The 112th General Assembly adjourns sine die
Republicans pass education, ethics reform, provide tax cuts for every Tennessean in final week
The 112th General Assembly adjourned sine die on April 28, concluding a successful legislative session highlighted by passage of major reforms to the state’s education funding formula known as the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act.
The 2022 legislative session began in January with the Republican supermajority refocused on Tennessee’s pre-pandemic priorities following two back-to-back special sessions in October. Republicans prioritized K-12 and higher education this year, making historic investments that will provide Tennessee students with a transformative, world-class education.
The new funding model replaces the current Basic Education Program (BEP) and prioritizes the individual needs of students rather than relying on ratio components and district averages. The TISA plan puts direct focus on students with disabilities, students in rural and urban areas and low-income families. Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, the TISA will invest $9 billion in education funding for the state, including state and local funds, which will include an additional recurring state investment of $1 billion for K-12 funding.
Every Tennessee school district will receive more funding with the new plan, with the exact increases depending on the student population being served. The TISA is a four-tiered funding formula made of the following components to determine the amount of funding a district will receive: base funding, weights, direct funding and outcomes funding.
The first tier, base funding, covers basic education needs. Each student will receive a base per-pupil funding of $6,680. Districts with higher-need students will receive larger funding increases based on weights, the second tier of the formula. TISA weights include the following:
● Economically disadvantaged (25%) and concentration of poverty (5%)
● Sparse districts (5%) and small districts (5%)
● Unique learning needs—special education/gifted, English learners, dyslexia (15%-150%)
The direct funding component provides additional dollars for high-impact programs such as K-3 literacy efforts, Career and Technical Education courses, and public charter school students. The fourth tier is the outcomes funding which will be allocated as an incentive for producing strong student outcomes.
As amended, the TISA Act creates a Literacy Goals and Progress Review Board which aims to ensure students in each school district achieve proficiency in the English Language Arts portion of the 3rd grade TCAP test. The review board will consist of: the commissioner of education, executive director of the state board, two members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and two members appointed by the House Speaker.
If at the end of three years the board determines that a local school district has not met their established goal to achieve 70 percent proficiency, then they will determine if further action is necessary. The board may recommend to the commissioner of education to require the LEA to complete additional professional development training on how to budget to increase student achievement.
Among some of the investments in education, Tennessee will spend $500 million to expand Career and Technical Education in 759 middle and high schools across the state. The General Assembly provided $125 million to increase teacher salaries and $25.5 million for summer reading camps.
Lawmakers provided $90 million to ensure state colleges and universities do not raise tuition fees this year and increased Tennessee HOPE Scholarship awards, which have not been increased since 2008. Coupled with no tuition increases at our state universities, Tennessee students will find it less financially stressful to access secondary education options. Information about TISA can be found here: Tennessee General Assembly Legislation (tn.gov) and TISA Overview.pdf (tn.gov).
Republican supermajority delivers tax relief for every Tennessean
The 112th General Assembly’s $52.8 billion, zero-debt budget addresses the needs of all Tennesseans while advancing Republicans’ efforts to strengthen economic development, modernize infrastructure, improve health care and build safer communities.
The Republican supermajority delivered on tax relief for Tennessee families and small businesses owners amid record-high inflation across the nation.
Tennessee Republicans are committed to ensuring taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money by providing nearly $300 million in cuts this year. These cuts include a month-long sales tax holiday on food in August, as well as the traditional sales tax holiday on clothing and school supplies before the start of school.
Sponsored by Finance, Ways and Means Committee Chairlady Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, House Bill 2640 provides a tax break for every Tennessean who drives a passenger vehicle or autocycle. It waives the state’s portion of annual registration fees for vehicles and motorcycles from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. The savings add up to $23.75 per automobile for about 5 million registered Class B passenger vehicles in Tennessee and $16.75 for 170,000 Class A motorcycles and autocyles.
Lawmakers this year continued a multi-year commitment to eliminate the professional privilege tax. This appropriation, sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Ron Gant, R-Piperton, removes the $400 tax physicians pay in order to practice their profession. Republicans in 2019 passed legislation eliminating the professional privilege tax for 15 licensed professions.
Another significant tax cut includes $68 million for a sales tax reduction on broadband supplies. House Bill 2608, sponsored by State Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, will incentivize companies to accelerate the deployment of needed broadband services to rural communities.
House Bill 1405, sponsored by State Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer, supports Tennessee farmers by reducing sales tax on agricultural machinery and equipment similar to tax reductions that manufacturers currently receive. Also included is a tax break for business owners through compensation for sales tax collections. House Bill 536, Sponsored by State Rep. David Hawk, R-Greenville, establishes compensation for vendors as the state’s primary tax collectors. Vendors will collect 2 percent of the first $2,500 and $1.15 of amounts more than $2,500 to the state.
Additional cuts include an extension of tax cuts on gun safes and eliminating taxes, sponsored by State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, and on the sale of gold and silver bullion, sponsored by State Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport.
General Assembly passes PBM reform to support independent pharmacies
The General Assembly has passed a solution that will save Tennessee’s independent pharmacies, increasing competition and lowering the overall costs of prescription drugs and devices to consumers.
House Bill 2661 closes loopholes in existing law to address Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) reimbursement rates for the dispensing of prescription drugs or devices. It requires a PBM to reimburse an independent pharmacy at a rate no less than the actual cost of a drug or device dispensed. The bill also establishes an appeals process for pharmacies to challenge reimbursement, should a PBM fail to pay at a rate equal to the actual cost of the drug or device dispensed.
PBM reform also is designed to promote competition by eliminating the issue of insurance companies steering patients away from their trusted hometown pharmacies, allowing citizens to continue using the pharmacy of their choice.
The legislation now heads to Gov. Lee’s desk for signature.
Republicans invest in safer Tennessee communities
Among other significant accomplishments this session, Republicans passed legislation providing accountability and truth in sentencing reforms for victims of violent crimes. House Bill 2656, sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Cookeville and State Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, requires offenders to serve 100 percent of the sentences handed down by a judge or jury for an additional 28 violent offenses. Those crimes include attempted first-degree murder, second degree murder, vehicular homicide resulting from driver intoxication, aggravated vehicular homicide, especially aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated robbery, carjacking and especially aggravated burglary.
As amended, additional lower-level violent offenders may reduce their sentence to 85 percent of their sentence by earning credits for completing evidence-based programs that support rehabilitation beyond prison walls.
Another major reform includes Transparency in Sentencing for Victims Act, sponsored by Sexton and State Rep. Michael G. Curcio, R-Dickson. House Bill 2657 will ensure crime victims, their families and communities know exactly how much time an offender will serve at the time of sentencing. Lawmakers this year provided nearly $356 million for a multi-agency law enforcement training academy, $100 million toward crime prevention, $66 million for the hiring, training and recruitment program for law enforcement, and $16 million to hire 100 new Tennessee State Troopers.
Republicans pass the Campaign Finance and Ethics Reform Act of 2022
House Bill 1201 provides increased transparency and accountability in elections and public service.
Sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and State Rep.Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, the legislation closes loopholes in state campaign finance and ethics laws. It will make reporting and disclosing of campaign finances more transparent so that Tennessee voters can truly make more informed decisions.
Provisions in the law include:
- Enhances interim reporting for candidates and political action committees of all expenditures and contributions 10 days before an election.
- Extends civil liability of PAC activity to any person who directly controlled expenditures and has committed a Class 2 violation (chronically late or non-filing of disclosures, fraudulent activity)
- Prohibits the use of PAC funds to pay Class 2 civil penalties
- Limits the ability to report unitemized contributions to an aggregate of $2,000 per reporting period
- Requires candidates and PACS to keep campaign funds separate from other funds including personal funds
- Updates Registry and Ethics Commission guidelines and reinstates the cooling-off period for registry members
- Enhances contribution and expense documentation for record-keeping purposes
- Prohibits members of the governor’s cabinet from providing certain in-state consulting services (may not lobby state government)
- Clarifies that state trial court judges file an annual statement of interest disclosure with the Ethics Commission.
- Requires annual statements of interest disclosures to be signed under penalty of perjury
- Prohibits pre-checked boxes to be used for continuing contributions
- Requires 501 (c) (4s), (5s), and (6s) that spend a minimum of $5,000 for campaign materials or communications naming or showing the likeness of a candidate within 60 days of an election to report expenditures
- Communications by membership organizations to members, employees and those who consent to receive them from the organization are exempt
- Increases disclosure requirements for General Assembly members and staff who provide campaign services
The legislation now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.
Pilot respite care program for Tennessee Alzheimer’s patients approved
The General Assembly approved legislation this week to increase support for Tennesseans with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.
House Bill 1686 creates a three-year pilot program that will provide grants for respite care services to those who are experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia and have received a clinical diagnosis.
The program will be limited to 225 enrollees statewide annually and will provide for four hours of care each week, according to bill sponsor State Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville.
“Being able to go to the bank and deal with issues of the day as it relates to your family is very difficult, particularly if you are the only one… who is caring for your loved one,” Williams told the House chamber Wednesday. “The longer we can (keep people with their loved ones in their homes), the more it’s going to save the taxpayer and the better benefit it’s going to be to the family.”
The legislation is named in honor of late Col. Thomas G. Bowden, a Tullahoma native who served with the U.S. Army for 26 years. Bowden was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 63 and died five years later from the disease.
House Bill 1855 will now go to Gov. Bill Lee to be signed into law. More information about the legislation can be found here.
HOPE awards increase, bill removes penalty for overachieving students
Republican legislation to increase HOPE Scholarship amounts for Tennessee college students was approved this week by the General Assembly.
House Bill 2152 increases the awards to $2,200 per semester through a student’s sophomore year and $2,850 per semester for their junior and senior years. The amounts have not been increased since 2008. HOPE scholarships for students enrolled in an eligible two-year public college would also increase to $1,600 per semester.
The legislation also lowers the age requirement for the Tennessee Reconnect grant to 23 and expands the HOPE Scholarship to certain qualified nontraditional students.
“This bill is about expanding new opportunities to students from the ages of 16 to 24,” said State Rep. Tim Hicks, R-Gray. “(It) will help fill the gap with students that need it the most.”
In addition to other changes, the bill also encourages the Tennessee College of Applied Technology to partner with local education agencies to establish technical middle college programs that allow students to earn an advanced technical certificate or diploma by their high school graduation.
House Bill 2152 will now go to Gov. Bill Lee to be signed into law. Information about the legislation can be found here.
Also this week, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing overachieving students to receive Tennessee Promise Scholarships upon their early graduation from high school.
State law previously did not allow a student who completed high school before the spring semester immediately preceding their initial fall semester of college to receive a Tennessee Promise Scholarship early.
House Bill 2436, sponsored by State Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, now allows hard-working students who graduate early to be eligible. Tennessee Promise Scholarship provides students a last-dollar scholarship which covers tuition and fees not covered by the Pell Grant, the HOPE scholarship, or Tennessee Student Assistance Award funds. Information about House Bill 2436 can be found here.
House approves bill protecting critical energy infrastructure
The House chamber this week passed legislation to protect critical energy infrastructure statewide. Sponsored by State Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, House Bill 2246 prevents local governments from blocking such infrastructure while preserving local zoning authority. Because energy infrastructure often crosses multiple county lines, the bill ensures local governments may not ban vital energy infrastructure that serves the needs of citizens.
“Infrastructure, which includes pipelines, terminals and pump stations, are essential to ensure affordable, reliable
and sustainable fuel and industrial materials are available to support Tennessee’s economy as well as the day-to-day demands to meet local and state transportation and manufacturing needs.” Vaughan told members in the House chamber on April 25. “This infrastructure extends well beyond the boundaries of any single local government. This legislation is necessary to ensure consumer choice will not be limited.” Information about House Bill 2246 can be found here.
Republicans protect end-of-life visitation
The General Assembly unanimously approved Republican legislation this week that requires nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in Tennessee to allow a resident to have at least one visitor during end-of-life situations during a declared disaster, emergency or public health emergency for COVID-19 if the visitor meets certain conditions. House Bill 2535 specifies the visitor’s presence must not violate any federal or state law, rule or guidance. The legislation will now go to Gov. Bill Lee to be signed into law. More information about House Bill 2535 can be found here.
Sales tax holiday for gun safes extended for additional year
Republican legislation that extends a tax cut making it less expensive for gun owners to safely store their firearms was approved this week by the Tennessee House of Representatives.
House Bill 1738 exempts the purchase of gun safes and gun locking devices from state retail sales tax in Tennessee through June 30, 2023. The state’s sales tax rate is 7 percent.
“I’m very proud of this bill and the impact it will have on improving gun safety by encouraging individuals to lock up their firearms in their vehicles and homes,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna. “I appreciate the bipartisan support similar legislation received last year, and applaud the Tennessee Firearms Association for their support of the Second Amendment as well as responsible gun ownership in our state.”
The Tennessee General Assembly approved similar legislation last year. However, the tax cut was set to expire on June 30 if an extension was not approved. House Bill 1738 will now go to Gov. Bill Lee to be signed into law. Information about the legislation can be found here.
Protecting children: The General Assembly unanimously approved Republican legislation that revises the penalties for continuous sexual abuse of a child. House Bill 1855 clarifies that it is a Class A felony to commit three or more violations of aggravated rape, rape, aggravated sexual battery, rape of a child, solicitation of sexual abuse of a minor, aggravated rape of a child, trafficking for a commercial sex act if the victim is a minor or promoting prostitution if the victim is a minor. Two violations are a Class B felony and one offense is a Class C felony. The legislation also expands the definition of sexual abuse of a child to include trafficking for a commercial act and promoting prostitution if the victim is a minor. House Bill 1855 now goes to Gov. Bill Lee to be signed into law. More information about the legislation can be found here.
Second Amendment rights: The Tennessee House of Representatives approved Republican legislation this week that removes short-barrel rifles and shotguns from the list of prohibited weapons in the state. Current state law prohibits Tennesseans from possessing, manufacturing, transporting, repairing or selling the firearms. House Bill 2509 will now go to Gov. Bill Lee to be signed into law. More information about the legislation can be found here.
Banning dangerous drugs— The General Assembly passed legislation this week banning the sale of tianeptine. Sponsored by State Rep. Mark Cochran, House Bill 2043 is marketed as a diet drug or sometimes marketed as an antidepressant. It attaches to the receptors in the brain similar to the way opioids do. Also known by its street name Zaza Red. the drug creates withdrawal similar to heroin, and has not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. The legislation was drafted to apply to all possible substances meant to replicate tianeptine. As amended, the House Bill 2043 adds that knowingly possessing or casually exchanging tianeptine without a valid prescription could result in a Class A misdemeanor. Information about House Bill 2043 can be found here.
Protecting law enforcement service animals: Republican legislation that strengthens the penalty for those who harm a law enforcement or service animal in Tennessee was approved by the House chamber this week. House Bill 1646, also known as Joker’s Law, creates a Class D felony for knowingly and unlawfully killing a police dog, fire dog, search and rescue dog, service animal or police horse. The bill is named in honor of Joker, a K-9 with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, who was seriously injured after being shot during a pursuit last year. The legislation will now go to Gov. Bill Lee to be signed into law. More information about House Bill 1646 can be found here.
Reducing telemarketing calls: Republican legislation to limit the amount of information telemarketers can obtain from the state of Tennessee and use to target residents has been approved by the General Assembly. House Bill 2763 removes authorization for the Department of Safety to disclose personal motor vehicle information in certain cases upon request. It also removes similar authorization for the department to distribute personal information in bulk that is related to motor vehicle records for surveys, marketing or solicitation. The legislation won’t stop all telemarketing calls Tennesseans receive, but it does seek to reduce them. The Tennessee Public Utility Commission operates a Do Not Call Program. For more information about the program, including how to register, visit here. House Bill 2763 will now go to Gov. Bill Lee to be signed into law. More information about the legislation can be found here.