Lundberg (HB 1640 by *Lamberth, Williams, Sherrell, Bricken, Russell, Gillespie, Howell, Hardaway, Hicks G, Hazlewood)

Mental Illness- As introduced, expands the definition of "adjudication as a mental defective" to include a person who has been found incompetent to stand trial in a criminal proceeding and requires the clerk of court in such a proceeding to collect and report any such finding to the federal bureau of investigation-NICS Index and the department of safety; establishes a rebuttable presumption that a person who has been charged with a criminal offense and found incompetent to stand trial poses a substantial likelihood of serious harm; prohibits the purchase or possession of a firearm by a person who has been adjudicated as a mental defective.

Jillian Ludwig Act, Belmont student killed by a stray bullet fired by a mentally incompetent man

2. SB 0129 *Walley (HB 0526 by *Haston, Gant, Moody)

Utilities, Utility Districts- Establishes that the rate of depreciation of equipment purchased by a utility system does not apply to new equipment purchased by any such utility for one year from the date the equipment is installed and in operation, if such exception is approved by a majority vote of the governing body of a public utility at either the regular meeting or a specially-held meeting. Specifies that the rate of depreciation also does not apply to materials used in the installation and maintenance of water lines that are purchased with such grants.

3. SB 0137 *Hensley (HB 0835 by *Richey, Doggett)

Election Laws- As introduced, requires the coordinator of elections to compare the statewide voter registration database with those of other relevant state agencies and county records when compiling information to distribute to the county elections commissions for purposes of purging voters who have moved; requires the coordinator of elections to compare the statewide voter registration database with the department of safety database to ensure non-United States citizens are not registered to vote in this state.

4. SB 0173 *Hensley (HB 0247 by *Barrett)

Taxes, Business- Exempts services furnished by persons engaged in the appraisal of real estate or real property from the business tax.

~$100,000 tax break reduces revenue almost evenly between state and local governments

5. SB 1260 *Akbari (HB 0351 by *Hardaway)

Industrial Development- authorizes industrial development corporations to be established and operated solely to assist and benefit minority-owned businesses, locally owned businesses, businesses that have 50 or fewer employees and annual gross revenues of $5,000,000 or less ("small businesses"), and commercial businesses for which fifty-one percent of the ownership interest is owned or held by women ("women-owned businesses). This bill provides that a commercial entity does not qualify as a locally owned business unless the subject business has conducted a majority of its operations under the jurisdiction of a local government's industrial development corporation for at least five years.

6. SB 1416 by Rose

Deletes a requirement that a victim of a crime or a member of the victim’s family report the crime to the proper authorities within 48 hours of the crime’s occurrence in order for a claim for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund (fund) to be eligible for award.

7. SB 1493 *Jackson (HB 1012 by *Grills, Russell, Farmer, Powers, Todd)

County Officers- As introduced, authorizes a county election council to notify the Tennessee Constable Association, the Tennessee Constable Council, and the East Tennessee Constables Association of the election or appointment of a constable by electronic means. - Amends TCA Title 8, Chapter 10; Title 8, Chapter 21, Part 9 and Section 65-3-118.

8. SB 1709 by Hensley (HB 1628 by Cepicky)

Creates the offenses of assault and aggravated assault committed within a healthcare facility.

9. SB 1740 *Haile (HB 1723 by *Hazlewood)

TennCare- As introduced, enacts the "Annual Coverage Assessment Act of 2024," which requires each covered hospital licensed as of July 1, 2024 to pay an annual coverage assessment for FY 2024-2025 of a certain percentage of the covered hospital's annual coverage assessment base. - Amends TCA Title 71, Chapter 5.

10. SB 1762 *Briggs, Swann (HB 1826 by *Martin B, Kumar)

TennCare- As introduced, requires TennCare coverage of rapid whole genome sequencing when certain clinical criteria are met.

11. SB 1820 *Rose (HB 2000 by *Farmer, Lamberth)

Attorney General and Reporter- As introduced, empowers the attorney general to fix the attorney general's and their assistant's compensation; limits the attorney general's salary to an associate justice on the supreme court or a Class 1 official; permits the attorney general to pay salaries in periodic installments.

Allows the Attorney General to set his own salary. NAH.

12. SB 1867 *Hensley (HB 1908 by *Bulso)

Education, Dept. of- As introduced, enacts the "Beyond Ordinary Learning Opportunities (BOLO) Act," which requires the department to establish a one-year pilot program to place a therapy dog in five public schools in the 2024-2025 school year. - Amends TCA Title 49.

13. SB 1882 *Massey (HB 1980 by *Wright)

Taxes, Ad Valorem- Authorizes a nonprofit residential home for the aged located in Knox County, or within a municipality located within Knox County, to claim and file an application for property tax exemption for up to three years prior to the date of the application or the date the institution began to use the property for exempt purposes, whichever is later. Requires any property taxes, interest, fees, penalties, postage, expenses, and all other related costs collected prior to the effective date of this act to be refunded.

14. SB 2136 *Reeves (HB 2318 by *Williams, Whitson)

Medical Occupations- As introduced, makes various changes to the authorized scope of practice of physician assistants and advanced practice nurses who meet certain qualifications. - Amends TCA Title 55; Title 63 and Title 68.

15. SB 0502 *Watson (HB 0916 by *Rudder)

Health care- As amended, this bill would restrict the practice of “white bagging,” a practice where insurance companies control how a patient accesses specialty medication.

“White bagging” is the current practice in Tennessee. This bill would restrict the practice somewhat.

16. SB 1480 *Kyle, Lamar (HB 0689 by *Hardaway, Lamberth, Faison, Vital, Gant, Doggett, Fritts, Harris, Whitson, Eldridge, Warner, Moon, Burkhart, Helton-Haynes, Wright, Alexander, Hakeem)

Bail, Bail Bonds- As introduced, requires an officer to provide an alleged victim of certain criminal offenses with a document notifying the victim of the global positioning monitoring system used as a condition of bail. - Amends TCA Title 39; Title 40 and Title 55, Chapter 10, Part 4.

17. SB 1694 *Yarbro (HB 1814 by *Thompson, Behn)

Landlord and Tenant- As introduced, requires a landlord, or another person authorized to enter into a rental agreement on the landlord's behalf, to disclose to a residential tenant certain contact information for the agent authorized to manage the premises and an owner of the premises, or a person or agent authorized to act for and on behalf of the owner for the acceptance of service of process and for receipt of notices and demands. - Amends TCA Title 66.

18. SB 1936 *Massey, Yager (HB 2366 by *Carringer, Towns)

Health Care- As introduced, changes the application requirements for international medical school graduates applying for special licenses. - Amends TCA Title 63.

19. SB 2020 *Reeves (HB 1695 by *Alexander, Lamberth, McCalmon, Hicks T, Eldridge, Crawford, Williams)

Autopsies- As introduced, specifies that reports of county medical examiners and autopsy reports of victims of violent crime who are minors are not public documents; allows a parent or legal guardian of a minor victim of a violent crime to consent to the release of the report of the county medical examiner or autopsy report of the minor victim if the parent or legal guardian is not a suspect in the circumstances of the minor's death.

Covenant death records.

20. SB 2530 *Watson (HB 2325 by *Hazlewood)

Boards and Commissions- As introduced, creates the artificial intelligence advisory council to recommend an action plan to guide awareness, education, and usage of artificial intelligence in state government that aligns with the state’s policies and goals and that supports public employees in the efficient and effective delivery of customer service.

21. SB 2793 *Gardenhire, McNally (HB 2931 by *Sexton, Howell)

Judges and Chancellors- As introduced, requires a judge who enters into a deferred discipline agreement regarding a matter before the board of judicial conduct to sign an affidavit stating that the judge consents to the recommendation of the investigative panel, the consent is freely and voluntarily rendered, there is a pending proceeding involving allegations of misconduct, which must be specifically set forth in the affidavit, and the facts set forth in the affidavit are true; requires the affidavit to be filed with the board upon its approval by a hearing panel. - Amends TCA Title 16 and Title 17.

Heavy handed but seemingly OK

4/15 Senate Message Calendar

1. SB 0811 by Gardenhire. (HB1258 by Vital.)

Probate Law - Amends TCA Title 30. As introduced, requires a personal representative for an estate to serve a copy of each claim filed against the estate, within five days of receipt, to any known party interested in the estate, including creditors, distributees, and heirs.

2. SB 2043 *Lamar, Rose, Kyle (HB 2572 by *Glynn)

Sexual Offenses- As introduced, expands the offense of aggravated rape to include when the defendant commits rape knowing that the defendant is infected with HIV.

3. SB 2648 by Kyle

Naming and Designating - As introduced, designates Memphis barbecue as an official state food.

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