Tennessee Capitol Building

School Protection Act Stalls in Senate

The last week of the legislative session started with great promise, but its promise was muted by the Senate. It began strong Tuesday when the House overwhelmingly passed the School Protection Act, HB 1274, by a vote of 72-23. The bill would provide local schools with a legal defense from the state if they are sued for having a locker room and bathroom policy that respects the bodily privacy of biological boys and girls.

The next day, when the full Senate took up the companion bill to the one passed by the House, SB 1499, it was quickly referred back to a committee. Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) made a surprise motion to send the bill from the floor to the State and Local Government Committee to be heard next year.

Even though Sen. Dickerson’s motion was subject to debate under the Senate rules, Lt. Gov. and Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) ignored that rule by immediately calling for a voice vote on the motion. Catching the majority in support of the bill off guard, Speaker McNally quickly ruled that the motion was adopted on an unrecorded voice vote. His actions, therefore, prevented senators opposed to the bill and those in favor of the bill from having their votes recorded.

We are grateful to both our sponsors, Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) and Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), for their hard work navigating the bill through their respective houses; to the House members who voted so overwhelmingly for the bill; and to the majority of the senators who said they would vote for it. We look forward to it becoming law after it passes in the Senate next year.

In other activity, both the House and Senate passed a bill to authorize online sports betting in Tennessee. The bill, HB 1 by Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) and SB 16 by Sen. Dickerson, now goes to the governor, who, under the constitution, must sign or veto it within 10 days or it will become law without his signature, which is what he reportedly plans to do.

Finally, Sen. Paul Rose (R-Covington) deferred Senate action on his bill, SB 1304, until next year. This bill would provide protection to child-placing adoption and foster care agencies from some types of legal actions if they choose not to place children in homes with a same-sex couple based on their sincerely held religious or moral beliefs. The House companion bill, HB 836 by Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro), previously passed in the House.

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Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

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Tennessee Capitol Building

Let Legislators Know Your Position on the School Protection Act

The School Protection Act, SB 1499 by Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) and HB 1274 by Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden), continued to make progress through the legislature this week. The bill would provide local schools with a legal defense from the state if they are sued for having a locker room and bathroom policy that respects the bodily privacy of biological boys and girls. Sen. Hensley got the bill passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, while Rep. Holt shepherded the House bill through two key funding committees. The Senate will take action on the bill on Tuesday, while the House Calendar and Rules Committee will determine on Monday which day next week it will come before the full House.

We want to encourage you to contact your state representative and senator by calling or emailing to let him or her know your position on SB 1499, the School Protection Act. It is a simple process to contact your legislators and takes less than five minutes. You can click here for a list of state representatives and click here for a list of Senate members. On each page, click on the name of your representative or senator and you will be taken to a page with their contact information. If you don’t know who your legislators are, there is a place on both the House and Senate page that will allow you to identify them by entering your address. Amazon and a number of other businesses are making a push to persuade Tennessee legislators to vote against this bill and other legislation. Do not let these businesses drown out your voice.

Human Life Protection Bill

Another bill of significant interest, the Human Life Protection Bill, otherwise known as the “Trigger Bill,” passed in both the House and Senate on Monday. The bill provides that if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns Roe v. Wade, then virtually all abortions in Tennessee would be illegal. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) and Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), now goes to the governor for his signature.

Online Sports Gambling

The bills to authorize online sports gambling continue to make progress. HB 1 by Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) passed the House on Wednesday while the Senate companion bill, SB 16 by Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville), also passed out of the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on Wednesday. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday.

Adoption and Foster Care Placement Agencies

In addition to passing the School Protection Act this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 1304 by Sen. Paul Rose (R-Covington), which would provide protection for child-placing adoption and foster care agencies from some types of legal actions if they choose not to place children in homes with a same-sex couple based on their sincerely held religious or moral beliefs. It does not protect them from lawsuits that claim the agency’s policy violates their constitutional rights. It will be heard by the full Senate on Tuesday. The House companion bill, HB 836 by Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro), has previously passed the House.

Both the House and Senate continue to move toward adjournment. The House passed its budget on Wednesday and the Senate is expected to follow suit next week.

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Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

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Tennessee Capitol Building

School Protection Act Scheduled to Be Heard in Senate Committee April 23

The General Assembly continues to efficiently move toward completing its business perhaps by mid-May. All House committees except for those related to the budget process have closed, and the final two such committees in the Senate will complete their business on Tuesday.

Share Your Position on the School Protection Act

Next week will be a pivotal week relative to Family Action of Tennessee’s School Protection Act in the Senate. The bill would provide local schools with a legal defense from the state if they are sued for having a locker room and bathroom policy that respects the bodily privacy of biological boys and girls. While the House bill, HB 1274 by Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden), has passed the House Judiciary Committee, the Senate companion bill, SB 1499 by Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

We anticipate a close vote, so if you are represented by one of the senators on the committee, you are encouraged to call or email him or her and tell your senator to support SB 1499. Click here for a list of the committee members. If you then click on your senator’s picture, you will be directed to a page with his/her email address and telephone number.

Business Protection Act Deferred Until Next Year

On a disappointing note, our Business Protection Act, SB 364 by Senator Paul Rose (R-Covington), was deferred until next year. In essence, a last-minute push by some local economic development officials created some misapprehensions among senators about the effect of the bill. Given it was the last meeting of the committee for the year, we determined the best approach would be to defer until next year. We will work over the summer and the fall to secure the votes we need for the bill’s passage next year. The House companion bill, HB 563 by Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville), was overwhelmingly passed by the House earlier in the session.

Other Legislative Activity

There was a flurry of other action this week. SB 1257 by Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), the “trigger bill,” was scheduled to be heard in the Senate yesterday but was reset for Monday. The House companion bill, HB 1029 by Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), passed through both the House Budget Subcommittee and the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee this week and is also scheduled for action by the full House on Monday.

Although SB 1236, the “heartbeat bill,” was deferred to a summer study last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate sponsor, Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), has filed a motion pursuant to Senate rules to have the bill recalled from the committee and placed before the full Senate. This motion will likely be heard by the Senate on Monday evening. If the motion receives 17 votes, then the bill itself will be scheduled for debate on the Senate floor.

The bills authorizing sports gambling also made progress this week. HB 1 by Representative Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) passed through the House Finance Subcommittee and Committee process and is scheduled for a vote by the full House on Monday. The Senate companion bill, SB 16 by Senator Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville), is set to be heard by the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on Tuesday.

HB 307 by Representative Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro), which authorizes release-time religious or moral courses be taken for credit, passed the House on Thursday. The Senate companion bill, SB 1373 by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston), passed the Senate last week so the bill now goes to Governor Lee.

Joint Resolutions to Amend the Constitution

The House and Senate took action on three different joint resolutions to amend the constitution. The House concurred with the Senate on SJR 1 by Senator Yager, which would bring some accountability to the office of the attorney general by authorizing the Tennessee Supreme Court to nominate the attorney general in a public vote. The nominee would then be subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. Currently, the state Supreme Court selects the attorney general without a public vote. The House voted to approve HJR 17 by Representative Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) to declare that our liberties come from God. It now goes to the Senate. And, finally, SJR 97 by Senator Frank Nicely (R-Strawberry Plains) to authorize bingo operations to benefit not-for-profit entities passed the Senate. This joint resolution now goes to the House for concurrence.

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Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

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Tennessee Capitol Building

School Protection Act and Business Protection Act Gain Traction

There was a lot of activity this week as most of the House committees and subcommittees have completed their business and several of the Senate committees are closing as well. However, there is still much left to be done.

This week the medical marijuana bills were officially deferred until 2020, while committees in both the House and Senate passed out their respective bills to authorized online sports betting in Tennessee. HB 1 by Representative Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) will next be heard in the House Government Operations Committee and its Senate companion, SB 16 by Senator Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville), is headed to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.

There were mixed results this week on abortion-related bills. After the so-called “Trigger” bill, HB 1029 by Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), failed in the House Public Health Subcommittee two weeks ago, Representative Ron Gant (R-Rossville), pursuant to House rule, gave notice of his intention to make a motion in the House Health Committee to recall the bill from the subcommittee, effectively by-passing the subcommittee’s action. The motion was heard on Wednesday and passed by a 12-4 margin, paving the way for the bill to be considered by the full committee next Tuesday. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Senate companion bill, SB 1257 by Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), this week and it will next be heard by the full Senate, although it has not yet been set.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also took action on the “Heartbeat” bill, SB 1236 by Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), voting to defer it for additional study during summer hearings, effectively killing the bill for this year.

Among the good news to report is that our School Protection Act, HB 1274 sponsored by Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden), passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote. It next goes to the House Budget Subcommittee. The Senate companion bill, SB 1499 by Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), will begin moving in the Senate soon. Additionally, the Senate State and Local Government Committee will consider our Business Protection Act, SB 364 by Senator Paul Rose (R-Covington), on Tuesday. The House approved its version of the bill earlier this year.

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Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

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Tennessee Capitol Building

Senate Judiciary Committee Slated to Discuss Bills About Unborn on April 9

As reported last week, two Family Action of Tennessee initiatives were scheduled to be heard by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee this week. The initiatives met with mixed results. The good news is that HB 1274 by Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) was recommended for passage by a voice vote and it will move on to the full Judiciary Committee next week. The bill would authorize the attorney general to represent a local school district and its employees in a lawsuit filed because it has a locker room/bathroom policy that is based on biological sex, and if the attorney general declines representation, the state will reimburse the district for its defense costs. The committee will take up the bill on Tuesday.

The other bill, HB 194 by Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) that would grant the legislature the right to intervene into certain lawsuits, was taken off-notice until next year. Regrettably, with the subcommittee closing next week, there was not enough time to resolve questions about the wording of the bill that would satisfy other interested parties. We will make it a priority to get these issues resolved over the summer.

Next week there will be an attempt to resurrect the so-called Trigger Bill, which would make virtually all abortions illegal if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, in whole or in part. The bill, HB 1029 by Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), failed in the House Public Health Subcommittee two weeks ago. However, Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) gave notice this week that he will make a motion in the House Health Committee that the bill be recalled from the subcommittee and be moved to the full committee. Under the House rules, the motion will require a simple majority. The Senate companion bill, SB 1257 by Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), is also on the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar on Tuesday.

Also on the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar is SB 1236 by Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) that would make virtually all abortions illegal once a heartbeat is detected. Family Action of Tennessee President David Fowler is scheduled to testify in support of an amendment that completely rewrites the version of the bill previously passed by the House. The essence of his remarks will be to properly frame the bill and the legislative record on the debate to ensure it has the best opportunity possible to withstand an inevitable lawsuit challenging the bill’s constitutionality.

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Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

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