TCSA Capitol Update: February 13 - 17, 2023

After a couple of weeks of major developments, things this week settled into a more normal routine at the General Assembly. All of the legislation that was filed two weeks ago is being assigned to committees or held pending expected amendments. Some of the Governor’s major initiatives he presented at his State of the State Address are moving forward in legislative committees. 



Gov. Lee’s major transportation initiative (HB321/SB273) passed out of a House subcommittee last week and was scheduled to be heard in the full committee this week. The bill was deferred two weeks as the administration continues to discuss details of the legislation with roadbuilders, auto manufacturers and other groups. County associations support this legislation which brings an infusion of one-time funds into the state aid highway program for counties and also provides long term funding stability by including county and city governments in the distribution of any proposed fees on electric vehicles. The bill will now be heard in both the House and Senate Transportation Committees on February 28th and March 1st. This coincides with County Government Day and will afford county officials a great opportunity to discuss the importance of this legislation with their delegations. 



Also moving this week is (HB68/SB249), which would extend and expand state funded summer learning camps to help students get back on track. Initially, these programs were proposed for the summers of 2021 and 2022 in response to learning loss experienced during the pandemic. This legislation extends these programs indefinitely and opens them up to more children. The original legislation was geared towards students entering grades 4 through 8. This bill expands eligibility to add students entering K-3 on the front end and those entering 9th grade on the back end. The legislation would be funded through state appropriations of $21.4 million from the general fund, $5.7 million from the Lottery for Education After-School Program and $13.7 million from TANF funds. The Governor’s budget also includes an appropriation of $10 million to help fund summer bus transportation needs.


There are numerous bills this year focused on third grade retention policies. Next week, on Wednesday the 22nd at 1:30, the House Education Administration Committee will dedicate its entire meeting to hearing from a long list of stakeholders on the issue. 



HJR 13 is moving to the finance subcommittee in the House. This House Joint Resolution proposes a constitutional amendment to move the regular May/August primary and general elections to the August/November cycle. Rep. William Lamberth, who is sponsoring the legislation, has advocated that this change would save money and improve turnout in local elections. To amend the constitution, the resolution would have to pass the General Assembly by a simple majority in this session, then pass the following session by a 2/3rds vote, then be approved by the voters in a referendum. 


A second resolution by Rep. Bryan Richey (HJR45), proposes 16-year term limits for almost all elected officials in the state. This resolution was scheduled to be heard this week in a House subcommittee, but was deferred. Similar legislation (HB118) also by Rep. Richey proposes a referendum process for city and county governments for the voters to decide whether to implement 16 year term limits. This bill was likewise deferred. Knox and Shelby County have term limits in their charters, as does Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County. All general law counties currently do not have term limits.



Legislation to add additional national settlements to Tennessee’s framework for distributing opioid settlement funds moved forward in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee this week. (HB1367/SB637) by Rep. Farmer and Sen. Haile would add a second wave of anticipated settlements into the law. The framework provides for counties to share in a 15% local government pool of funds, 15% to go to the state and the remaining 70% to be distributed by the opioid abatement council. Of that 70%, 35% is earmarked for distribution to all 95 counties. The funds coming from the 15% local pool are unrestricted. The money that flows to counties through the abatement council must be used on opioid abatement. The opioid abatement council has an extensive list of recognized and approved strategies on their website HERE. General information about the council and its meetings can be found HERE.



A bill is moving forward that would prohibit local governments from regulating the types of appliances a homeowner may use in their residence. The bill, (SB367/HB483) is apparently in response to bans on natural gas appliances enacted in some jurisdictions, primarily in California. To our knowledge, no jurisdiction in Tennessee or any other southeastern state has adopted such regulations. The bill passed out of the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week and is scheduled to be heard in the House Local Government Committee next week.