Final 2017 TAR Legislative update

Another year in the books!  See the attached file for the full final bill report. The 2018 session will be here before we know it!

2017 Legislative Session Adjourns

The 2017session of the 110th Tennessee General Assembly finished its business and adjourned today after five months of hard work. The final few days saw the passage of this year’s budget and a flurry of last-minute bills. Much of Wednesday was spent hearing these bills and the outcomes of negotiations between the chambers in several appointed conference committees, including an agreement to fly the POW-MIA flag in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Legislative Plaza. Action was taken in both chambers on several significant bills in the last hours of session, including the following:

Action Delayed on Campaign Fundraising Bill

Rep. Tilman Goins sponsored a bill this session to increase the amount of campaign contributions lawmakers could accept; stating that it “helps preserve the free speech of all Tennesseans with their spending limits.” However, after the bill was significantly amended in a conference committee with the Senate, House Minority Chairman Mike Stewart urged the body to further inspect the matter. Ultimately, Rep. Goins chose to delay action on the bill until the 2018 session.

Education Block Grant Measure Passes the House

On Friday, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh pushed amendment that would allow the state to set aside surplus dollars for an interest-generating investment to give to schools. It would operate much like Tennessee Promise, which uses interest generated by the lottery fund. Dubbed the “K-12 Block Grant”, the amendment stipulates that the resulting funds could be used by Local Education Agencies for items not funded in the Basic Education Program (BEP.) The amendment passed in the course of the House’s somewhat tumultuous budget discussion, but was not presented in the Senate. Senator Jeff Yarbro, the Senate sponsor, will present the Senate version in 2018.

Overdose Bill Passes

A bill endorsed by the Metro Drug Coalition, Tennessee Medical Association and the Chiefs of Police to require Emergency Medical Services personnel to take patients to a hospital when they’ve overdosed passed on Wednesday. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Senator Lee Harris, explained that often when first responders administer medication to halt an overdose, the patient will awaken and appear to have recovered, but will then return to a comatose state and require the first responders to return and re-treat the patient. The bill had bipartisan support, with Sen. Richard Briggs, a Knoxville Republican and medical doctor, deeming the measure a “medical bill.”

Deannexation Bill Passes the Senate

Senate bill 641 passed the Senate on Wednesday with several amendments stipulating the measures of how a referendum to deannex would be held.  One amendment requires that when citizens of a city petition, under the provisions of the legislation, to remove themselves from that city ( to deannex), a city-wide referendum must follow. The entire city would be able to vote on whether or not the particular area remains as part of the city. The city would also have five years to complete any previously unimplemented services. This city-wide referendum is the process in several other states which have processes for citizen-initiated deannexation.

Another amendment would allow a city which implements a deannexation plan by ordinance (opposed to a citizen-initiated deannexation) to hold a referendum for ONLY those citizens in the proposed deannexed areas, after a vote in the city council. If the vote to deannex occurs before January 1, 2018, then said city would not be subject to citizen-initiated deannexation. It is important to note that current state law is unclear on which citizens could vote in a deannexation referendum. The bill will be heard in the House at the start of the 2018 legislative session.

Short Term Rentals Put Off One Year

One of the last major battles of the year involved Short term rentals, which included companies like AirBnB and HomeAway, and how these properties would be treated within existing residential municipal districts. The House bill would of limited the provisions of the bill to just the city of Nashville proper only passed the House last week with only 53 votes and contained several provisions including not allowing Nashville to limit the use of short term rentals in residential areas and at the same time allowing Nashville some levels of oversight of these properties. The companion version of the bill was stuck in Senate Finance Committee and was ultimately moved until January 2018.