As Tennessee’s 111th Tennessee General Assembly wound down to adjourn, the House passed a resolution recognizing the need to address legislation passed by one chamber but left unfinished by the other.
When the General Assembly came back to their second session after the three-month COVID-19 recess, the Senate only wanted to take up bills that were budget-related, time-sensitive, or COVID-19 related, while the House planned to complete all of their work.
The difference in approaches became evident early on when the House returned to a heavy committee schedule the week of Memorial Day, with some meetings lasting as long as four and five hours, while the Senate had just one committee meeting scheduled that week.
The trend continued over the following two weeks, with only slightly more committee meetings scheduled for the Senate, while the House had heated debates on a variety of bills.
As a result, Representative Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) filed House Resolution 343 on June 11, addressing a more permanent solution to the situation.
HR 343 congratulates the House of Representatives for being the people’s chamber and for recognizing the need to amend the Tennessee Constitution as follows:
When a bill or resolution passes a house of the General Assembly, then that house shall not adjourn until the other house has voted on the bill or resolution; the other house shall vote on the bill or resolution regardless of whether it lies in the chamber or in a committee of that house; the house considering the bill or resolution in committee shall have at least five members eligible to cast a yes or no vote in that committee; and the bill or resolution shall not fail to be voted upon based on a procedural motion or lack of a procedural motion.
With regard to his resolution, Van Huss told The Tennessee Star, “If one body passes a bill, then the other body should have to vote it up or down. We’re here to serve our constituents, not ourselves.”
He went on to say, about being self-serving, “I want to go home to my family as much as everyone else, but my constituents sent me here to do a job.”
Expressing appreciation for the approach taken in the House, Van Huss said, “I’m thankful that House leadership didn’t limit the number of bills that we considered after the break.”
In light of his resolution, fellow House members brought a number of their important bills to the attention of Van Huss that either passed only in the House or were held in the House due to inaction by the Senate. While Van Huss shared the list with The Star, he made sure to point out that it was not all-inclusive.
HB 2134 by Cepicky – Teacher’s Discipline Act establishing a disciplinary process for students who have been removed from the classroom by the teacher. – House Vote 91-0 / SB 2252 by Hensley in Senate Education Committee
HB 1689 by Cepicky – Transgender Sports prohibiting a student from participating in a single-sex interscholastic sport or athletic event provided by the student’s public school unless the student verifies with the public school that the student is of the respective sex. – House Vote 73-13-2 / SB 1736 by Hensley in Senate Education Committee
HB 38 by Van Huss – Eliminates state mandated testing for grades K-2 for the purposes of teacher evaluation. House Vote 78-14-3 / SB 0496 by Bowling in Senate Education Committee
HB 1839 by Daniel – Prohibits public higher education institutions from contracting or affiliating with a foreign nation. House Vote 80-10-2 / SB 2339 by Gresham in Senate Education Committee
HB 77 by Van Huss – Heartbeat Bill. House Vote 65-21-7 in 2019 / SB 1236 by Pody Senate Judiciary Committee even following a Summer Study in 2019.
HB 2263 by Lamberth – Governor’s Heartbeat Bill. House vote 68-17-2 / SB 2196 by Johnson Senate Calendar Committee
HB 1946 by Daniel – Allows members of the U.S. armed forces and honorably discharged veterans who received certified occupational training to receive equivalent credit toward occupational licensing. House Vote 94-0 / SB 1915 by Bowling in Senate State & Local Government Committee
HB 2007 by Daniel – Authorizes the release of public records related to an audit or investigation by the Comptroller of the Treasury or other government audit staff used during the audit or investigation prior to the conclusion of the process, if such disclosure will not prejudice the audit or investigation. House Vote 93-1 / SB 2073 by Pody in Senate State & Local Government Committee
HB 1951 by Daniel – Requires state agencies to hold rulemaking hearings when promulgating proposed administrative rules that may affect a person’s right or imposes fees, penalties or fines and allows a person to file suit if rules are not properly adopted . House Vote 91-0 / SB 2322 Roberts in Senate Government Operations Committee
HB 2785 by Daniel – Gives the Tennessee General Assembly greater control over rules promulgated by state agencies, including suspension of any or all of the agency’s rulemaking authority. House Vote 91-1 / SB 2593 Senate Government Operations Committee
HB 2910 by Grills –Changes the compensation of the Reelfoot Lake regional utility and planning district from no more than $1,000 annually to no more than $200 per month. House Vote 74-1-4 / SB 2920 by Jackson Senate Delayed Bills Committee
Bills held in the House because of delays in the Senate:
HB 2113 by Grills – Requires acceptance of handgun carry permits as valid forms of government-issued photo identification, the same as a driver’s license. / SB 2082 by Haile Senate Calendar Committee
HB 2778 by J. Sexton – Bible Bill / SB 2696 by Pody Senate State & Local Government Committee
HB 2091 by Hulsey – Increases penalty for the offense of voluntary manslaughter from a Class C felony to a Class B felony. – House Finance / SB 1966 by Crowe in Senate Judiciary Committee
HB 2291 by Hulsey – Prohibits the Governor form using law enforcement to enforce unconstitutional executive orders that require a private business entity to close, restricting the freedom to peaceably assemble or restricting the freedom to travel– SB 2368 by Pody in Senate Judiciary Committee
HB 2339 by Hulsey – For state inmates who also have a detainer to serve a term of imprisonment in another jurisdiction, primarily federal, and have served more than 50 percent of their term and they are eligible for parole, they will be considered eligible for parole under certain conditions so they can be transferred, saving the state the cost of their incarceration. / SB 2257 by Crowe in Senate Judiciary Committee
HB 2380 by Hulsey – Increases the penalty for statutory rape, based on certain ages of the victim and the defendant. / SB 1964 by Crowe in Senate Judiciary Committee
HB 1948 by Daniel – Makes evidence obtained in an illegal manner inadmissible in a civil proceeding. / SB 1992 by Stevens in Senate Judiciary Committee
HB 2536 by Doggett – Creates a violation of an individual’s civil rights to infringe upon or deny an individual the full exercise and enjoyment of any right recognized and protected by Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution or any right recognized and protected by the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and allows enforcement by means of civil action or prosecution as official oppression. / SB 2614 by Hensley Senate Judiciary Committee
HB 2539 by Doggett – Makes changes regarding restitution for victims of crime. / SB 2452 by Roberts in Senate Judiciary Committee
HB 2540 by Doggett – Requires that a court clerk offer a reasonable payment plan for fees and fines to person’s who were convicted of an offense and completed their sentence. – H Cal / SB 2460 by Roberts in Senate Judiciary Committee
HB 2454 by Terry – Medical Marijuana. / SB 2334 by Dickerson in Senate Government Operations Committee
HB 1947 by Daniel – Clarifies state statutes related to retaliatory termination of an employee for refusing to participate in or be silent about illegal activities. / SB 2909 by Bailey in Senate Commerce & Labor Committee
HB 1949 by Daniel – Allows certain state agencies to use a portion of their reserve fund to cover a deficit in the current fiscal year. / SB 2074 by Pody in Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee
HB 2580 by Hulsey – Requires the state executive committees for each statewide political party to publish changes to the schedule of a candidate’s public appearance to their website within 48 hours, instead of as soon as it is available, after such information is available to the respective SEC. / SB 2530 by Southerland in Senate State & Local Government Committee
In presenting the resolution on the House floor, Van Huss said to his colleagues, “The citizens of Tennessee sent us here to do a job. We should be focused on doing that job and not looking for ways to quickly finish and quickly move on. We should vote based on what’s right and what’s wrong and not what will get us re-elected. Thank you House leadership for not limiting the number of bills that we are going to consider after this recent recess.”
House Republican Majority Leader William Lamberth thanked the sponsor for bringing the proposal and then gave his thoughts on the resolution.
I just want to say that even though we’ve had some tumultuous times over the past few weeks, this chamber’s worked very hard to work on ideas, policies and bills many of which have not yet proceeded in the Senate. I do hope that our Senate colleagues over the next few days, or however long it takes until we sine die, will take up many of these ideas that you have all worked so hard to be able to pass. So I appreciate the nature of this resolution, I appreciate your feelings on it, and I join you in saying that in a bicameral legislature obviously we can’t tell the other chamber what to do, but we could ask them to continue the work of the people and take up not just the budget and not just the bills that are already slated to come up and the additional ones that quite frankly they’ve added on, but just go ahead and finish the full slate of legislation that we’ve worked hard on.
Representative Jim Coley (R-Bartlett), who is not seeking re-election in 2020, said he wanted to reiterate sentiments of the leader and express his appreciation for the sponsor bringing the bill.
He added that he had a bill dealing with rape kits, that had the support of Nashville Democrat Representatives Bob Freeman and Bill Beck as co-sponsors.
Coley said that with a young lady coming to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about her experiences, “It’s things like this that don’t need to be overlooked.”
Coley expressed his displeasure with the Senate.
“I think it’s disgraceful that the Senate has chosen not to deal with issues like this,” and, therefore, supported the resolution.
While the 99 State Representatives are elected every two years, the 33 State Senators are elected every four years, with those in even-numbered districts being up for election in 2020.
Of the 16 up for re-election this year, only three have no primary or general election opponent and one is not seeking re-election.
Van Huss’s HR 343 had 28 Republican co-sponsors.
In seeking the support of Democrat as co-sponsors, Van Huss told The Star, they declined, saying that the Senate is needed to kill conservative legislation from the House as the only way to stop it.
The resolution passed the House with a vote of 69 Ayes, 3 Nays and 8 Present and Not Voting.
With the 111th Tennessee General Assembly adjourning last week, all of the unfinished bills will have to be started anew when the 112th General Assembly convenes in 2021.