Legislative Update, April 23, 2022
Tennessee General Assembly information, click HERE. For information on State Senators, including phone numbers and email addresses, click HERE; for House members, click HERE. For information on legislation, click HERE.
Don't forget that you can now watch the Senate committee meetings and floor sessions online by going HERE; House committee meetings and floor sessions online HERE.
Phone calls can go to the legislative Switchboard at 615-741-3011 or to the Toll Free number 1-800-449-8366+1 last four digits of office phone number (available online).
FOR YOUR PRAYER LIST:
Once again, I ask your prayers for what are probably the last days of the 112th TN General Assembly when the final decisions will be made and the very last votes will be taken. These are no less important than the very first. These will also be the final days for a number of lawmakers who are not running for re-election. We certainly want to remember these folks as they begin a new season in their lives.
We are now very close to adjournment, and things are moving faster than ever. The Eagle Forum Bill, HB 2454 was passed in the House and Senate without questions. Later, we attended the Local Government Committee and heard a bill by Rep Moody, which would help with Graceland's financial problems from the Covid-19 pandemic. It was amazing to see just how easy it is to pass a bill related to Elvis. Afterwards, we sat in on Finance Ways and Means for a couple of hours, a lot of which was spent listening to questions on Rep. Mark White's education bill. This bill would change the way schools are funded based on how many students attend the school. We also heard HB 2633, which would protect teachers' and school employees' free speech rights when it comes to using a student's preferred pronouns. It would absolve them from adverse employment action and civil liability, which would protect them from being discriminated against or mistreated by their employer. Rep. Cochran's presentation of the bill was very professional, and he wouldn't be led off-topic. Ms. Bobbie has said many times, less is more when it comes to discussion and answers, and Rep. Cochran demonstrated this principle very effectively. We expect things to move quickly in the next couple of weeks, and we are celebrating the passage of our bill.
As the session comes to an end, I am beginning to see a new side of things. The beginning days of my internship were filled with Ms. Bobbie and I racing around to get to Committee Meetings to hear bills that Ms. Bobbie was tracking. In between committee meetings, we would lobby for her bills or against ones that were concerning to her. Wednesdays are no longer filled with racing to Committee Meetings, instead, Wednesdays are filled with going to Floor Sessions in the morning and then spending the rest of the day going office to office lobbying. This Wednesday, Ms. Bobbie and I spent most of our time talking to Senators asking them to vote yes on SB 2292. This bill is about protecting students from digital obscenity and pornography. This bill was thankfully received very positively by the senators. Ms. Bobbie is doing incredible things and I am so thankful to have this opportunity to learn from her.
We don't often have the opportunity to celebrate something as important as the passage of SB2292-HB2454. There was NOTHING easy about what it took to achieve this victory, but PRAISE THE LORD, we won. We WON for the CHILDREN and we WON for their parents.
We are SO PROUD OF AND SO GRATEFUL TO OUR WONDERFUL SPONSORS: Sen. Mike Bell and Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver.
And, if you made a phone call or sent an email to support our bill, THANK YOU!
As you may recall, Monday evening, after sponsor, Rep. Terri Weaver presented the bill, HB2454 passed the House floor 74-17 with no questions asked:
Reps voting aye were: Alexander, Baum, Boyd, Bricken, Byrd, Calfee, Campbell S, Carr, Carringer, Casada, Cepicky, Cochran, Crawford, Curcio, Darby, Doggett, Eldridge, Faison, Freeman, Gant, Garrett, Gillespie, Griffey, Grills, Halford, Hall, Haston, Hawk, Hazlewood, Helton, Hicks G, Hicks T, Howell, Hulsey, Hurt, Johnson C, Keisling, Kumar, Lafferty, Lamberth, Leatherwood, Littleton, Lynn, Mannis, Marsh, Martin, Moody, Moon, Ogles, Parkinson, Potts, Powers, Ragan, Ramsey, Reedy, Rudd, Rudder, Russell, Sexton J, Sherrell, Sparks, Terry, Todd, Travis, Vaughan, Vital, Warner, Weaver, White, Williams, Windle, Wright, Zachary, Mr. Speaker Sexton C -- 74.
Reps voting no were: Beck, Camper, Chism, Clemmons, Cooper, Hakeem, Hardaway, Harris, Johnson G, McKenzie, Miller, Mitchell, Powell, Shaw, Stewart, Thompson, Towns -- 17.
On Thursday, after several starts, stops, and changing calendars a couple of times, Sponsor Sen. Bell was finally able to present SB2292 on the Senate floor and with no questions asked, it passed the Senate floor 23-4.
Sens. voting aye were: Bailey, Bell, Bowling, Briggs, Crowe, Gardenhire, Haile, Hensley, Jackson, Johnson, Kelsey, Lundberg, Massey, Niceley, Pody, Powers, Reeves, Roberts, Southerland, Stevens, Swann, Walley, Mr. Speaker McNally -- 23.
Sens. voting no were: Akbari, Campbell, Kyle, Yarbro -- 4.
(Originally Akbari didn't vote but later, voted NO. We would have had more YES votes, but the bill was taken up first just after a recess and a few senators were not yet in the chamber.)
After the respective speakers sign the bill and it is Engrossed, it will go to the Governor for his signature.
SOME OF THE THINGS THIS BILL ACCOMPLISHES:
Limits the educational justification concerning obscene materials and performances, as described in the Bill Summary, to that the educational justification exception will not apply if the obscene material is possessed by a person with the intent to send, sell, distribute, exhibit, or display the material to a minor.
Requires the provisions of this bill concerning internet filter technology to be contractual provisions and defining "verification".
Requires a provider of digital or online resources, with which an LEA or a state agency contracts for the provision of digital or online materials created and marketed for K-12 school use, to do the following:
(1) Verify that the digital or online materials do not violate the prohibition against distributing obscene material to minors;
(2) Filter, block, or otherwise prevent access to pornography or obscenity through one's use of the digital or online materials;
(3) Verify, in writing, that the provider's technology prevents a user from sending, receiving, viewing, or downloading materials that are harmful to minors (TCA 39-17-901 which I helped to pass in 1989); and
(4) Remove, upon the contracting LEA's or state agency's request, access to digital or online materials for ages or audiences for which the contracting LEA or state agency has determined the material to be age- or audience-inappropriate.
Mark Bonkiewicz, Founder of Nebraskans For Founders' Values and Co-Chair of the national organization, Protect Child Health Coalition (PCHC) sent this:
Friday, April 22, 2022
The victory in TN with the passage of HB2454 and SB2292 is a milestone in the national efforts to protect the health and innocence of children from the negative effects of porn and obscenity currently disseminated on public school provided I-pads or laptops.
Eight states had similar legislation introduced in 2022. These states were FL, GA, IA, IN, MN, NE, OH and UT. Many Protect Child Health Coalition (PCHC) members worked diligently with introducing and sponsoring legislators who introduced similar legislation as TN. Unfortunately, the progressive opposition in many states used various legislative techniques like filibusters, IPP, and the power of Committee Chairs to stonewall and prevent passage of their Repeal Obscenity Exemption Statute K-12 (ROES) and Filter Requirements for On-Line Resource Companies legislation.
We are thankful to TN legislators for the time, energy, and talents they utilized to learn about the scope of the problem that porn and obscenity distributed by public school internet access and then pass this historic legislation. We are hopeful that they will share their techniques and lessons learned with legislators from other states.
We are also hopeful that Bobbie Patray will share the actions and techniques she uses to build relationships of trust and credibility with the legislators and that Patty Canter, who presented expert testimony in committee and who, with others, provided the research that enabled a persuasive, solid case to be built, will share that information.
The PCHC goal is that the other 32 states that have obscenity exemption statute will follow the example of TN legislators and pass similar legislation to protect the health and innocence of the children in their state in 2023!
Gratefully yours, Mark Bonkiewicz
BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS 2022-23 passed by the General Assembly
Total Budget $52.8 billion
- Tax Cuts ($300M)
- $3M – Agriculture machinery & equipment
- $121M – License plate renewal fee removed for 1 year
- $320K – Gun safes tax-free
- $80M – Food sales tax holiday for August
- $9.7M – Eliminates doctors from professional privilege tax
- $204M – Broadband tax relief 3-year plan
- Grants/Salary Investments
- $1M – Senior center improvements
- $5M – Volunteer fire department equipment and supplies
- $2M – Rescue squads
- $124.7M – Teacher raises
- $4.7M – State Trooper and commissioned law enforcement raises
- $500M- Career & Technical Education grants for public schools
- 281 high schools with $1M, 408 schools with $500K, & 70 schools with $200K
- $25.5M – Summer learning camps for COVID-19 learning loss
- Economic Development
- $1.5M – Launch TN entrepreneur and mentor centers
- $18 M- Tennessee Entrepreneurial Science and Technology Hub at UT Martin
- $500M – Bond for Titans stadium and downtown improvements
- $878M – Blue Oval development and area infrastructure
- $33.8M – TN Foster’s Hope Program including child care vouchers for foster/adopted children
- $9.7M – Department of Children Services case managers' salary increases to decrease caseloads
- $5M – Children Advocacy Centers for child abuse victims
- Law & Order
- Funds Truth in Sentencing: requires violent crime offenders to serve 100% of their sentence
- $16M – 100 new TN Highway Patrol positions
- $179M – Constructs TN Advanced Communications Network for emergency communication statewide
- $4.2M – Increases human trafficking investigation positions
- Correctional facility officer salaries become the highest in the Southeast by raising existing salaries & raising starting salary to $44,500
- Military & Veterans
- $800K – Military behavioral health centers
- $150K – Outpatient mental health services
- $3M – Tennessee National Guard tuition reimbursement
- Elderly & Disabled
- $10.6M – Eliminates OPTIONS wait list for community living programs
- $49M – Alzheimer’s medication for dually qualified Medicaid and Medicare members
- $19.9M – CHOICES program providing personal care, home-delivered meals, & home services for elderly/ at risk for nursing homes
- $244M – Renovations and upgrades to state parks
- Up to $20M – Humphreys County flood disaster relief
- Creates Mental Health Treatment Act of 2022 for mental health court treatment programs
- $360K – Gold bullion sales tax removal
PROTECTING WOMEN'S SPORTS:
SB 2153 by *Hensley - HB 2316 by *Ragan
Education - As introduced, prohibits males from participating in public higher education sports that are designated for females; creates a cause of action for violations that deprive a student of an athletic opportunity or that cause direct or indirect harm to a student at the middle school, high school, or postsecondary level.
STATUS: SB2153, as amended, passed the Senate floor 27-4 and is on the House floor Monday.
ACTION: Please click HERE to encourage your House members to support this legislation.
BIOLOGICAL SEX AND PRONOUNS:
SB 2777 By *Bell - HB 2633 by *Cochran
Teachers, Principals and School Personnel - As introduced, specifies that a teacher or other employee of a public school or LEA is not required to refer to a student using the student's preferred pronoun if the pronoun does not align with the student's biological sex; insulates a teacher or other employee of a public school or LEA from civil liability and adverse employment action for referring to a student using the pronoun aligned with the student's biological sex instead of the student's preferred pronoun
STATUS: SB2777 is in Finance Ways and Means on Tuesday. HB2633 is on the House floor Monday evening.
ACTION: You will want to click on the respective links, contact FWM committee members and your House member and urge them to support this bill.
Amended campaign finance reporting bill could be headed to conference committee
By Jon Styf | The Center Square 19 hrs ago
(The Center Square) – A campaign finance reporting bill passed the Tennessee House with several changes from a version that previously passed the Senate.
That means that the chambers will have to concur on the differences in Senate Bill 1005 or a conference committee will be appointed to draft a compromise.
A controversial point in the bill is a new stipulation that would require nonprofit 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5) and 501(c)(6) organizations to report expenses more than $5,000 in the 60 days before an election that include the name or image of a candidate.
Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, said on Thursday that requirement wouldn't apply to communications to a group’s membership or if there is a special legislative session. He also said that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission does not allow a state to require donations to be reported.
STUDENT'S SEX AT BIRTH AND SPORTS:
SB 1861 by *Hensley - HB 1895 by *Ragan , CEPICKY, WEAVER, ZACHARY, GRILLS, TODD, COCHRAN
Education - As introduced, requires the commissioner of education to withhold a portion of the state education finance funds that an LEA is otherwise eligible to receive if the LEA fails or refuses to determine a student's gender, for purposes of participation in school sports, by the student's sex at the time of birth; exempts an LEA that fails or refuses to determine a student's gender, for purposes of participation in school sports, by the student's sex at the time of birth if the LEA's failure or refusal to do so is required by a court or other legally binding order.
STATUS: I am thrilled to tell you that this bill was SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR YESTERDAY.
ABORTION INDUCING DRUG:
SB 2281 by *Bell , White, Gardenhire, Bailey, Briggs, Bowling, Hensley, Jackson, Massey, Pody, Rose, Stevens - HB 2416 by *Moody , COCHRAN, LITTLETON, RUDDER, LEATHERWOOD, LYNN, TODD, VITAL, HELTON, CARRINGER, SHERRELL, CRAWFORD, RUDD, WHITE, KUMAR, WARNER, LAMBERTH, TERRY, WEAVER, ZACHARY, GRIFFEY, HULSEY, OGLES, MOON, REEDY, MARTIN, RAGAN, BAUM, HAWK, HOWELL, ELDRIDGE, HURT, POWERS
Abortion - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Abortion-Inducing Drug Risk Protocol Act.
STATUS: This bill, as amended, has passed both houses and is on its way to the Governor.
SOME VERY SAD NEWS FROM SEN. JON lUNDBERG:
Thank you for the prayers for Nash. He has been an incredible companion for me - and an ambassador for Tennessee. Doctors found a mass on his liver today (April 22) and could not remove it. He passed without pain. He truly loved everyone he met - and most loved him right back.
(Nash was raised over at the Plaza and when the legislators moved over to Cordell Hull, he made that move flawlessly. He always knew which offices had dog biscuits for him. He will be missed by his loving family in Bristol and Nashville.)
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