2020 Legislative Session in Review

While policy work alone will not dismantle oppressive political systems in Tennessee, our work, both defending our hard fought rights and working to codify new or existing ones through the legislative process, is an important contribution to the progressive work happening all over the state and region. 

Two tough reproductive freedom losses, a law that allows for discrimination against LGBTQ parents in adoption and an extreme abortion ban, bookended the year, but some hard fought victories are cause for celebration. 2020 began with the passage of a bill allowing adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents. And attacks on LGBTQ Tennesseans continued with the introduction of bills targeting trans youth’s access to healthcare and school sports teams, bills about library censorship, and continued attacks on marriage equality. Fortunately, partners such as Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), ACLU-TN, and others were able to successfully fight back against these attacks. Our partner, A Better Balance, was successful in making Tennessee the 30th state to pass a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which provides protections for pregnant workers and a cause of action for workers whose rights are violated.

Along with our partner Free Hearts we wrote, educated about, and advocated for, a package of bills to improve conditions and rights for incarcerated pregnant people. We hosted a joint Day on the Hill with Tennessee Aids Action Network (TAAN) to give our communities a chance to lobby for these bills. While our anti shackling and breast pump bills were stymied due to COVID (a big thank you to Leader Karen Camper and Representative Gloria Johnson for your hard work!), we are very excited that our prenatal care bill, sponsored by Representative London Lamar and Senator Raumesh Akbari, passed both the House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law by the Governor.

The legislative year was also interrupted with COVID-19, which continues to devastate our country. Similarly, this year brought increased scrutiny to law enforcement and policing after several high profile cases of police violence and murders of Black people. Protestors have been successful in raising their voices and making legislators take notice across the state. We are excited to see this movement for police and prison abolition continue to grow in Tennessee and are eager to support this work, with a focus on reproductive freedom, moving forward. 

We also faced extreme attacks on reproductive freedom. Late at night on the last day of session, the Senate agreed to hear and pass an extreme anti-abortion law, despite its insistence that it would only focus on COVID-related legislation and without public present in the legislature. This law is unconstitutional and likely to cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars, money that could go to education or other needed services.

We at Healthy and Free Tennessee know that you need to celebrate the wins when you can. While we are disappointed and discouraged that the legislature would pass one of the most comprehensive anti-abortion laws in the country, especially in the early hours of Juneteenth, we are not surprised. However, we are inspired by our community members, partners, and fellow Tennesseeans who have taken the attacks on our freedoms, escalating racist violence, a global pandemic, and our victories as opportunities to support each other even more deeply than before. 

We hosted a virtual happy hour to celebrate our successes, regroup from our losses, and re-energize each other for the continued fight on July 21st at 5pm CT.

[Image 1 Description: The Healthy and Free and Free Hearts teams smiling for a picture wearing red for Women's Day on the Hill in March.
Image 2 Description: Sparkling background with purple text reading, "Healthy and Free Tennessee and Free Hearts Present: Legislative Wrap Up Virtual Happy Hour. July 21st. Tuesday. 5:00pm CT. Register at bit.ly/ LegWrapUp2020. with Healthy and Free and Free Hearts logos.] 

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Please see below for a more thorough update on our watchlist bills:

 

The Right to Choose (Not) to Have Children:

SB 2465/HB 2568: Requires abortion providers to post signage and instruct abortion patients in advance about abortion pill reversal options. Creates class E felony and $10,000 fine for providers. 
Position: Oppose
Status: Deferred in Senate Judiciary Committee Until 12/1/20 (Failed) 

SB 1780/HB 1962: Abortion Ban: “Rule of Law Life Act”: Bans abortion after 6 weeks. Would make a physician culpable for a Class C felony if found to violate the law and culpable for a Class A misdemeanor if the physician fails to perform tests for viability of the fetus and performs a procedure resulting in an abortion. Medical providers who violate law lose their medical license. Exempts pregnant person from criminal culpability.
Position: Oppose
Status: Taken Off Notice in House Health Committee (Failed)

SB 1907/HB 1967: Mandates court appointed guardian (guardian ad litem) for infants, who test positive for drugs and illicit substances after delivery (among other circumstances). This bill is broadly captioned, which means that a legislator can add an amendment later in the session altering the text and intent of the bill. 
Position: Oppose
Status: Taken Off Notice in Children and Families Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 2889/ HB 2009: Fetal Assault: Class A misdemeanor for endangering a child through use of controlled substances. Becomes Class D felony for children under age 8, including infants exposed to controlled substances prior to birth.
Position: Oppose
Status: Taken off Notice in House Judiciary (Failed)

SB 2143/HB 2212: Removes the “adoption contact veto.” Historically, a biological parent could choose not to disclose their contact information to the child, if the child was the concieved by rape. This bill would eliminate that option.
Position: Oppose
Status: Taken off Notice in House Judiciary (Failed)

SB 2591/ HB 1585: Requires chemical castration as a condition of parole for anyone convicted of a sexual offense against a minor under 13 years old.
Position: Oppose
Status: Deferred to Summer Study in House Criminal Justice Subcommittee (Bill has failed)

SB 1725/HB 2081: Terminates the rapist’s parental rights, if convicted of or found by clear and convincing evidence that the child was concieved by rape.
Position: Support
Status: Taken Off Notice in House Children and Families Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 2008/ HB 1991: Reserves at least two marked parking spots for pregnant people or people with infants.
Position: Support
Status: Never moved in Senate (Failed)

SB 2069/ HB 2296: Fetal personhood measure. Permits counties to take their own census outside of the official census, including fetuses in the count. The state would then use these numbers to allocate funding.
Position: Oppose
Status: Failed in House Cities and Counties Subcommittee

SB 2070/HB 2297: Abortion Product Disposition Bill. Current text describes lengthening time period for disposition of fetal remains. Likely a caption bill. 
Position: Oppose
Status: Caption bill held on House Clerk’s desk (Failed)

SB 2196/HB 2263: Governor’s Abortion Bill. Caption Bill. Current text provides for additional time to determine a physician’s medical license status after convicted under abortion laws. As amended would implement a progressive abortion ban from 6-24 weeks, as a court would allow, require mandatory ultrasound and playing of the "fetal heartbeat" prior to an abortion, require notification of "abortion pill reversal," and prohibit an abortion where the provider knows the patient is seeking an abortion because of the fetus' race, sex, or a fetal diagnosis of certain disabilities. 
Position: Oppose
Status: PASSED

SB 2254/HB 2484: Department of Health is required to keep records of fetal remains for 10 years. Likely Caption Bill.
Position: Oppose
Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee (Bill Failed)

SB 1418/HB 1490: "Life Appropriation Act:" Amended. Would make all organizations that counsel or provide abortions ineligible for state funds to the extent federal law allows.
Position: Oppose
Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee (Bill Failed)

 

Safe and Healthy Communities:

 

Access to Healthcare:

SB 2267/HB 2498: “Recovery Program for Pregnant Women and Women with Newborns Act:” Authorizes the Department of Mental Health to provide a recovery program for pregnant and parenting people.
Position: Support
Status: Did not move in Senate (Failed)

SB 2295/HB 2522: “Plan to Ensure That Women Have Access to Prenatal Care:” Authorizes the Department of Health to create and present a plan to ensure access to prenatal care for 90% of pregnant Tennesseans. Caption Bill.
Position: Support
Status: Taken Off Notice in Public Health (Failed)

SB 2435/HB 2709: “Prohibits the Classification of Pregnancy as a Preexisting Condition:” Mandated insurance coverage requirement must not list pregnancy as a preexisting condition.
Position: Support
Status: Failed for Lack of Second in House Life and Health Insurance Subcommittee

SB 2526/HB 2529: Expands medicaid through the block grant process while also maintaining the work and community involvement requirements. 
Position: Watching
Status: Taken off notice in Tenncare Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 2640/HB 2795: Requires a special insurance enrollment period for pregnant people in any health plan upon medical certification.
Position: Support
Status: Taken off notice in House Life and Health Insurance Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 2110/HB 2203: Expands licensing and practice authority for Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners. Allows prescribing and removes costly requirements of physician supervision.
Position: Support
Status: Taken off notice in Senate and House (Failed)

SB 2776/HB 2609: Forbids a healthcare provider or entity from discriminating against a potential organ transplant recipients based on disability. This bill is broadly captioned so while we support the current text of the bill we will be monitoring for further updates.
Position: Support and Watching
Status: Taken Off Notice in Public Health Subcommittee (Failed)

 

Criminal Legal System:

SB 1847/HB 2141: Requires a parent or guardian be present when a juvenile is interrogated under suspicion of breaking the law and that juvenile is under threat of being removed from their home.
Position: Support
Status: Taken off Notice in House Children and Families Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 1899/ HB 1901: Requires the Department of Corrections to provide mental health screenings and services, substance use treatment, and assistance for learning disabilities to incarcerated people through the Department of Mental Health or the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Position: Support
Status: Failed in Corrections Subcommittee

SB 2021/ HB 2066: Requires all correctional facilities to allow free phone calls between an incarcerated minor and their parent or guardian
Position: Support
Status: Failed in Corrections Subcommittee

SB 1781/HB 1814: Increases penalties for possessing a telecommunications device in a correctional facility and adds sentencing enhancement for offenses committed with the aid of the telecommunications device.
Position: Oppose
Status: Placed behind the budget (Failed)
[See also SB 2149/ HB 2218 - Governor’s Caption Bill]
[Resolution encouraging correctional facilities to purchase phone jamming technology passed out of Corrections subcommittee (3/11/20)]

SB 958/HB 1184: Prohibits solitary confinement for pregnant incarcerated people and limits transfer of local incarcerated pregnant people to state facilities unless medically necessary.
Position: Support
Status: Failed in Corrections Subcommittee

 

Education:

SB 2089/ HB 2135: Prohibits staff and volunteers in public schools from making “abortion referrals” while on school property or at school-sponsored events. Expands the number of counties targeted for abstinence-based sex education by expanding the age range used to tally teen pregnancy rates of 19.5 per 100,000 people from 15-17 to 15-19 years of age.
Position: Oppose
Status: Taken Off Notice in House Education Committee (Failed)

SB 823/HB 379: Requires pregnancy be considered approved medical or personal leave for Tennessee HOPE Scholarship.
Position: Support
Status: PASSED

SB 1822/ HB 1648: Requires all school districts to provide pre-kindergarten program for all 4 year old children in the district.
Position: Support
Status: Failed in House K-12 Committee

SB 2583/ HB 2434: “Reworks Sexual Education Curriculum in LEAs and Public Charter Schools:” Demands schools adopt medically-accurate and age-appropriate sexual education curriculum for K-12 students.
Position: Support
Status:Taken Off Notice in Curriculum, Testing, and Innovation Subcommittee (Failed)

 

Environment:

SB 2024/HB 2017: Requires Department of Education to establish guidelines about lead contamination in the water of schools and childcare programs. Requires 15 parts per billion (in place of 20) lead to water to remove water source. Parents must be notified within 24 hours.
Position: Support
Status: Did not move in Senate Committee (Failed)

 

Family:

SB 1603/ HB 1609: Authorizes the Department of Human Services to compensate relative caregivers if the child does not enter the foster care system, a court awards them full custody of the child, the caregiver is willing to seek child support, and complies with department rules and regulations lowering risks of children entering the foster care system. This compensation is not allowed when the parent of the child resides with the caregiver.
Position: Support
Status: Taken Off Notice in House Children and Families Subcommittee (Failed)

 

Finance:

SB 1905/ HB 2032: Removes the sales tax on diapers and wipes.
Position: Support
Status: Placed Behind the Budget (Failed)

SB 1949/ HB 2538: Removes the sales and usage tax on residential water utilities
Position: Support
Status: Placed Behind the Budget (Failed)

SB 2700/HB 2346: “Medical Debt Protection Act:” Provides consumer protection rules for medical debt collections including signature requirements on legal complaints, a prohibition on arrests of and wage garnishment for people making 400% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Position: Support
Status: Taken Off Notice in Civil Justice Subcommittee (Failed)

 

Food Justice:

SB 1856/ HB 1613: Provides for the establishment of urban agricultural zones and sets up committees to oversee their administration. Prioritizes minority and low-income farmers.
Position: Support
Status: Never Called in House Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 2421/HB 2571: Eliminates the sales tax on fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables.
Position: Support
Status: Failed in House and Senate in subcommittees

SB 2906/HB 2891: “Student Healthy Outcomes Act:” Prohibits schools from engaging in predatory or shaming behavior to collect lunch debts from students. Imposes $50 fine/ violation of the law
Position: Support
Status: Taken Off Notice in House K-12 Subcommittee (Failed)

 

Housing:

SB 2135/ HB 2344: “Tennessee Source of Income Protection and Fair Access to Housing Act:” Prohibits landlords from discriminating against a tenant based on their source of income. 
Position: Support
Status: Taken Off Notice in House Business Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 2443/HB 2544: “Notice of Termination of Rental Lease Agreement:” Demands landlords give 60 days notice of termination of lease. 
Position: Support
Status: Taken Off Notice in House Business Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 2712/ HB 2807: Requires landlords owning more than 25 units offer alternatives to security deposits for tenants. 
Position: Support
Status: Taken Off Notice in House Business Subcommittee (Failed)

 

Immigration:

SB 1567/HB 1578: Ban on refugee resettlement in Tennessee. Local governments to ban resettlement unless otherwise authorized.
Position: Oppose
Status: Did not move in Senate Committee (Failed)
[See also SB 2003/HB 2016 (Failed); SB 2730/HB 1929 (Failed)]

 

Labor and Employment:

SB 2520/HB 2708: “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:” Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and provides liability for employers found to violate the law.
Position: Support
Status: PASSED

SB 1721/ HB 1588: “Tennessee Pay Equality Act:” Requires that employees of different sexes be compensated equally for the same work. Includes requirement for Labor Department to publish information about objective qualifications and liability for employers found to violate the law.
Position: Support
Status: Taken off notice in House Employee Affairs Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 1858/ HB 1872: “Tennessee Family Insurance Act:” Requires 12 weeks paid family medical leave for all state employees and teachers employed at least one year. Reasons for leave include: birth of a child, placement of child for adoption or foster care, spousal care, a serious health issue or an emergency or serious injury with the employee or teacher's child, spouse or parent serving in the military.
Position: Support
Status: Failed in Employee Affairs Subcommittee

SB 1832/ HB 1546: “CROWN Act of 2020:” Prohibits discrimination based on race, which includes protective hair styles and hair texture, in the workplace.
Position: Support
Status: Never moved (Failed)

SB 741/ HB 1207: Provides that state agencies shall provide childcare for state employees offset by costs and fees.
Position: Support
Status: Action Deferred Until 12/1/20 (Failed)

 

LGBTQ:

SB 2215/ HB 2576: Classifies providing gender affirming medical care to trans young people as child abuse unless two physicians and one board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist certifies this care.
Position: Oppose
Status: Deferred in Senate Judiciary until 12/1/20 (Failed)

SB 2290/HB 2310: Requires the Attorney General to defend any government employee who chooses not to issue a marriage license because of their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. Likely a Caption Bill.
Position: Oppose
Status:Taken Off Notice in Subcommittee (Failed)
[See also SB 2625/ HB 2410] - Taken Off Notice in Subcommittee (Failed)

SB 1736/HB 1689: Requires that students participate in athletic teams consistent with their biological sex listed on birth certificate.
Position: Oppose
Status: Action Deferred in Senate Until 12/1/20 (Failed)
[See also SB 2077/ HB 1572- Taken Off Notice (Failed)]

SB 2896/ HB 2721: Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act: Includes in list of material open for censorship for minors, literature about sexuality. Concerns about using this authority to censor young adult books about LGBTQ youth. 
Position: Oppose
Status: Failed


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