2019 Legislative Session in Review

  

The 111th General Assembly dramatically adjourned for the year on May 2, 2019. This year's legislative session was marked by extremism. We saw a 6-week abortion ban that thankfully stalled, efforts to deny undocumented pregnant people prenatal care and housing that were ultimately defeated, the return yet again of a bill to criminalize drug use and pregnancy that was amended away, and a slate of anti-LGBT legislation so hateful even Amazon and the Tennessee Titans got involved

But it was also, importantly, a year of RESISTANCE. From activists calling for Rep. Byrd's resignation for sexual assault, to protests to remove Nathan Bedford Forrest's bust at the Capitol, to fights against voter suppression, to reproductive rights activists protesting the abortion ban, Tennesseans SHOWED UP this year to fight back in a big way.👊🏼👊🏾👊🏿

Interestingly, we saw infighting over Conservative strategies to restrict abortion that worked in our favor to defeat some harmful anti-abortion bills this year. The 6-week ban passed in Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa, and North Dakota, but for now Tennessee is not on that list. Unfortunately, we did end up with our own "Trigger Law" which would outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned at the federal level, joining Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Kentucky where similar legislation has passed.

Healthy and Free Tennessee hosted a successful lobby day on February 19th and worked hard on an anti-shackling bill that would ban the inhumane practice of restraining pregnant people in labor. Our bill was narrowly defeated in subcommittee, but we plan to regroup and take the fight into 2020! 

A few legislative successes include a bill requiring women's prisons to provide feminine hygiene products, the addition of neonatal care to the Dept. of Health's perinatal plan, a bill authorizing public schools to provide free feminine hygiene products, and probably the most exciting win of the year, the primary caregiver bill passed after a multi-year effort spearheaded by our coalition partner, Free Hearts!

THANK YOU to all of you who advocated for reproductive and sexual freedom and health to legislators this session in their offices, via email or phone calls. '

A more detailed synopsis of wins and losses is below.  

  


Incarcerated People's Family and Reproductive Rights

SB 0075 sponsored by Senator Robinson / HB 0129 by Rep. Love requires custodians of women prisoners to provide feminine hygiene products, moisturizing soap that is not lye-based, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and any other healthcare product a custodian deems appropriate to women prisoners at no charge and in an appropriate quantity.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Passed

SB 1150 sponsored by Senator Akbari / HB 1240 by Rep. Camper requires a penal institution, correctional facility, or jail, to use the least restrictive restraints on a pregnant inmate. Declares that, unless directed by physician, no restraints will be used in transportation, during any stage of labor, and while recovering from child labor unless deemed a threat. Defines types of restraints. Prohibits solitary confinement for a pregnant inmate.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Failed in subcommittee

SB 0958 sponsored by Senator Yarbro / HB 1189 by Rep. Chism prohibits the removal of pregnant prisoners to a state penitentiary or branch prison for safekeeping; prohibits solitary confinement of pregnant prisoners. 

  • Stance: Support

  • Was never put on notice

SB 0956 sponsored by Senator Yarbro / HB 1189 by Rep. Chism requires youth development centers, jails, and the department of correction to provide free telephone calls between minors and their parents or guardians. 

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Failed in subcommittee 

Criminalization of Pregnant Women

SB 0659 sponsored by Senator Bowling / HB 1168 by Rep. Weaver authorizes prosecution of a woman for assault based on the woman's illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant if the child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug and the addiction or harm is a result of the woman's use of a narcotic drug while pregnant; provides enrollment in an addiction recovery program while pregnant and successful completion of the program is an affirmative defense. Amended to do away with original intent of the bill and rewritten completely to ban sale, possession of child-like sex dolls in Tennessee. Rep. Weaver handed the bill off to Rep. Littleton to amend and carry. 

Family-Friendly Workplace Policies

SB 0057 sponsored by Senator Gilmore / HB 0978 by Rep. Cooper prohibits public employers from discriminating against applicants for employment and employees with pregnancy-related conditions by not providing the applicants and employees with reasonable accommodations.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Taken off notice

SB 0420 sponsored by Senator Robinson / HB 0363 by Rep. G Johnson requires employers to provide employees four hours of leave, paid or unpaid, each year for parental involvement in schools, subject to certain conditions; establishes a private cause of action for employer violations.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Failed in subcommittee

SB 0647 sponsored by Senator Kyle / HB 0514 by Rep. G Johnson enacts the "Tennessee State Family Leave Act." Establishes that family and medial leave insurance benefits are payable to a covered individual who meets one of the requirements of birth, adoption, or placement through foster care, or a serious health concern. Establishes maximum number of weeks family and medical leave insurance benefits are payable. Defines benefit time frame and costs associated. Establishes that the state treasury shall create a fund to benefit the family and medical leave program. Establishes the application for receiving benefit and legality in cases of fraud or tampering from an employer. 

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Failed in subcommittee

SB 0741 sponsored by Senator Kyle / HB 1207 by Rep. Mitchell authorizes state agencies to provide child care services for state employees, with the department tasked to approve, administer, and coordinate such services. 

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Deferred to 2020

SB 0758 sponsored by Senator Yarbro / HB 0986 by Rep. Shaw enacts the "Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act." Defines reasonable accommodations in respect to employees who are pregnant. Declares that an employer is not required to construct a permanent, dedicated space for pressing milk. Establishes what an employer is not required to do unless the same accommodations are made for other employees including creating a light duty position and compensate an employee for more frequent or longer break periods. Declares it to be discriminatory based on sex for an employer to fail to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, require an employee to take leave if a reasonable accommodation can be made, and take adverse action against an employee for requesting reasonable accommodations.

  • Stance: Support 

  • Status: Taken off notice

Abortion Restrictions

SB 1257 sponsored by Senator Gresham / HB 1029 by Rep. Lynn enacts the "Human Life Protection Act," which bans abortion in this state effective upon the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade or amending the U.S. Constitution to allow states to prohibit abortion. This is a "trigger law" similar to what has been passed in other states

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Passed

SB 1236 sponsored by Senator Pody / HB 0077 sponsored by Rep. Van Huss prohibits abortions from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected; requires fetal heartbeat testing prior to an abortion; creates exceptions. Amended to change the legal definition of viability to "viable pregnancy" rather than viable fetus. Prohibits abortion after the point at which a pregnancy is determined to be viable, six weeks.

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Deferred to summer study

SB 1306 sponsored by Senator Pody / HB 0078 by Rep. Van Huss increases by $500 the minimum fine imposed for a first or second violation of the requirement that a physician who reports suspected sexual abuse due to being requested to perform an abortion on a minor include in that report information regarding the sampling and preservation of embryonic or fetal tissue; increased fine amounts will be $1,000 and $1,500 respectively. 

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Taken off notice

SB 0331 sponsored by Senator Hensley / HB 0299 by Rep. Hill changes from "10 days" to "seven business days" after an abortion the time within which the abortion must be reported to the office of vital records by the person in charge of the institution where the abortion was performed or by the attending physician.

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Never put on notice

SB 0487 sponsored by Senator Bowling / HB 574 by Rep. Faison changes the age that triggers the requirement that a physician report suspected sexual abuse of a minor who is seeking an abortion from under 13 years of age to under 18 years of age.

  • Stance:

  • Status: Passed

SB 1418 sponsored by Senator Jackson / HB 1490 by Rep. Ragan enacts the "Life Appropriation Act" which designates secular humanism as a religion and finds that naked assertions that "abortion is not murder" and that "life does not begin at conception" are unproven faith-based assumptions that are implicitly religious and are unproven truth claims that are inseparably linked to the religion of secular humanism. Finds that some taxpayers in Tennessee consider convenience abortions to be modern day child sacrifice conducted on the altar of convenience, which is a practice that is nonsecular and controversial. The state of Tennessee may not favor or endorse one religion over another, nor may the state of Tennessee favor or endorse the religion of secular humanism generally over nonreligion. Thus, it is the policy of the state of Tennessee to favor childbirth and family planning services that do not include convenience abortions or the promotion of convenience abortions within the continuum of care or services. And, the state of Tennessee has a compelling interest to uphold community standards of decency. Facilities that provide convenient abortions tend to erode community standards of decency by encouraging promiscuity and normalizing false permission-giving beliefs about sex, and should not be funded.

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Deferred to 2020

SB 0614 sponsored by Senator Reeves / HB 0711 by Rep. Terry requires the department of health to include data related to complications of induced abortions, including the number of complications and the types of complications, in its annual report of selected induced termination of pregnancy data. 

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Passed

Addition of Neonatal Care to Dept of Health's Perinatal Health Plan 

SB 1470 sponsored by Senator Bailey / HB 1388 by Rep. Williams adds neonatal care as a component of the department of health's plan for perinatal care; adds a reporting requirement for the Bureau of TennCare.

  • Stance: Support 

  • Status: Passed

Denial of Reproductive Rights to Undocumented People

SB 1279 sponsored by Senator Pody / HB 1238 by Rep. Griffey requires verification of United States citizenship or lawful presence for each applicant 18 years of age or older, who applies for prenatal care administered by the department of health and the special supplemental food program for women, infants and children administered by the department of health. 

  • Stance: Oppose 

  • Status: Failed in subcommittee 

SB 1278 sponsored by Senator Pody / HB 662 by Rep. Griffey denies birth certificates to children with undocumented parents.

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Failed in subcommittee 

Eliminate Sales Tax on Diapers

SB 0964 sponsored by Senator Gilmore / HB 1059 by Rep. Clemmons eliminates the sales tax on diapers.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Didn't make it into budget

Free Menstrual Hygiene Products for Public High School Students

SB 1046 sponsored by Senator Kyle / HB 1483 by Rep. Hardaway LEAs "are authorized to" provide free feminine hygiene products in eligible public high schools.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Passed

Use of Force by a Minor Who Was a Victim of a Sexual Offense

SB 0024 sponsored by Senator Gilmore / HB 0017 by Rep. Lamar establishes a presumption that a minor who is the victim of a sexual offense or engaged in prostitution held a reasonable belief that the use of force is immediately necessary to avoid imminent death or serious bodily injury. 

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Deferred to summer study

Community-Based Sentencing Alternatives for Primary Caregivers

SB 0985 sponsored by Senator Gilmore / HB 1449 by Rep. Camper allows a court to sentence a person to an individually assessed sentence based on community rehabilitation with a focus on parent-child unity and support, if the person has been convicted of a nonviolent offense and is the primary caretaker of a dependent child.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Passed
  • Our partner Free Hearts led efforts to pass this bill.

HOPE Scholarship Extension for Pregnant Students

SB 0831 sponsored by Senator Akbari / HB 0689 sponsored by Rep. Lamar extends for a student who becomes pregnant during the four-month period immediately preceding the date on which the student completes high school in a Tennessee home school program, obtains a GED® or HiSET®, or graduates from high school, the time within which the student must be admitted to, and enrolled in, an eligible postsecondary institution to be eligible for a Tennessee HOPE scholarship. 

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Deferred to 2020

Use of Campaign Funds for Childcare Expenditures

SB 0086 sponsored by Senator Akbari / HB 0007 by Rep. Powell authorizes the use of campaign funds for the child care expenditures of a candidate that are incurred by the candidate as a direct result of the candidate's participation in campaign-related events and activities.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Failed in subcommittee 

Child Care Payments to Relative Caregivers 

SB 0011 sponsored by Senator Briggs / HB 0004 by Rep. Staples establishes a pilot program for three years to provide child care payments to eligible relative caregivers; requires the department of children's services to publish an annual report containing certain data about the pilot program, including the amount of payments made pursuant to the pilot program and the number of children that remained out of state custody due to the pilot program.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Returned to clerk's desk (did not pass)

Baby Changing Stations in New Public Buildings 

SB 1008 sponsored by Senator Gilmore / HB 0054 by Rep. Potts requires that each newly constructed or renovated public building owned, operated, or under the control of a public entity be equipped with a baby diaper changing station accessible to men and women.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Taken off notice 

Anti-LGBT Bills 
(our partner Tennessee Equality Project led efforts to defeat these bills)

SB 0364 sponsored by Senator Gardenhire / HB 0563 by Rep. Zachary prohibits state and local governmental entities from taking discriminatory action against a business based on that business's internal policies, such as health insurance coverage, paid family leave policies, minimum wage, or anti-discrimination policies. Tennessee Equality Project calls this bill the "Business License to Discriminate bill." The bill casts businesses rather than the LGBTQ community as possible victims of discrimination. Government would not be able to disadvantage businesses in public contracts or grants if the internal policies of the business or nonprofit are discriminatory. In other words, it opens the door to taxpayer funded discrimination. Amended in committee to say "does not limit the authority of the department of economic and community development to award grants pursuant to § 4-3-717."

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Deferred to 2020

SB 0848 sponsored by Senator Hensley / HB 1152 by Rep. Ragan protects private adoption agencies that discriminate against prospective parents based on the religious or moral views of the agency.

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Taken off notice 

SB 1304 sponsored by Senator Pody / HB 0836 by Rep. Rudd protects private adoption agencies that discriminate against prospective parents based on the religious or moral views of the agency.

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Deferred to 2020

SB 1297 sponsored by Senator Pody / HB 1151 by Rep. Ragan expands the offense of indecent exposure to include incidents occurring in a restroom, locker room, dressing room, or shower, designated for single-sex, multi-person use, if the offender is a member of the opposite sex than the sex designated for use. As introduced, the bill was a way of criminalizing trans and nonbinary people in restrooms and locker rooms. It was amended to remove the portions specifically targeting transgender people. Proponents noted that as amended, it merely codified existing law concerning indecent exposure. Nonetheless, Tennessee Equality Project called on Governor Lee to veto the bill, but he signed it as amended.

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Passed as amended

SB 1499 sponsored by Senator Hensley / HB 1274 by Rep. Holt expands the attorney general and reporter's duties to include representation of an LEA or certain LEA employees in a court or administrative tribunal arising out of the adoption of a policy requiring students, faculty, and staff to utilize the restroom, locker room, or other facility that corresponds to that individual's biological sex. This bill is similar to a bill last year that required the Attorney General to defend school districts that engage in anti-transgender bathroom discrimination.  

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Status: Deferred to 2020

SB 1282 sponsored by Senator Pody / HB 1369 by Rep. J. Sexton enacts the "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act," which states the policy of Tennessee to defend natural marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary.

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Never put on notice

Pro-LGBT Bills

SB 0463 sponsored by Senator Yarbro / HB 0998 by Rep. Beck as amended, makes the Tennessee Human Rights Act LGBTQ-inclusive.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Taken off notice 

Pregnant Voter Access

SB 1014 sponsored by Senator Yarbro / HB 1413 by Rep. Towns requires, rather than permits, an elections officer to escort a voter who is a person with a disability or who is visibly pregnant or frail to the front of the line at a polling place at the request of the voter.

  • Stance: Support

  • Status: Deferred to summer study

Female Genital Mutilation

SB 1166 sponsored by Senator Hensley / HB 1364 by Rep. Weaver rewrites the criminal offense of female genital mutilation; extends the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions or civil actions for female genital mutilation.

  • Stance: Support

  • Healthy and Free TN does not support genital mutilation, period. And yet, we are concerned that this bill targets immigrant communities of color. It is our belief that the movement to end genital mutilation must be led by those who are directly affected and not be rooted in Islamophobia. Senator Weaver has made Islamophobic comments in the past saying we are "at war with with an ideology that wants to fundamentally change who we are, our principles, and what we believe in as Americans" and Senator Hensley sponsored a bill that would have eliminated teaching about Islam in schools before grade 10 in order to avoid "indoctrination" even though teaching about Christianity is allowed. Amendments clarified that cosmetic surgery and body piercing are not female genital mutilation when performed on a consenting adult. Accordingly, we support as amended, but with grave concerns about the motivation behind the bill. 
  • Passed

Training in Domestic Violence For Health Providers

SB 0826 sponsored by Senator Akbari / HB 0682 by Rep. Helton requires facilities that employ licensed healthcare providers and deliver care to patients to adopt protocols requiring training in the detection and treatment of victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking; provides immunity from liability for the failure to detect, identify, or refer victims to local resources. 

  • Stance: Never put on notice

  • AWAKE led work to pass this legislation.

Katie Beckett Waiver Health Care for Children with Disabilities 

SB 0476 sponsored by Senator Roberts / HB 0498 by Rep. Whitson provides financial support to families of children with severe disabilities who live at home. The legislation would require the state to apply with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for what is known as a Katie Beckett waiver, which covers medical treatment for children with disabilities and severe illnesses whose families wouldn't otherwise qualify for TennCare, the state's Medicaid program. Read more details here.

Medicaid Block Grant Bill

SB 1428 sponsored by Senator Bailey / HB 1280 by Rep. Timothy Hill directs the governor, through the commissioner of finance and administration, to submit a waiver amendment to the centers for medicare and medicaid services to provide TennCare II funding by means of a block grant indexed for inflation and population growth. This bill could lead to reductions in health care for low income people Read more in an article from Politico about the bill. 

Criminalizing Voter Registration

SB 0971 sponsored by Senator Jackson / HB 1079 by Rep. Rudd establishes conditions which must be met regarding voter registration drives. Any violation of such conditions is a Class A misdemeanor offense. Authorizes the State Election Commission to impose civil penalties pursuant to a voter registration drive which files 100 or more deficient voter registrations, which is defined as any application lacking required information to process the voter registration application, except for the voter's social security number. 

  • Stance: Oppose

  • Passed

  • The Tennessee NAACP, Democracy Nashville-Democratic Communities, The Equity Alliance and The Andrew Goodman Foundation are suing the state, arguing that the law "violate[s] the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and [would] have a chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental First Amendment rights." American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the Campaign Legal Center, and Fair Elections Center have filed a second lawsuit.

School Vouchers in Memphis and Nashville

SB 0795 sponsored by Senator Johnson / HB 0939 by Rep. Lamberth give families taxpayer money to pay for private school or other private education services for high-performing students in priority schools in Nashville and Memphis. The bill only applied to urban counties. Hamilton and Knox counties were successful in getting their districts excluded from the bill, leaving only Nashville and Memphis, the two cities in the state with the largest African American student populations. Read more critiques of the bill here.


Donate Volunteer Find an Event

connect