The 111th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned sine die just after 3 a.m. on June 19th with
agreements on the budget, but the two chambers failed to come to terms on major legislative initiatives
such as COVID-19 protection for businesses, certificate of need legislation, and telemedicine. This
month’s adjournment lacked much of the pomp and circumstance typically associated with sine die,
perhaps a fitting end to a session that began with a new Governor and a considerable amount of new
members, and would ultimately experience two different House Speakers, a tornado, a pandemic, three
separate budgets in two years, and an uncharacteristic level of sparring between the two chambers
regarding both the scope of legislation to be deliberated and — in several cases — the content of that
legislation. Lawmakers also grappled with an unprecedented budget situation and frequent protests.

Gone was much of Governor Bill Lee’s once-ambitious legislative agenda, voluntarily shelved by the
Governor in the interest of focusing on managing a budget situation that was greatly affected by the
pandemic. In the end, legislators passed a $39.5 billion budget that barely resembled the one that the
Governor proposed to the General Assembly during his State of the State Address in early February.
Both the budget and the legislative process were greatly impacted by COVID-19, especially since the
Legislature recessed from March 18 to June 1 to stay at home for the pandemic.

Taken as a whole, the final budget largely addresses a $500 billion shortfall in the current year budget
and a $1 billion deficit in the budget that begins on July. Highlights include a $25 million sales tax
holiday, $210.5 million for cities and counties (including raising the cap on the amount allocated to
Memphis and Nashville to $10 million each), and $100 million to the rainy day fund. The budget
eliminates the pay raises for teachers, state employees, and higher education that had been previously
promised. Originally, the fund for cities and counties was set at $100 million and reserved for a one-time
expense relative to capital maintenance, utility upgrades, public safety projects, or road projects.
However, given the pandemic and storms that hit the state, cities and counties will be given flexibility on
the use of the funds. The final budget managed to preserve most of Governor Lee’s reductions, and
critical items emerged unscathed, including commitments to fully fund the Basic Education Program
(BEP), Pensions & Health Insurance, debt service requirements.

This month, the General Assembly passed legislation (SB2667/HB2842) to allow the Tennessee Trucking
Association Foundation to hold its annual raffle in December which benefits numerous charities and
educational programs. Additionally, the General Assembly passed the Tennessee Trucking Association’s
bill (SB1608/HB1594) dealing the drop deck length distance from the king pin to rear of the trailer, a
measure that expands, from 50 to 52 feet from the point of attachment to the tractor, the length a
truck-tractor and semitrailer or trailer combination that may operate over the federal and state highway
system in Tennessee.

Now that the General Assembly’s flag has been lowered from the Capitol cupola, thus
signaling adjournment, legislators’ attention turns toward re-election — with all House seats and half of
the Senate seats on the slate for the August primaries and November general election. Lawmakers will
now return to their districts, begin fundraising – something they are prohibited from doing while
legislature is in session — and immediately prepare for the August 6 primaries, with only one month
remaining until early voting begins.

 

On behalf of the Tennessee Government Relations Team at Adams and Reese, it is an honor and a
privilege to serve you before the Tennessee General Assembly, and we wish you and yours good health
and a relaxing summer. As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if we can further serve you in
any way.

The Cordell Hull Building came back to life in May as lawmakers reconvened in Nashville for committee meetings in advance of this week’s floor session.  In late May, the House was particularly busy, kicking things off with subcommittee meetings last week, following the long Memorial Day weekend.  Each of the House subcommittees generally took up where things left off prior to the March adjournment, working on a lengthy slate of bills – and sometimes working well into the evening – with the goal being to wrap up all subcommittee work by the end of this week.  Meanwhile the Senate only returned in May for a Finance Committee meeting, consistent with the Senate’s stated objective of only considering “time sensitive” and “mission critical” bills, and items related to the budget and the coronavirus pandemic. 

The differing approaches of the two chambers highlighted one of the more intriguing rifts that have taken place this session, as the bodies have remained at odds regarding the scope of the legislation that would be deliberated once the legislature returned to Nashville for the scheduled June 1 resumption of session.  While both Governor Lee and the Senate preferred a more focused approach in light of the COVID pandemic and the massive blow to Tennessee’s economy, the House advocated for a much broader scope, arguing that if the legislature is in session, it needs to be deliberating policy.  The two bodies have remained in a bit of a standoff, and the end result has been a lack of a consensus on which bills would be considered.  Indeed, a vast majority of the 391 bills calendared and debated the last week of May in House subcommittees and committees are not likely to be taken up by the Senate.

There was even a lack of consensus between the House and Senate on access to the Cordell Hull building, which is made clearly obvious as soon as visitors walk up the steps to the hearing rooms on the first floor.  The South end of the first floor – containing the House committee rooms — remained open to the public, albeit with temperature checks, mandatory masks, controlled attendance, mandatory social distancing and the installment of plexiglass “screens” around each member’s seat.  Meanwhile, velvet ropes cordoned off the North end of the first floor, which contains the Senate hearing rooms, with only legislators and staff allowed to pass. Lobbyists and the public have been encouraged to schedule meetings remotely and via teleconference, and in-person meetings, if absolutely necessary, must be scheduled one day in advance in the Senate, with members of the public being escorted to the meeting and asked to leave once the meeting is finished.  Testimony in committee hearings was discouraged as well.  In light of these protocols, attendance at the Cordell Hull Building was sparse in May, with only a handful of lobbyists and members of the public attending or testifying in committee meetings.  

The General Assembly will meet in the House and Senate chambers in June, with the House set to take up bills that were set to be discussed before the recess. Both bodies will take up committee calendars, with some more packed than others.  What is not clear is whether any of the bills that are passed in the House but are not on any Senate “lists” will later be considered in the Senate, or whether the Senate will remain steadfastly committed to quickly addressing budget and other matters it deems mission critical and adjourning in short order. If the latter remains the case, it is conceivable that the General Assembly could adjourn sine die in mid-June, if not sooner.  Also note that this is the final year of the 111th General Assembly. As such, no bill carries over to the 2021 session.  The legislative slate of all bills that do not pass this year are automatically wiped clean, and sponsors that wish to pursue them in the 2021 session must draft and file them as a new bill, starting the legislative process from scratch.  We are continuing to pursue the drop deck length legislation for the TTA and are actively working with our sponsors and TDOT on the effort for the remainder of session.

We will remain on top of this evolving and fluid situation at the Tennessee General Assembly.  Please let us know if you have any questions.

This month, Governor Bill Lee announced that his safer at home order – which imposed a blanket closure of most businesses across Tennessee – will expire on April 30th and will not be renewed, thus opening the door for a majority of businesses in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to reopen on Friday, May 1. This announcement does not necessarily amount to the Governor turning on a statewide “open” sign, however. Six of Tennessee’s largest counties – Davidson (Nashville), Hamilton (Chattanooga), Knox (Knoxville), Madison (Jackson), Shelby (Memphis) and Sullivan (Bristol) – have issued
their own stay at home orders. The Governor indicated that he will work with the county health departments and mayors of those counties and Tennessee’s largest cities to implement their own reopening strategies. The Governor described his reopening plan, deemed the Tennessee Pledge, as the first step in a phased approach of reopening the state’s economy, stating that his administration is “pursuing a careful, measured approach to reopening our economy that does not depend on heavy-handed mandates but instead provides practical tools for business of all sizes,” noting that “Tennesseans pulled together to flatten the curve, and it’s time for people to begin to get back to work and back to their businesses.”  On the legislative front, the staff of the Tennessee General Assembly will return to work at the Cordell Hull Building on Monday, May 4th . After passing an emergency budget on March 19th, the General Assembly recessed until June 1st, however, committee meetings could occur in late May in anticipation of resuming the 2020 legislative session. The legislature will reopen to staff under new protocols at the Cordell Hull Building, including wearing masks while in the presence of others and maintaining six feet of distance. However, the Cordell Hull Building which will remain closed to the public, except by appointment not less than one day in advance. Legislative leadership has not indicated the scope of legislative matters that will be taken up in the remainder of session or whether the public will be permitted to attend legislative proceedings.  However, we anticipate increased budget cuts due to anticipated revenue shortfalls in the state. As always, we will remain on top of all legislative developments and will keep you informed accordingly. We hope this update finds each of you safe and healthy. It is a pleasure to represent you at the Tennessee General Assembly.

On Thursday, March 19th, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a dramatically revised budget and recessed until June 1, 2020, following a series of unprecedented events in Tennessee’s history. In all, the month of March has been one Tennesseans would soon like to forget. The areas struck by the deadly tornadoes of March 4th are still early in the recovery process, and face a hard road to rebuild. And now, with the state on economic lockdown due to the coronavirus, many workers across the state face uncertain economic futures. 
In March, working on a compressed and expedited schedule, lawmakers passed a $39 billion budget and a few bills deemed “mission critical” before recessing to allow members and staff to return home due to the coronavirus. Legislative leadership maintains that all other bills will get a fair hearing after the recess, but for now all legislation is effectively placed on hold, including the bulk of the legislation that members filed this session. While legislative leaders have indicated a return date of June 1, if the month of March is any indicator, it would be safe to say there are no guarantees.
However, until the legislature formally adjourns “sine die”, any and all legislation that has not been previously defeated in committee is still technically alive and can be pursued when or if the legislature reconvenes. This includes the TTA’s bill dealing the drop deck length distance from the king pin to rear of the trailer. The measure was scheduled to be discussed on the Senate Floor, but it was moved back to the Senate Calendar & Rules Committee amid the pandemic. While in the House, it is expected to be heard in the Safety & Funding Subcommittee when the General Assembly meets again.
The budget passed by the General Assembly in March deposits $350 million in the state’s “rainy day” fund, the largest contribution ever made, bringing the state’s rainy day fund total to $1.45 billion. The spending plan also creates a $150 million coronavirus fund, designed to “help be responsive to health and safety issues resulting from the coronavirus.” Governor Lee also doubled his original investment in grants to local governments, increasing the amount from $100 to $200 million; funds that could be used by local governments to provide relief for the coronavirus and the deadly tornadoes that hit the state, and the budget also adds $30 million to the Disaster Relief Fund for TEMA in response to the tornado disaster.
On Monday, March 30th, citing the growth of the coronavirus in Tennessee’s urban areas and his concern about the disease’s potential impact on rural areas, Governor Lee announced the issuance of a statewide “safer at home” order. The statewide decree actually is comprised of two separate Executive Orders, which take effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday and last through April 14.   

Executive Order 21

adds businesses such as barber shops, hair salons, tattoo shops and entertainment and recreational venues to the list of business that were closed by the Governor last week in

Executive Order 17

, and extends that Order.  

Executive Order 22

lists the types of businesses that the Governor deems “essential,” and urges residents to stay at home as much as possible.  As always, it is a pleasure to represent you before the Tennessee General Assembly. Please stay safe and healthy and call on us if you need anything.

This month, legislative activity picked up significantly at the Capitol, with the General Assembly eyeing a mid-April adjournment.  We remained busy at the Cordell Hull Building tracking and crafting legislation on behalf of the TTA.  In particular, Rep. Dan Howell and Sen. Becky Massey, the Chairs of the House and Senate Transportation Committees, will sponsor legislation to eliminate an outdated law relative to the drop dead distance from the king pin to the rear of trailers in Tennessee.  We have been actively working with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Department of Safety on the measure, with both agencies poised to support the legislation.  Chairman Howell intends to run the legislation next week. 

 

Similarly, we are working with the Department of Revenue on potential legislation to clarify the application of the Tennessee business tax to intrastate revenue generated by common and private carriers.  Next week, we will meet with Department of Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano to determine whether we will need to run legislation on the matter, but we have a caption/placeholder bill reserved for such a purpose, if necessary.  We will keep you updated on both legislative matters. 

 

Finally, please note that the bill to reverse the hands-free driving law implemented last year failed this week in the Senate Transportation Committee. Sponsor Sen. Jon Lundberg unsuccessfully argued that the new law should be repealed because it actually makes the roads more hazardous with people hiding their phones. While the bill (SB1751) still included provisions against texting while driving and use of phones in an active school and work zones, many committee members claimed to not understand the bill’s purpose. The Department of Safety spoke against the bill, saying distracted driving fatalities are down because of the new law.  Ultimately, the measure is dead for the year, a successful outcome for the TTA. 

 

Please pay particular attention to the bill tracking report, especially with an eye toward those bills that are moving.  With all signs pointing toward a mid-April adjournment, a majority of the non-finance committee legislative activity will take place in the next 3-4 weeks.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

This grant is designed to encourage first time participants in the annual Tennessee Trucking Association Call on Washington event that Bill enthusiastically supported for over a decade. The grant will cover expenses related to travel, lodging, and meals for one selected individual each year. Eligible recipients will be selected from existing members of the Young Professionals Council. In order to receive this travel grant, a request for consideration must be completed. The request for consideration will include the following;

Name:

Company:

Occupation:

Years in the industry:

In two hundred and fifty words, or less, please explain the importance of the attending this event and how attending it relates to your professional development within your chosen transportation field.

The requests for consideration will be reviewed, and the selection will be made, by a group representing both current and former carrier and allied members of the Executive Committee. Submit your request to dhuneryager@tntrucking.org.

TTA 2020 “CALL ON WASHINGTON” – STILL TIME TO SIGN UP!

The Tennessee Trucking Association will make its annual visit to Washington, DC on March 24-26, 2019 to meet with members of the Tennessee Congressional Delegation.  This year’s visit presents another unique opportunity to meet with our delegation.  Government regulation and policies are important factors in the business decisions made by trucking companies every day.  Your participation is invited and needed on this trip.  Please contact Dave Huneryager at dhuneryager@tntrucking.org or (615) 777-2882 if you are interested in joining our group on this important visit.

 

YPC possible Call on Washington Attendees: The dates for our Call on Washington this year are March 24-26, 2020. Please review the instructions below and complete as requested for consideration for the William H Reed, Jr. Travel Grant Award.

All submissions must be received no later than Friday, February 14th at 2PM CDT.  Please feel free to contact Dave Huneryager directly regarding any questions you may have about this process. Good luck to each of you!

 

Dale Allen and Clay Byrd, Adams & Reese Legislative Update

This month an increasing number of lawmakers, lobbyists, and staff scattered the halls of Cordell Hull despite an unusually slow start to the 2020 legislative session  Most stakeholders at the legislature focused on scheduling  meetings with lawmakers to line up sponsors and co-sponsors for legislation.  Legislative activity at the committee level remained relatively light with respect to the consideration of legislation, but most committees met for organizational purposes with short calendars.  Indeed, only a handful of committees considered legislation this month, with most lawmakers focused on filing bills in advance of bill filing deadlines in the House and Senate, February 5th and 6th, respectively.

This month, we also worked with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Department of Safety on a legislative matter dealing with the drop deck length distance from the king pin to rear of the trailer.  Representative Dan Howell (R-Cleveland) and Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta), the Chairmen of the Transportation Committees in the House and Senate, respectively, agreed to file a “caption bill” on behalf of the TTA in the event that we need to pursue legislation on the matter.  As of now, TDOT and the TDOS appear to support our efforts to clarify existing law, if needed.  We will continue to work with all interested stakeholders to represent the interests of the TTA on this issue.

Governor Lee’s second State of the State address will occur next Monday, February 3, 2020. The Governor’s speech will announce the administration’s legislative priorities for the remainder of session and shortly thereafter, the Governor will release his budget to the General Assembly.  Expect the pace of session to increase significantly in the month of February as lawmakers continue to target a mid-April adjournment, a goal predicated upon the busy 2020 election year ahead.  We will continue to look through filed bills and keep you up to date. As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about any particular piece of legislation.  As always, it is pleasure to represent you at the Tennessee General Assembly.