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And the ‘Beat’ Goes On

The House Public Health Subcommittee recommended passage of the “Heartbeat Bill,” House Bill 77, by Representative Micah Van Huss (R-Johnson City). It will prohibit most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The bill will be heard in the full House Health Committee on Tuesday. The subcommittee was also expected to hear House Bill 1029 by Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), the so-called “trigger law.” It would make most abortions illegal but only in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, or if the U.S. Constitution is amended to allow states to prohibit abortion. However, she chose to delay hearing on the bill at this time. We will keep you apprised of when the bill is placed back on the calendar.

Yesterday, the Senate, by a vote of 27–3, approved Senate Joint Resolution 1 that would limit the power of the state Supreme Court, which currently names the state’s attorney general and reporter by secret ballot, to only nominating a candidate and doing so in an open meeting and by recorded vote. Then the nomination would have to be confirmed by the state House and Senate. The Resolution will now move to the House for consideration. The matter will go before a vote of the people in November 2022 before it could become effective.

The House Business Subcommittee will take up House Bill 563 by Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) next Tuesday. This is one of the bills we told you about last week that Family Action of Tennessee is pursuing passage. The bill will ensure that there is one uniform standard across the state for businesses to meet in four areas, one of which includes the scope of anti-discrimination policies. It would prevent what happened last week in Nashville when the city decided to give preferences in awarding contract bids and grants to those businesses that went beyond state and federal law in making sexual orientation and gender identity a protected workforce class.

Also next week the House Departments and Agencies Subcommittee will hear two joint resolutions and one bill on gambling in Tennessee. Specifically, HJR 130 by Representative Larry Miller (D-Memphis) would amend the state’s constitutional prohibition on gambling to authorize casinos and games of chance; HJR 102 by Representative Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) would amend the state constitution to allow charitable organizations to operate bingo games, which are deemed a form of gambling; and House Bill 1 by Representative Rick Staples (R-Knoxville) which will authorize sports betting in jurisdictions that authorize it through a local option election.

Finally, the House Finance Subcommittee will hear HJR 17 by Rep. Van Huss to amend the constitution to recognize that our liberties come from God and not the government.


Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

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Tennessee Capitol Building

Three Key Bills and Their Sponsors

By the end of the week, as the policy director for Family Action of Tennessee, FACT’s legislative arm, I had met with all but two of the 31 new members of the General Assembly and the key leadership in both the House and Senate. Many of the new members I had not met during the primaries were already aware and supportive of Family Action of Tennessee’s work.

Family Action of Tennessee also began the process of moving the following three pieces of legislation that we brought to legislators for sponsorship:

  • Senate Bill 316 by Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixon)/House Bill 194 by Representative Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) – Legislative Intervention Bill, which would authorize the General Assembly to intervene in certain existing legal proceedings where the constitutionality of a state statute is challenged or in which a “new” or novel interpretation to expand the constitutional or statutory rights are being advocated.
  • Senate Bill 364 by Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga)/House Bill 569 by Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) – The Business Protection Act, which is referenced in the Nashville LGBT Businesses Get Legally Recognized story.
  • Senate Bill 1499 by Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald)/House Bill 1274 by Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) – The School Protection Act, which will protect a local school board and its employees from lawsuits arising out of the school board’s policy of protecting students from exposure to the opposite sex when in states of undress by designating locker rooms and shower facilities or bathrooms on the basis of sex.

Look for detailed talking points and FAQs for each of these bills on our website sometime next week. I will keep you apprised of their progress through the session.

There are two bills of interest related to abortion scheduled to be heard next week. The House Public Health Subcommittee is scheduled to hear the “Heartbeat Bill,” House Bill 77 by Representative Micah Van Huss (R-Johnson City), which will prohibit most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Also on the subcommittee’s calendar is the “Human Life Protection Act,” House Bill 1029 by Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), which would make most abortions illegal in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, or if the U.S. Constitution is amended to allow states to prohibit abortion. Family Action of Tennessee is tracking both of these bills.


Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

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Tennessee Capitol Building

Watching Key Bills From the Thousands Filed

The deadline to file bills in both the House and Senate has now passed. Some 1,499 bills were filed in the House and 1,508 were filed in the Senate. We intend to have each of those bills reviewed by the end of the day to identify those that we will track. As in past years, we will have that information available on our website and cover the most important ones during our State Legislative Issues Briefing on March 7.

We were able to meet with most of the House and Senate leaders and/or their key legislative staffers to review the bills that we have asked legislators to file. Two additional leadership meetings are scheduled for next week.

There was limited activity in the committees and subcommittees this week, but it will certainly pick up next week. This week the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SJR 1, which would change the manner in which the attorney general is selected. The state constitution currently provides that the attorney general is selected by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The resolution would require that the attorney general be nominated by the court in an open public meeting and the nominee be approved by the General Assembly. The full Senate is scheduled to take the first of three votes required by the constitution on Monday.

Two other items to amend the constitution are up for committee consideration next week. SJR 97, which would allow charitable organizations to hold bingo games, will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. HJR 17, which would place language in the constitution recognizing that our rights and liberties come from God and not the government, will be heard in a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.

Finally, HB 189, which seeks to clarify statutory language on the marriage of minors, is scheduled for a hearing in another subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. We are working with the sponsor of the bill in hopes of revising language in one part of the bill to prevent some unintended consequences that could be extremely problematic.


Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

Read more “This Week at the Capitol” articles

Tennessee flag logo and words miscellaneous bills

Horse Racing Commission (SB 346 / HB 814)

BILL SUMMARY

Establishes the Tennessee Horse Racing Commission to regulate horse racing and wagering in Tennessee.

BILL ANALYSIS

This bill is the final step toward full legalization of horse racing and gambling on those races in Tennessee.

BILL SPONSORS

Niceley in the Senate, Lovell in the House

TRACK THIS BILL

Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

BILL STATUS

No action taken in the House or Senate.

Tennessee flag logo and words miscellaneous bills

Cannabidiol Excluded From Marijuana Definition (SB 385 / HB 694)

BILL SUMMARY

Excludes cannabidiol products approved as prescription medication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from the statutory definition of marijuana.

BILL ANALYSIS

Cannabidiol, by definition, is an extract from the cannabis plant that does not contain THC, the property in cannabis that causes a “high.” Typically, it is dispensed in an oil form and can be used to help treat seizures and other medical conditions

BILL SPONSORS

Massey in the Senate, Williams in the House

TRACK THIS BILL

Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

BILL STATUS

Signed into law as Public Chapter 120.