Legislative Recap of the 111th General Assembly
July 12, 2019
The 111th General Assembly commenced during a season of tremendous change, with a newly elected Governor, a new administration, and a record number of new legislators. Over 1500 bills were introduced this session, many of which will have an impact on the nonprofit sector and the populations that local nonprofits serve.
CNM was thrilled to host our annual Legislative Wrap Up: Leveraging Laws to Increase Impact. One of the highlights of this multi-session workshop was our bi-partisan panel. The dynamic discussion that ensued gave incredible insight to our nonprofit participants on how to increase their impact in the legislature.
Captured here are some of the highlights from the bi-partisan panel discussion, followed by an overview of new legislation that could have an impact on your nonprofit. This recap is courtesy of CNM’s legislative expert, Stewart Clifton of Clifton Government Relations.
Senator Brenda Gilmore (D), Davidson County District 19
Senator Jack Johnson (R), Williamson County District 23
Representative Vincent Dixie (D), Davidson County District 54
Representative Johnny Garrett (R), Sumner County District 45
Christine Bradley, Director at the Office of Government and Community Affairs, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
- Across the state there has been a sea change of newly elected officials over the past year. Our panelists shared about the large number of new people and new ideas coming through the legislature. In fact, this was the largest leadership shift Tennessee has had since the Civil War. There is also an increase number of women and minorities in these leadership positions.
- When Bill Lee ran for governor, there was a lot of talk about working with nonprofits on moving the needle on big issues. The panelists shared how they would like to partner with nonprofits. Hundreds of bills come across their desk, and they want to be able to call upon nonprofits as resources to better understand the issue at hand. If your organization is an expert in an area, set up a meeting and have a conversation face-to-face with your legislators.
- The panelists shared the best ways to make an impression on elected officials:
- Set up a meeting in July or August when session is out and the legislators have more time in their schedule to meet.
- Bring a one-page summary document of your issue that they can reference later.
- Have a real conversation; don’t come scripted.
- Have your meeting in the summer so they can call on you as a reference in January when session starts again.
- There have been great examples of how nonprofits can influence public policy and effectively advocate. One of the more significant bills passed this session is the Katie Beckett Waiver: Medicaid and Children with Disabilities. This expands TennCare to 3000+ children with disabilities across Tennessee.
- So what tactics did the advocates and nonprofits use to make this a success?
- Show up. Parents brought their children with them and showed up every single day. They shared their stories with the legislature and make the issue very real.
- Educate. Teach people about your issue. The Katie Beckett group invited 6 legislators to their annual conference to share and learn about the issue. Phone calls and emails are good, but in person meetings are the very best. Have a one-page synopsis of your issue and your contact information for a reference guide. You can even state clearly your position on certain bills that will be coming down the pipeline.
- Timing. During session, everyone is busy. Session this year was from January to May. A meeting during session is 15 minutes long and rushed. It is a sprint, so the best time to meet with the legislature is after session has ended. A meeting after session can be longer and more in depth.
- The panelist also shared some common missteps that are not as effective when approaching legislators.
- Don’t be rude. It is key to be courteous, even if you don’t see eye to eye.
- Don’t assume they know about your issue. Start from the ground up and have a conversation.
- Follow up with an email afterwards with any resources. It helps them remember you name and your issue.
- There are a lot of nonprofits. Have a strong targeted message that they can easily remember.
Overview of New Legislation
Criminal & Juvenile Justice
- Makes it easier for law enforcement officials to release a person with a citation when previously an arrest was required
- Passed – Public Chapter 316
- Requires TN Dept. of Education to establish procedures for providing instruction to incarcerated juveniles in detention centers.
- Passed – Public Chapter 191
- Allows expungement of nonviolent convictions for victims of human trafficking
- Passed – Public Chapter 199
- Requires Dept. of Corrections and THEC to report on higher ed opportunities available to incarcerated individuals and requires that this issue be part of THEC’s master plan.
- Passed – Public Chapter 238
- Requires state correctional institutions to make feminine hygiene products available to women prisoners at no cost
- Passed – Public Chapter 411
- Partially revokes the authority of local governments to operate community oversight boards relative to subpoena power and make-up of the members
- Passed – Public Chapter 320
- Requires each board of education to establish trauma-informed disciplinary policies for all public schools including charters.
- Passed – Public Chapter 421
- Requires all public and private higher ed institutions to designate a homeless student liaison.
- Passed – Public Chapter 266
- Revises special ed laws in several ways but maintains current law language expressing that it is state policy to provide services to maximize capabilities of children with disabilities.
- Passed – Public Chapter 107
- Creates “education savings accounts” program for Shelby and Davidson counties which allows parents to receive state dollars (around $7300 annually per child) to pay for private schools. Will begin in 2021-2022 school year.
- Passed – Public Chapter 506
- Requires Tennessee School Safety Center to establish grants to assist LEAs in funding programs that address school safety.
- Passed – Public Chapter 154
- Requires LEAs to establish threat assessment teams to develop comprehensive intervention-based approaches to prevent violence.
- Passed – Public Chapter 394
- Requires that info on benefits available to relative caregivers be provided to Administrative Office of the Courts; requires that office to distribute to each court issuing child custody and guardianship orders.
- Passed – Public Chapter 130
- Allows modification of post adoption contact contracts between certain parties. Only applies to children adopted at age 14 or older.
- Passed – Public Chapter 35
- Authorizes courts to order step parent visitation rights in extraordinary cases.
- Passed – Public Chapter 431
Health and Public Benefits
- Requires state to submit a federal Medicaid waiver to establish a “Katie Beckett program” extending Medicaid benefits to families who could care for their children with serious health issues at home but who are not eligible for Medicaid due to income.
- Passed – Public Chapter 494
- Extends authority to barter for health care services to all health care providers, not just physicians.
- Passed – Public Chapter 229
- Requires that TennCare establish a program to identify children likely to be eligible for federal SSI upon reaching 18. Also requires a counseling program to insure there is no gap in TennCare eligibility upon reaching 18.
- Passed – Public Chapter 310
- Requires that Governor apply for federal block grant to fund TennCare, capping federal funding.
- Passed – Public Chapter 481
- See link for details: https://www.sycamoreinstitutetn.org/2019/04/05/medicaid-block-grant-details-matter/
- Adds birthing centers and other neonatal services to items which must be considered in state health plan. Passed – Public Chapter 240
- Modifies time periods for required suicide prevention training for social workers, marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, pastoral counselors, alcohol and drug abuse counselors and occupational therapists.
- Passed – Public Chapter 131
- Creates civil liability for unlicensed persons for knowingly offering psychotherapy services to treat mental health disorders.
- Passed – Public Chapter 359
SB464, SB983, SB1029
- Expands Governor’s authority regarding Medicaid expansion.
- Did not Pass
- Increases from $30,000-$50,000 the minimum level of contributions that require charitable organizations to register and report to Secretary of State.
- Passed – Public Chapter 132
- Authorizes property tax exemption for specific nonprofits using real property owned by another tax exempt institution.
- Passed – Public Chapter 355
- Encourages schools, nonprofit organizations and faith-based organizations to increase opportunities for student mentorships and apprenticeships.
- Adopted by the House
- Prohibits requiring private licensed child-placing agencies to participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies
- Did not Pass
- Requires using the IRS 20 factor test questions in determining whether an employer/employee relationship exists (as opposed to independent contractor status).
- Passed – Public Chapter 337
- Allows employers to adopt or not adopt the model policy on healthy workplaces created by TACIR.
- Passed – Public Chapter 214
- Modifies voter registration changes rules which will likely impact nonprofits and others conducting voter registration efforts. Includes establishing civil and criminal penalties.
- Passed – Public Chapter 250
- Establishes new Alzheimer’s disease advisory council.
- Passed – Public Chapter 364
- Establishes new elder abuse task force focused on financial exploitation.
- Passed – Public Chapter 135
- Allows TCAD to request that district public guardian serve as conservator for disabled persons younger than 60.
- Passed – Public Chapter 230
- Enacts the “Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Action of 2019” which makes it a Class C felony to commit aggravated abuse of an elderly or vulnerable adult.
- Passed – Public Chapter 474
Check out our Advocacy 101 course with Stewart Clifton on Nov. 14 at CNM.org.
Check out our other Legislative Update Summaries by Stewart Clifton on our blog at CNM.org.