Legislative Week in Review


111th Tennessee General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die

The 111th Tennessee General Assembly completed its final order of business for the year in the early morning hours of June 19th following a marathon through-the-night session that began at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, June 18. The final hours were marked with a spate of disagreements between parties and chambers, with the latter preventing passage of bills that were a priority for each chamber, including certificate of need and telehealth legislation and a Chamber-backed civil liability measure.

$39.4 Billion Budget Passed

The final act was headlined by a $39.4 billion budget that replaced and further trimmed a budget the legislature approved in March. The scaled-back spending plan anticipates a $1 billion shortfall in the fiscal year 2021 and, following a “stalemate” between the two chambers, eventually cleared the impasse in a conference committee.

The new budget closely resembled the one proposed by the governor and approved by the Senate the week of June 8, slashing a number of priorities initially proposed by the governor earlier this year. That, of course, was before the state was physically and financially rocked by two devastating tornadoes and the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are a few notable cuts to the administration’s original list of priorities:

  • Reducing a $25 million broadband initiative to $10 million.
  • Eliminating pay raises for teachers, state employees and legislators.
  • Reducing funding for capital maintenance projects for state-owned properties and higher education institutions from $98 million to $70 million.

State Issues Bonds for Priority Capital Outlay Projects

Tennessee ended its long streak of paying cash for projects and is issuing bonds for select initiatives.

  • $65M for an Amazon infrastructure grant
  • $50M for a Volkswagon infrastructure grant
  • $34M for an MTSU building for the School of Concrete and Construction Management
  • $33M for a University of Memphis Stem Building
  • $22M for a Chattanooga TCAT Advanced Manufacturing Building
  • $18M for a West TN Veterans Nursing Home

 

Week in Review – May 21, 2020

NOTE: Our next Government Relations Committee call is scheduled for Friday, May 29 at 9am/central (10am/eastern).

Virtual State of the State Session – May 27

The next session is scheduled for May 27 at Noon/central (1pm/eastern). If you didn’t get to participate on the May 20 session, please register online at https://form.jotform.com/201286578436160                        

General Assembly to Begin Committee Work Next Week

Starting Tuesday, the House will begin a full schedule of committees. The Senate will have a Finance, Ways, and Means Committee to hear from Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley. Both chambers will begin Floor Sessions starting Monday, June 1st. You can view the legislature’s schedule here.

By the numbers:

  • Total bills in the 111th General Assembly: (2020 Session): 1,363
  • Legislation passed in the 111th General Assembly: (2020 Session): 158
  • Bills that remain viable in the 111th General Assembly: (2020 Session): 1,205
  • Number of House bills in committees next week: 391
  • Number of bills awaiting only House action: 110
  • Number of bills awaiting only Senate action: 50
  • January proposed budget amount: $40.8 Billion
  • Revised budget (passed in March): $39.8 Billion

COVID-19 Update 

AIA TN sent a letter to Governor Lee and other State Officials about AIA’s Re-Occupancy Assessment Toolkit. Please feel free to use/distribute this toolkit to your clients and other public officials.  View AIA ReOccupancy Assessment Toolkit Letter 5.20.2020 here.

Governor Lee gave another update Thursday afternoon on the COVID-19 efforts throughout the state. Below are key updates:

  • Governor Lee has signed Executive Order 38 that allows for groups of up to 50 people to participate in social and recreational activities, as well as re-opens bars and larger attractions. All businesses that are re-opening are asked to take the Tennessee Pledge, and follow health guidelines.
  • Department of Human Services will expand childcare services for essential employees. This expansion includes all categories of essential workers, and will continue through mid-August 2020. This financial support program is geared to keeping essential workers on the job throughout the state.
  • Department of Education is working on guidance and re-opening toolkits for schools to re-open in the fall.
  • Statewide unemployment has reached 14.7%, Governor Lee is hoping that the re-opening of the economy will help get Tennesseans back to work.

You can view the entire press conference here.

You can view the Executive Orders that Governor Lee has signed here.


To date, Tennessee has 18,961 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 313 deaths and 1,539 hospitalizations. Over 12,000 have recovered from the virus, and

360,583 Tennesseans have been tested.


Week in Review May 15th

Construction Guidelines Released

Last week, Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group issued guidance for the construction industry, including capacity limits, spacing requirements & frequent sanitation to keep Tennesseans safe at work.

This plan was developed by Governor Lee, the Unified Command Group (UCG) and Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG) with input from health experts, state and local partners and business and industry leaders. It includes specific recommendations which enable most businesses to reopen responsibly without the burden of heavy mandates. This will be a gradual process, with room to adjust as we evaluate changing data.

Other resources & guidelines released were:

April Revenues Released
Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley announced that April revenues were less than the monthly revenues from the previous year. Overall, state revenues for April were $1.3B. That is a negative growth rate of 39.75% compared to last year. It is also 693.8M less than the state had budgeted. Commissioner Eley accounted this downturn to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the full release from the Department of Finance and Administration here.

Brandon Gibson Named Lee’s Chief Operating Officer
Governor Lee announced this morning the appointment of Brandon O. Gibson has Chief Operating Officer for the state of Tennessee. Gibson replaces Butch Eley, who was appointed Commissioner of Finance and Administration. Prior to this appointment, Gibson served as a Senior Advisor to the Governor. Gibson served on the Tennessee Court of Appeals for over four years. You can read the full release from Governor Lee here.

Executive Order Numbers 36 and 37
Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order Nos. 36 and 37, extending the state of emergency declaration from May 18, 2020 to June 30, 2020, in order to extend certain provisions facilitating the State’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Executive Order No. 36 consolidates provisions from Executive Order Nos. 15, 19, 20, 24, 28, and 32 into one order, while extending and in some cases expanding those provisions, and Executive Order No. 37 extends Executive Order No. 26.  The extensions will ensure continued:

  • Broad access to telehealth services;
  • Increased opportunities for people to easily join the healthcare workforce;
  • Easier access to unemployment benefits;
  • Supply chain and price gouging protections;
  • Extended deadlines and suspended inspection requirements to avoid unnecessary person-to-person contact;
  • Increased opportunities to work remotely where appropriate; and
  • Ability to remotely notarize and witness legal documents through electronic means.

Codes Review Newsletter

The Department of Commerce and Insurance has published its May Codes Review Newsletter and members can find it here.

AIA Releases New Resource for Safer Re-occupancy of Buildings
AIA’s Disaster Assistance Committee developed the Re-occupancy Assessment Tool to provide public officials, businesses and architects with practices that protect the health, safety and welfare of the public while businesses, stores, restaurants, etc., reopen. The tool provides a framework of strategies and general mitigation measures that can help reduce exposure to COVID-19. Download today.

Opportunity for Members Wishing to Participate in ICC Codes Development Process 

The International Code Council (ICC) is accepting applications to serve on its 2021/2022 Code Committees during the next code cycle to develop the 2024 editions of the ICC International Codes. Deadline for applications is June 1, 2020. The deadline is fast-approaching on an opportunity for architects to help shape the future of our built environment. Learn more.

AIA Tennessee’s Virtual “State of the State” | May 20 and May 27

AIA TN’s 2020 President Bob Franklin and Executive Vice-President, Ashley Cates, will host AIA TN’s first ever virtual “State of the State” on two different occasions. Join us to learn and hear from leaders about AIA TN’s 2020 initiatives and programs that are transitioning to accommodate members during the COVID-19 pandemic. Space is limited – please register today! Earn: 1 LU

Webinar: AIA Framework for Design Excellence in Practice – May 28
The AIA recently adopted the tenets of the Committee on the Environment’s (COTE) Top Ten Framework as its new “Framework for Design Excellence.” Hastings Architecture is using the framework across projects to calibrate goals, targets, and elevate design dialogue among teams. The Framework and its accompanying Toolkit and Super Spreadsheet seeks to close this information gap and make sustainable design strategies accessible to all architects. In this session, Hastings Architecture will describe each of the ten framework measures and share project case studies examples.Earn 1 LU|HSW. This program is presented in association with AIA Middle TN’s Committee on the Environment. Register today

View May 2020 Enews for more information on COVID-19, Awards and Continuing Education.


WEEK OF MAY 8, 2020

State Begins to Ease Restrictions

Restaurants, retail stores, and gyms reopened their doors on April 27th, as Tennessee began the first phase of restarting its economy.   Governor Bill Lee also announced that close contact services, such as salons and barbershops, also restart at half of their facility’s capacity on May 6 utilizing fire code restrictions. It is estimated that approximately 38,000 Tennesseans work in this category of business in the state.

The re-openings apply to 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties.  The other six counties, Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan, are establishing dates and criteria for reopening with input from their locally-run health departments.     

New Executive Orders

There were two Executive Orders issued this week. Executive Order 33 for reopening of close contact services with protocols in place, expanded testing efforts, the resumption of dental procedures, small and rural hospital grants and current Department of Health testing results. Executive Order 34 extends the temporary policy of allowing public meetings by electronic means until June 30th.

Tennessee Restarts Elective Medical Procedures

Elective medical procedures began on Friday, May 1st as Tennessee’s economy is restarted.  Elective procedures ceased March 23 in order to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE), preserve hospital inpatient capacity, and promote social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  It was part of the effort to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming hospitals as the number of COVID-19 infections in Tennessee increased. 

State Temporarily Freezes New Non-Mission Critical Hires To State’s Workforce

Governor Bill Lee has directed the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration to temporarily freeze any new non-mission critical hires to our state’s workforce. 

Nashville

Mayor Cooper announced that the first phase of reopening the city will begin on Monday, May 11th. This will allow restaurants and retail stores to open at half capacity. Employees must wear masks and temperature checks will also be required.


WEEK OF MAY 1, 2020

Schedule begins to take shape for General Assembly to Reconvene

The Cordell Hull Building will reopen to staff and members on Monday, but the legislative office complex will remain largely closed to the public. There will be an exception for guests who have scheduled appointments with lawmakers. Comprehensive social distancing protocols have been announced for staff to follow to limit exposure between guests, staff and Members.

A tentative schedule for the House of Representatives was released this week with committees beginning to meet the week of May 25th with the scheduled floor session on June 1st. The Senate is expected to follow a similar track. It is unclear at this point how long the will stay in session before adjourning sine die (thus ending the 111th General Assembly), but the prediction is between one and three weeks. “Mission critical” bills and those impacting the state budget are going to make up the bulk of the issues considered.

Attorney General Weighs in on Governor Lee’s Executive Orders to Reopen the Economy

Governor Lee issued Executive Order 29 last Friday to allow restaurants to reopen at limited capacity. The order created questions as some local governments considered issuing their own reopening plans and what that would mean in conjunction with Governor Lee’s Tennessee Pledge.  Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued a legal opinion on Governor Lee’s executive order and the question of if it may supersede local orders.

Per General Slatery’s opinion, the governor’s emergency powers trump the authority of local health departments to issue restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Lee, who has launched a re-opening of some businesses in recent executive orders, then announced that restaurants across the state could reopen for dine-in services under strict health conditions. He said the reopening in large cities was subject to the approval of the County Health Department. The opinion was requested by Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). It is just the seventh legal opinion issued by Slatery’s office this year. Read more here.

Fitness Centers to Open Friday as Part of Tennessee Pledge

Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group announced guidance for gyms and exercise facilities on how to reopen. Governor Lee is opening businesses in phases depending on how close the contact is required for the profession. On Monday, the Lee administration opened restaurants at limited capacity and retail stores were authorized to open on Wednesday. Gyms will be allowed to reopen in 89 of the state’s 95 counties beginning Friday, May 1. The counties excluded are those with locally-run health departments: Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan.

In addition to strict adherence to CDC guidelines, the State recommends gyms, fitness/exercise facilities, or substantially similar facilities and activities put into place measures to protect consumers and employees. The full guidelines are posted online here.

COVID-19 Testing Update

The President announced this week that states should move to test 2% of their population each month. With almost 170,000 residents tested already, Tennessee has met this goal for April.

Tennessee is increasing testing of vulnerable populations in the coming weeks, including widespread testing of all long-term care facilities in Tennessee (more than 700 facilities and 70,000 residents) and additional testing sites in minority communities. The State has partnered with National Health Care Corporation to test all residents and staff within their 38 Tennessee facilities.Expanded testing continues this weekend (May 2-3) for all Tennesseans regardless of symptoms with new drive-through sites available across each Grand Division. Sites for this can be found here.

Tennesseans can get a test five days a week at county health departments — a full list of sites is available here, and additional information on Tennessee’s aggressive testing push is available here.

EPA, CDC Release Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Spaces Where Americans Live, Work, and Play

Guidance helps facilities and families implement Opening Up American Again guidelines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidance to help facility operators and families properly clean and disinfect spaces. The guidance provides step-by-step instructions for public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes. Read the full release here.

Child Care for Essential Workers

To help Tennesseans move forward during the COVID-19 emergency, the Tennessee Department of Human Services is increasing access to child care at no cost for Tennessee workers who are providing “essential businesses and services” through June 15, 2020. This child care is available through payment assistance with TN DHS-licensed child care agencies and a partnership with Tennessee YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs. Click here for more info and to sign up.