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.