Democratic View On Top Senate Issues: April 17, 2024

  • Wednesday, April 17, 2024
  • Brandon Puttbrese

GOP bill limits flag displays at public schools

  • 8:30 a.m. Senate Regular Calendar — 1. SB 1722, by Sen. Joey Hensley, would restrict the kinds of flags that can be displayed at public schools in Tennessee.
  • The US flag, state flags, city & county flags, school flags, country flags, university flags, armed forces flags are all protected as well as flags that are authorized under Tennessee’s Heritage Protection Act, which likely includes Confederate flags.
  • What’s out? Rainbow flags and Black Lives Matter flags would be banned. Pirate flags and joke flags, too.
  • To really make their point, the bill also gives any parent the right to sue the school for an unauthorized flag display – regardless of whether their child attends so long as their child is eligible to attend.

2nd GOP bill limits flag displays on all government property

  • 8:30 a.m. Senate Regular Calendar — Similar to the previous bill, SB 0918 by Sen. Paul Rose would limit most flag displays on government buildings, including local governments and colleges.
  • In the TNGOP’s brain, symbolic flags (they don’t like) are a bigger problem than shuttered hospitals, gun violence, underfunded schools, child care deserts, climbing commute times, housing affordability, etc.

Bill will extend probation for all defendants

  • 8:30 a.m. Senate Regular Calendar — SB 2044, by Sen. Jon Lundberg, repeals the Corrections Department’s authority to issue sentence reduction credits – a key tool for incentivizing good behavior and safety in Tennessee’s understaffed prisons.
  • Under this bill, the Corrections Department may still issue credits to reduce a defendant’s time in prison, but the defendant will still be required to be on probation for the remainder of the sentence imposed by a judge.

Message Calendar: Bills near the finish line – or conference committee

  • 3. SB 1810 *Rose — Requires school staff to out a child’s sexual identity to a parent
  • 6. SB 2103 *Johnson, Yager — Gov. Bill Lee’s unprecedented and unnecessary $1.9 billion corporate handout and tax break
  • 8. SB 2151 *Johnson — GOP for more Mumps, Measles & Polio

TOMORROW: Senate takes up $53 billion budget with corporate tax handout unsettled

  • 8:30 a.m. Senate Regular Calendar — The biggest new expenditure in the $53 billion state budget won’t be for working families, students or roads and bridges – not even a voucher scam.
  • The centerpiece of Gov. Bill Lee’s state budget is a $1.6 billion cash handout and $4 billion tax break ($400M annually) for 100,000 property-rich corporations over the next decade.
  • As of last week, the Senate and House had not reconciled their differences. The House wants a $700 million cash handout and public disclosure for the companies that make a claim.
  • Gov. Bill Lee – a wealthy business owner – says he included this massive corporate tax break in his budget to ward off potential legal challenges, but there is no lawsuit currently. Just a strongly worded letter.
  • Without the voucher scam, it largely looks like a status quo budget that once again fails to meet the moment of need facing most Tennessee families, who are coping with nation-leading price gouging, underfunded public schools and inaccessible health care.
  • Senate GOP funding choices and funded bills behind the budget
  • Senate GOP amendments to Gov. Lee’s budget
    • Republicans reduced Lee’s recommended “rainy day” fund deposit from $150M to $100M
    • Republicans eliminated a $3 million maternal health services program

4/17, 8:30 a.m. Senate Regular Calendar

1. SB 1722 *Hensley (HB 1605 by *Bulso, McCalmon, Powers, Todd, Warner, Sherrell, Barrett, Hill, Richey, Grills, Moon, Wright, Vaughan, White, Capley)

Flags- As introduced, prohibits LEAs and public charter schools from displaying in public schools flags other than the official United States flag and the official Tennessee state flag.

2. SB 1963 *Pody (HB 2176 by *Lynn, Powell)

Open Meetings- As introduced, permits a court to award the reasonable court costs and attorney's fees to a petitioner successfully proving that a governing body knowingly and willfully violated the public meetings laws in this state. - Amends TCA Title 8, Chapter 4, Part 6 and Title 8, Chapter 44, Part 1.

3. SB 2015 *Reeves (HB 1988 by *Johnson C)

TennCare- As introduced, extends the nursing home annual assessment fee to June 30, 2025. - Amends TCA Title 71, Chapter 5, Part 10.

4. SB 2022 *Reeves (HB 2650 by *Helton-Haynes)

Health Care- Makes many and various changes to the Health Facilities Commission, including a public record exemption for the name and home of investigators.

5. SB 2044 *Lundberg (HB 2188 by *Lamberth)

Sentencing- As introduced, states that, for inmates serving a sentence of two years or more for an offense committed on or after July 1, 2024, sentence reduction credits shall not operate to alter the defendant's sentence expiration date, but may be used to reduce the percentage of the sentence imposed by the court that the person must serve before becoming eligible for release on parole; requires release eligibility for each defendant to occur when the defendant becomes eligible for parole or upon expiration of the entire sentence imposed on a defendant. - Amends TCA Title 39; Title 40 and Title 41.

Watch. Clarifies that TDOC cannot use sentence reduction credits to reduce sentences imposed by a judge. Under the bill, TDOC is only allowed to reduce the defendant’s time in prison.

6. SB 2116 *Massey (HB 2302 by *Howell)

Criminal Offenses-Establishes that evidence that a person was suspected to be impaired secondary to the sedative or otherwise intoxicating effects of a controlled substance and was administered an opioid antagonist within 24 hours prior to the time of an alleged Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offense, creates a presumption that the defendant's ability to drive was sufficiently impaired.

7. SB 2261 *Reeves, Hensley, White (HB 2426 by *Hicks T, Cepicky, Rudd, Stevens, Jernigan)

County Government- It increases the initial tax rate cap, from $1.00 per square foot to $1.50 per square foot, on residential property, and authorizes counties to impose such tax rate on commercial properties as well. It authorizes a county to levy a tax if it experiences growth rate of 20 percent or more in population from the 2010 federal census to the 2020 federal census, or between any subsequent federal decennial census or a nine percent growth in population over four consecutive years.

County Facilities Privilege Tax for fast-growing counties and no one else.

8. SB 2352 *Jackson (HB 2523 by *Grills)

Utilities, Utility Districts- As introduced, increases, from $200 to $400, the monthly compensation for the board of directors of the Reelfoot Lake regional utility and planning district; authorizes the board of directors to participate in the group medical and life insurance plan provided to district employees, to be reimbursed for premiums paid for equivalent or similar medical and life insurance coverage, and to be reimbursed for premiums paid for medical insurance coverage by medicare. - Amends Chapter 222 of the Public Acts of 1983, as amended by Chapter 488 of the Public Acts of 2021.

9. SB 2375 *Watson (HB 2320 by *Hazlewood)

Debtor Creditor Relations- As introduced, specifies certain documents that must be attached to an initial pleading in an action on a consumer debt; exempts funds to the aggregate value of $2,500 in a judgment debtor's deposit account with a bank or other financial institution in this state from execution, seizure, or attachment unless certain circumstances apply. - Amends TCA Title 20; Title 25 and Title 26.

This one feels like it’s changing a lot of rules around cases where a lender is suing a consumer over a debt.

10. SB 2520 *Haile (HB 2641 by *Lamberth)

Taxes, Sales- As introduced, authorizes counties and municipalities, by resolution or ordinance of their governing bodies, to levy a tax on the retail sale of food and food ingredients for human consumption within the county or municipality at a rate less than the local option sales tax rate.

11. SB 2563 *Taylor, Rose (HB 1641 by *Lamberth, Hardaway, Russell, Davis, Howell)

Criminal Offenses- As amended, creates a Class A misdemeanor of violating a condition of release on bail – even when the action that caused the violation is not crime, such as curfew or meeting requirements; authorizes a law enforcement officer to arrest a person without a warrant based on probable cause to believe that the person has violated a condition of release. - Amends TCA Title 39 and Title 40.

12. SB 2566 *Taylor, Rose, Johnson, Yager (HB 1718 by *Gillespie, Vaughan, White, Moody, Gant)

Bail, Bail Bonds- As introduced, requires any conditions of release imposed on a defendant to include a requirement that the defendant submit to pretrial monitoring to ensure compliance with the conditions; requires the court to order bail to be forfeited and an arrest warrant issued if the defendant does not comply with conditions of release; limits, to criminal or circuit court judges, those who may release a defendant who has been arrested for failure to comply with the conditions of release. - Amends TCA Title 39 and Title 40.

13. SB 2578 *Taylor (HB 2173 by *Alexander)

Professions and Occupations- As introduced, revises provisions related to the special account in the general fund known as the "pre-need funeral account"; deletes the indigent burial fund.

14. SB 2711 *Taylor (HB 2868 by *Vaughan)

Taxes, Hotel Motel- As introduced, authorizes a municipality to change the allocation of revenue, but not its designated use, of a privilege tax upon the privilege of occupancy in a hotel if the tax preexisted July 1, 2021.

15. SB 2730 *Akbari (HB 2820 by *Camper)

Public Defenders- As introduced, requires a supplemental adjustment to state funding for public defender offices in the twentieth and thirtieth judicial districts for pay parity purposes. - Amends TCA Title 8, Chapter 14.

16. SB 2897 *Bailey (HB 2677 by *White)

County Officers- As introduced, increases the annual continuing education requirement for county commissioners from seven to eight hours; requires that the training be obtained by CTAS meetings; extends a $600 stipend to county commissioners for completion of annual training requirements.

17. SB 2007 *Campbell (HB 1960 by *Powell, Behn, Jernigan)

Hospitals and Health Care Facilities- authorizes Nashville General Hospital to establish a state employee and retiree healthcare incentive program that will allow for the waiver of applicable out-of-pocket expenses associated with medical, surgical, or mental health care at the public hospital, including deductibles, except those deductibles associated with a high deductible plan, copays, and co-insurance, for state employees and retirees and their covered dependents participating in the State Group Insurance Plan.

18. SB 2183 *White, Crowe (HB 2326 by *Hicks G)

Education- States a student who is promoted to the fourth grade on a pathway via the 3rd grade retention law may be promoted to fifth grade if the student shows: (i) Adequate growth, as determined by the department, on the fourth grade ELA portion of the TCAP test; or (ii) Adequate growth, as determined by the student's LEA or public charter school, on a locally adopted fourth grade benchmark assessment in ELA that was administered to the student in a test environment, as determined by the department, even if the student does not show adequate growth, as determined by the department, on the fourth grade ELA portion of the TCAP test.

19. SB 0918 *Rose (HB 1319 by *Kumar, Cepicky)

Flags- As introduced, requires the United States flag and the official state flag to be displayed continuously on property owned, operated, or controlled by this state or a political subdivision of this state, including educational institutions and public school buildings; restricts the display of flags other than the United States flag and the official state flag on said property to only those periods of time for which an entity represented by the flag is meeting or performing an authorized function on the property, with certain exceptions. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 5; Title 6; Title 7; Title 15; Title 49 and Title 58.

Prohibits ANY unauthorized flag from being flown on state property. Is this a bill targeting Black Lives Matter flags?

20. 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.

21. 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.

22. 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.

23. SB 1946 *Walley, Lowe, Yarbro (HB 2057 by *Carr, Raper, Sherrell)

Property Assessors- As introduced, revises the schedule of required property reappraisals by county property assessors from a three- to six-year cycle to a one- to four-year cycle; makes various other updates to property reappraisal requirements and procedures. - Amends TCA Section 67-5-1005 and Title 67, Chapter 5, Part 16.

24. 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.

25. SB 2855 *Roberts (HB 1830 by *Littleton, Lamberth, Capley, Reedy, Farmer, Garrett, Barrett)

Judicial Districts- As introduced, creates one additional circuit court in the 23rd judicial district. - Amends TCA Title 16, Chapter 2.

26. SB 2901 *Bailey (HB 2682 by *Doggett, Eldridge)

Pensions and Retirement Benefits- It allows law enforcement retirees to return to work as an SRO. It allows the retiree to receive 100% of their salary and 100% of their retirement if reemployed as an SRO. It sunsets on June 30, 2026. This legislation received a positive recommendation from the Council on Pensions.

27. SB 2902 *Bailey (HB 2683 by *Doggett)

Pensions and Retirement Benefits- It creates a hazardous duty supplemental retirement benefit for local law enforcement, correctional officers, and firefighters. A political subdivision must pass a resolution authorizing an actuary study to determine the liability associated with providing the benefit. They must then pass a subsequent resolution authorizing the benefit and accepting the liability. The benefit applies to current and future retirees upon adoption.

4/17, 8:30 a.m. Senate Message Calendar

1. SB 0795 by Gardenhire. (HB1259 by Vital.)

Real Property - Amends TCA Title 29 and Title 66. As introduced, removes ambiguous language and clarifies that a transfer of a possibility of reverter or right of entry by a holder other than the original grantor is invalid unless the validity of the future interest was determined by a final judgment in a judicial proceeding, or by a settlement among interested persons, prior to July 1, 2015.

2. SB 0869 *Reeves (HB 0282 by *Baum)

Pharmacy, Pharmacists- As introduced, authorizes as part of the practice of pharmacy the prescribing of dietary fluoride supplements, certain immunization agents, opioid antagonists, and certain other drugs and products; makes various other changes to pharmacy practice. - Amends TCA Title 33; Title 58; Title 63; Title 68 and Title 71.

3. SB 1810 *Rose (HB 2165 by *Littleton)

Local Education Agencies- As introduced, requires a request made by a student to an employee of the student's LEA or public charter school for an accommodation to affirm the student's gender identity to be reported to a school administrator and to the student's parent; prohibits an employee of an LEA or public charter school from knowingly providing false or misleading information to a student's parent regarding the student's gender identity or intention to transition to a gender that differs from the student's sex at the time of birth; authorizes civil actions to be filed by parents and by the attorney general and reporter against a noncompliant LEA or public charter school. - Amends TCA Title 49.

Anti-LGBTQ student

4. SB 1894 *Oliver (HB 1832 by *Freeman)

Consumer Protection- As introduced, requires a business that makes an automatic renewal offer or continuous service offer to a consumer to obtain affirmative consent to the agreement containing the automatic renewal offer terms or continuous service offer terms no less than 60 days before the business charges the consumer's credit or debit card, or the consumer's account through a third party.

5. SB 1945 *Crowe (HB 2174 by *Alexander)

Food and Food Products- As introduced, redefines "food service establishment" to exclude an establishment whose primary business is other than food service, that incidentally makes casual, occasional food sales for two days or less while an organized temporary event is being conducted less than one-quarter mile from the establishment, for the purposes of exempting such establishments from regulation by the department of health and local governments.

6. SB 2103 *Johnson, Yager (HB 1893 by *Lamberth, Cochran)

Taxes, Franchise- As introduced, deletes the provision requiring that the measure of the franchise tax must not be less than the actual value of the real or tangible property owned or used by a taxpayer in this state; authorizes the commissioner of revenue to issue refunds under certain conditions to taxpayers who properly file a claim for refund for taxes paid under that provision.

Gov. Lee’s giant corporate tax handout.

7. SB 2127 *Lowe (HB 2475 by *Raper)

Courts, Juvenile- As introduced, allows the court to require the parent or guardian of a child adjudicated unruly in whole or in part for habitual and unlawful absence to provide additional information deemed necessary by the court for imposition of a disposition that adequately addresses the child's circumstances, educational barriers, and root causes of truancy. - Amends TCA Title 37 and Title 49.

8. SB 2151 *Johnson (HB 2861 by *Carringer)

Public Health- With amendment, prohibits healthcare providers from “coercing” a patient to receive a vaccine. Violations could result in the suspension or revocation of a providers' license.

9. SB 2315 *Pody (HB 2368 by *Carr, White, Hicks T, Vaughan)

Local Government, General- As introduced, establishes the "Residential Infrastructure Development Act of 2024."

10. SB 2528 *Stevens (HB 2625 by *Boyd)

Education, Higher- As introduced, requires the Tennessee higher education commission and each governing board of a public institution of higher education in this state to revise certain rules and take certain actions with respect to institutional accreditation; specifies that a public institution of higher education in this state may bring a civil cause of action against an accrediting agency or association in certain circumstances.

11. SB 2586 *Taylor (HB 1955 by *Rudd, McCalmon)

Election Laws- It establishes that the date on which an applicant signs a voter registration application is presumed to be the date on which the person or organization received or collected the application. It prohibits a person or organization from providing a voter registration application with any information being pre-filled out. It prohibits a person convicted of certain felonies to collect or handle a voter registration application from another person. It prohibits a person collecting voter registrations from altering a voter registration form without the person’s knowledge. It authorizes the state election commission to impose up to a $5000 civil penalty for certain violations.

12. SB 2674 *White (HB 2285 by *Haston)

Teachers, Principals and School Personnel- As introduced, authorizes the issuance of temporary teaching permits for courses for which an end-of-course examination is required. - Amends TCA Title 49.

13. SB 2844 *Roberts (HB 2686 by *Doggett, Lamberth)

Expunction- As introduced, clarifies that an eligible petitioner may file a petition for expunction under certain circumstances if the offense the person is seeking to expunge occurred prior to any conviction for an offense that is not eligible for expunction; allows an eligible petitioner who has been convicted of more than two offenses to seek expunction of two eligible offenses under certain circumstances; makes various other clarifications relating to expunction laws. - Amends TCA Section 40-32-101.

14. SB 2041 *Rose (HB 2159 by *Barrett, Capley, Todd)

Obscenity and Pornography- Establishes that a person or entity that is convicted of producing, selling, sending, or distributing obscene matter may be held civilly liable for damages to an injured party and reasonable attorney fees as ordered by the court.

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