2021 Legislative Watchlist

Every year, HFTN combs through all of the introduced bills to pull out the bills we believe represent the biggest threats to and greatest promise for reproductive freedom in Tennessee. This list is not an exhaustive list of all the bills impacting reproductive freedom. If you are interested in a fuller list of bills, check back for our 2021 update to our Tennessee Over Ten report, where we track all bills introduced that impact reproductive freedom. This year, we noticed a remarkable number of caption bills. Caption bills are bills that are used as placeholders for future amendments that will change the language into an entirely new bill. They are a way to get around the filing deadline and can be used to avoid criticism or detection prior to being introduced in committee. Because there were so many caption bills, we were unable to include them in this original list, but we will add them as the session progresses. Please check back for weekly updates to this list, and email Nina at [email protected] with any questions. 

This year, in order not to duplicate efforts and to showcase the work of other organizations across the statewide, we are not relisting bills impacting LGBTQ Tennesseeans and Tennesseeans with disabilities that the Tennessee Equality Project and Disability Rights TN are tracking. These bills are certainly vital to reproductive freedom. Check out their watchlists at the links above. If you would like to find your legislators to contact them, click here.

Last Updated: Monday April 26, 2021

 

Highlights of our Defensive Priorities:

SB400/HB416: Requires domestic violence shelters, sexual assault centers, and shelters for trafficking survivors to turn over confidential client records when the Department of Children’s Services requests them.
Sponsors: Sen. Ed Jackson; Rep. Mary Littleton
Position: Oppose
Status: Assigned to the General Subcommittee of Senate Judiciary; Assigned to House Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee 

SB1530/HB417: Redefines severe child abuse to include knowingly or negligently bringing a child into a structure that contains certain controlled substances when they are present and accessible to the child. Amended to limit it to Schedule I drugs, as defined by Tennessee statute, and methamphetamines, cocaine, and fentanyl. Also deletes the negilgent language, so it requires knowledge.
Sponsors: Sen. Kerry Roberts; Rep. Mary Littleton
Position: Oppose
Status: Suspended rules in Senate to be heard in Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee 4/27/21

SB205/HB200: Adds several factors judges may consider in termination of parental rights cases including whether parents are experiencing housing instability or domestic violence (already in the statute).
Sponsors: Sen. Ferrell Haile; Rep. Mike Carter
Position: Oppose
Status: Passed

SB1370/HB1252: Fetal Personhood: Creates civil liability for anyone who by act or omission causes the death of a fetus at any stage of gestation. This bill could have serious impacts on pregnant people who use substances and experience miscarriages and potentially on abortion providers.
Sponsors: Sen. Mike Bell; Rep. Bryan Terry
Position: Oppose
Status: Referred to Senate Calendar Committee; Scheduled for House Floor Vote 4/29/21

 

The Right to (Not) Have a Child:

The Forced Birth Agenda:

SB204/HB724: “Rule of Law Life Act:” Effectively a total abortion ban. Would ban abortion at the point a pregnancy is detectable by a pregnancy test. 
Sponsors: Sen. Mark Pody; Rep. Dan Howell
Position: Oppose
Status: Assigned to the General Subcommittee; Assigned to House Health Subcommittee 

SB494/HB1079: Allows someone claiming paternity of a fetus to file an injunction to prohibit the pregnant person from accessing an abortion. 
Sponsors: Sen. Mark Pody; Rep. Jerry Sexton
Position: Oppose
Status: Deferred in Senate Judiciary Committee; Taken off notice for House Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee 4/7/21 

SB828/HB1181: Requires burial or cremation of fetal tissue after an abortion.
Sponsors: Sen. Janice Bowling; Rep. Tim Rudd
Position: Oppose
Status: Passed

SB1222/HB1495: “Every Mom Matters Act:” Requires extensive counseling on anti-poverty resources available to pregnant people before the pregnant person can access an abortion. 
Sponsors: Sen. Paul Rose
Position: Oppose - this mandatory counseling requirement does not provide direct cash assistance, housing, or other material needs for people looking for resources and adds another burden on those trying to access abortion
Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee of Senate Judiciary Committee; Assigned to House Health Subcommittee 

--------------------------------------------

SB1392/HB577: Modifies the current law to make it harder for young people to get information about contraception from providers. *Amended*: Amendment rewrites bill to make no substantive changes to current law.
Sponsors: Sen. Janice Bowling; Rep. John Ragan
Position: Oppose
Status: Passed in Senate; Scheduled for House Floor Vote 4/28/21

SB1388/HB1168: Prohibits courts determining child custody based solely on the parent’s disability, unless the parent is unable to meet the child’s needs
Sponsors: Sen. Sara Kyle; Rep. Torrey Harris
Position: Support
Status: Passed

SB206/HB216: Removes requirement that Department of Children Services reviews cases of kids in their care and incarcerated youth every 6 months. Amended to expand scope of bill. 
Sponsors: Sen. Ferrell Haile; Rep. Michael Curcio
Position: Oppose
Status: Suspended rules in Senate to be heard in Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee 4/27/21

SB1255/HB874: Allows any “interested party” to contest DCS’ placement of a child with a relative caregiver. A court will then determine if the placement is in the best interest of the child. *Amended,* rewriting bill to instead require case workers to document objections to placement.
Sponsors: Sen. Shane Reeves; Rep. Bryan Terry
Position: Oppose
Status: Referred to Senate Calendar Committee; Passed in the House

SB162/HB466: Establishes three year pilot program to compensate relative caregivers for taking custody of children.
Sponsors: Sen. Richard Briggs; Rep. Sam McKenzie
Position: Neutral- The state should provide support to relative caregivers, but this bill includes restrictions on placements and support like extensive criminal background checks and requiring families to file for child support.
Status: Actions deferred in Senate and House Committees until 2022 

SB1529/HB1545: Allows a family to request a special advocate for reunification appointed by the courts that conducts their own investigation and makes a recommendation about reunification.
Sponsors: Sen. Kerry Roberts; Rep. Terri Weaver
Position: Oppose - While family support and reunification are important, adding additional investigators, even if their training is in “family support,” to monitor families does not support the goals of keeping families together.
Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee of Senate Judiciary Committee; Deferred until 2022 in House Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee 

SB1509/HB1287: Requires two reserved parking spots for pregnant people and for parents with infants at businesses serving the public.
Sponsors: Sen. Raumesh Akbari; Rep. Gloria Johnson
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to the General Subcommittee of Senate Transportation and Safety Committee; Taken off notice in House Transportation Subcommittee 

 

The Right to Raise Children in Safe and Healthy Communities:

Child Care:

SB22/HB1114: Authorizes the state to provide childcare options for state employees. 
Sponsors: Sen. Sara Kyle; Rep. Tom Leatherwood
Position: Support
Status: Passed

SB1443/HB460: Increases the base amount of the child care assistance grant to $500 and prohibits restrictions from additional funds.
Sponsors: Sen. Raumesh Akbari; Rep. Larry Miller
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to Senate Health and Welfare Committee; Taken off notice in House Health Subcommittee 

Criminalization, Jails, and Prisons:

SB827/HB916: Prohibits corrections institutions from placing a pregnant or postpartum incarcerated person in solitary confinement.
Sponsors: Sen. Jeff Yarbro; Rep. Jesse Chism
Position: Support
Status: Passed Senate; Assigned to House Corrections Subcommittee 

SB17/HB997: Requires courts to report on alternatives to sentencing for primary caregivers of dependent children.
Sponsors: Sen. Brenda Gilmore; Rep. Harold Love
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to the General Subcommittee of Senate Judiciary Committee; Deferred to 2022 in House Criminal Justice Subcommittee

SB1405/HB607: Requires the local sheriff to approve of any local government approved reduction in their department budget. 
Sponsors: Sen. Art Swann; Rep. Jerald Moon
Position: Oppose
Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee and House Cities and Counties Subcommittee

HJR140: Proposes an amendment to the state constitution that prohibits the government from enacting laws that “proliferate prostitution” among other crimes. This amendment negatively impacts advocacy to decriminalize sex work. Resolution was amended to add cannabis use to the list of other crimes. 
Sponsor: Rep. Brandon Ogles
Position: Oppose
Status: Because of the amendment, the resolution was re-referred to and rescheduled for the House Finance Committee 4/28/21

Education:

SB581/HB537: [see also SB378/HB1331 (withdrawn in Senate)]: Increase state-funded school nurses from 1 per 3,000 students to 1 per 750 students. 
Sponsors: Sen. Rusty Crowe; Rep. David Hawk
Position: Support
Status: Suspended rules in Senate to be heard in Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee 4/27/21

SB856/HB576: Limiting applicability of federal Title IX and Title VI rules and guidance impacting race and sex discrimination protections for students.
Sponsors: Sen. Janice Bowling; Rep. John Ragan
Position: Oppose
Status: Failed

SB674/HB815: Anti-Lunch Shaming Act: Prohibits schools from taking adverse actions against a student because of their lunch debt and requires the school to provide information to families about free and reduced lunch programs.
Sponsors: Sen. Sara Kyle; Rep. John Clemmons
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to Senate Education Committee; Deferred to 2022 in House K-12 Subcommittee 

Environmental Justice:

SB196/HB562: Requires the Department of Environment and Conservation to deny landfill permits unless there is a buffer zone between proposed site and residential land. [See also SB202/HB546; SB1456/HB1505]
Sponsors: Sen. Katrina Robinson; Rep. Vincent Dixie
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to the General Subcommittee of the Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee; Returned to House Clerk's desk 

Family-Friendly Workplace Policies:

SB672/HB1295: Tennessee Family Insurance Act: Provides 12 weeks family and medical leave for all employees in Tennessee, with a very inclusive definition of family [see SB548/HB1296 for only state employees (Failed); and SB1542/HB1404 (Summer Study); see also SB379/HB1282, removing prohibitions on local governments enacting paid leave laws (Failed in Senate Committee)]
Sponsors: Sen. Sara Kyle; Rep. Gloria Johnson
Position: Support
Status: Deferred until 2022 in Senate Commerce and Labor Committee; Deferred until 2022 in House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee 

SB819/HB935: Extends protections against sex discrimination (explicitly including childbirth) to all people a business pays for their services.
Sponsors: Sen. Jeff Yarbro; Rep. Bob Freeman
Position: Support
Status: Deferred until 2022 in Senate Commerce and Labor Committee; Deferred until 2022 in House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee 

SJR2: Proposes an amendment to the state constitution codifying Tennessee’s right to work (anti-union; anti-worker) law.
Sponsor: Sen. Brian Kelsey
Position: Oppose
Status: Passed Senate; (Companion Resolution HJR72, Rep. Todd) Scheduled for House Floor Vote 4/26/21

Healthcare:

SB334/HB843: Requires incarcerated women between 50-74 years of age be offered mammograms.
Sponsors: Sen. Brenda Gilmore; Rep. London Lamar
Position: Support
Status: Passed

SB650/HB932: Requires TennCare to cover doula services for beneficiairies
Sponsors: Sen. Katrina Robinson; Rep. Jesse Chism
Position: Neutral - While we wholeheartedly support reimbursement for doula services, certification for community-based doulas remains a barrier to reimbursement for many doulas of color. 
Status: Assigned to the General Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee; Taken off notice in House Insurance Subcommittee 

SB830/HB441: Creates a taskforce to study preterm birth and infant mortality in Black communities.
Sponsors: Sen. Ed Jackson; Rep. London Lamar
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to Senate Government Operations Committee; Deferred to a summer study in House Health Subcommittee 

SB956/HB642: Requires implicit bias training for maternal and perinatal health programs and creates a perinatal patient bill of rights that must be provided to patients upon admission.
Sponsors: Sen. Jeff Yarbro; Rep. London Lamar
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to the General Subcommittee in Senate Health and Welfare Committee; Deferred to a summer study in House Health Subcommittee 

HIV and Harm Reduction:

SB1179/HB1088: Allows syringe exchange programs to operate within 2,000 feet but not closer than 1,000 feet of a school or public park in the most populous counties in Tennessee. Amended to add a sunset period wherein the law will expire in 2023.
Sponsors: Sen. Jeff Yarbro; Rep. Yusef Hakeem
Position: Support
Status: Passed Senate; Returned to the Clerk's Desk in the House

Housing:

SB820/HB919: Prohibits a landlord from refusing to rent to a prospective tenant based solely on a prior eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Sponsors: Sen. Jeff Yarbro; Rep. Antonio Parkinson
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee in Senate Commerce and Labor Committee; Taken off notice in House Business and Utilities Subcommittee 

SB814/HB953: Prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants solely for using housing vouchers and public assistance. 
Sponsors: Sen. Jeff Yarbro; Rep. John Clemmons
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to the General Subcommittee of Senate Commerce and Labor Committee; Taken off notice in House Business and Utilities Subcommittee 

Public Benefits:

SB144/HB157: Tennessee Opportunity Act: authorizing a plan to reduce TANF reserve funds based on grants to nonprofits and local governments to provide evidence-based services, not increasing direct assistance payments or reducing barriers and limits to assistance. *Note:* This bill has been moved, along with new additions to SB751/HB142, which we also oppose and which is slated to pass soon.
Sponsors: Sen. Bo Watson; Rep. David Hawk
Position: Oppose- while we support reducing TANF reserves, before giving out large grants to nonprofits, local governments, and businesses, direct cash assistance amounts should increase substantially and the legislature should eliminate barriers to assistance like asset limits and family caps.
Status: Assigned to Senate Government Operations Committee; Taken off notice in House Health Subcommittee 

SB308/HB721: Encourages the Department of Human Services to create medical-legal partnerships to provide legal services to low-income beneficiaries and beneficiaries of color funded through the TANF reserve funds. Broadly Captioned.
Sponsors: Sen. Katrina Robinson, Rep. Yusef Hakeem
Position: Neutral - while we support expanding community- and medical-based legal services specifically targeted to people of color and low-income people, the TANF funds should first be used to increase direct cash assistance to families and the legislature should reduce barriers to assistance like asset limits and family caps.
Status: Assigned to Senate Health and Welfare Committee; Scheduled for House Health Subcommittee 

SB715/HB805: Requires the Department of Human Services to phase out asset limits on SNAP and TANF recipients.
Sponsors: Sen. Brenda Gilmore; Rep. Jason Powell
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee of Senate Health and Welfare Committee; Taken off notice in House Health Subcommittee 

SB483/HB583: Pathways to Prosperity Act: Creates two year pilot program using TANF reserve funds to provide additional assistance to families with a working family member, includes certain restrictions.
Sponsors: Sen. Ferrel Haile, Rep. Bryan Terry
Position: Oppose- While enhanced cash assistance is great, HFTN rejects work requirements to receive the assistance and the prohibition on families that have already received a diversion payment.
Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee in Senate Health and Welfare Committee; Assigned to House Health Subcommittee

SB639/HB1461: Authorizes the Department of Labor to use the TANF reserve funds to cultivate partnerships, including public-private partnerships, to provide free or low-cost technology, technology and job training to single parents with children under 18. 
Sponsors: Sen. Katrina Robinson; Rep. Yusef Hakeem
Position: Neutral - While prioritizing single parents is promising, this bill does not prioritize direct assistance to beneficiaries.
Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee in Senate Commerce and Labor Committee; Taken off notice in House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee 

SB104/HB1002 and SB107/HB886: Increases the monthly direct cash assistance for TANF recipients. [See also SB377/HB885]
Sponsors: Sen. Heidi Campbell; Rep. Harold Love, Rep. Dwayne Thompson
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee in Senate Health and Welfare Committee; Taken off notice in House Health Subcommittee 

SB153/HB489: Prohibits the government from taking adverse action against a person based on certain levels of THC on a drug test, including criminal-legal, child welfare, public assistance, or educational contexts.
Sponsors: Sen. Richard Briggs; Rep. Bryan Terry
Position: Support
Status: Failed (in Senate Committee)

Sex Education and Youth:

SB646/HB1506: Requires schools to adopt medically-accurate and age appropriate comprehensive sex education.
Sponsors: Sen. Katrina Robinson; Rep. Sam McKenzie
Position: Support
Status: Assigned to Senate Education Committee and House Education Instruction Subcommittee 

SB1360/HB487: Requires all schools to adopt the family life curriculum.
Sponsors: Sen. Mike Bell; Rep. Robin Smith
Position: Neutral - Requires all schools to adopt some curriculum when they otherwise would not, but the current family life curriculum standards are not consistent with best practices for sex education.
Status: Passed

SB640/HB1307: Requires program of study on sexual health education, trauma responses, job search skills, substance use treatment resources, and financial management for incarcerated youth
Sponsors: Sen. Katrina Robinson; Rep. Jesse Chism 
Position: Support
Status: Deferred to 2022 in Senate Judiciary Committee; Assigned to House Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee 

SB1124/HB1006: Further criminalizes young people (minors) who take, send, or possess photos of a sexual nature.
Sponsors: Sen. Dawn White; Rep. Clay Doggett
Position: Oppose - HFTN opposes criminalizing young people for engaging in sexual activity. These laws have not been shown to be effective in deterring sexting among minors, and they come with serious consequences for the young people involved.
Status: Passed and signed by Governor




Donate Volunteer Find an Event

connect