What's Ahead For 2017?

  With the election complete, our focus now turns to the upcoming legislative session. Once again, we expect to have our work cut out for us (and then some) as legislators return to Nashville. Republicans continue to have extreme dominance in both chambers, so we'll be fighting more uphill battles. Given what we'll be facing at both the federal and state levels, it's crucial that we don't let these difficulties dampen our strength and dedication to fighting for working families. It's times like these when the labor movement absolutely needs to stand together and put the concept of solidarity into action. To help ensure that all of our members are informed and educated about all legislation that we'll be watching, please let us know if you have any questions about bills that are on our radar. Knowledge is power, after all! 

  As a reminder, the legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, January 10th. Our weekly legislative updates will start in February. Because 2016 was an election year, the legislature will go into recess for two weeks after the opening week of session for reorganization. The bulk of our work is expected to begin the week of January 30th, but we'll be reading through any and all filed bills during that time. Because of the current makeup of the General Assembly, we know that we'll be playing a considerable amount of defense and do not plan on filing any legislation of our own this year. However, we will do our part to lobby for any bills that benefit working families in Tennessee.

  We've listed the changes that have occurred in the General Assembly since last year, as well as what bills or issues we expect to see again. Remember, this is not a final or definite list, just a summary of things that we expect to see or have been told are likely to be taken up. If you have questions about any of the items listed below, please don't hesitate to contact our office and speak with a member of our legislative team (A.J., Adren, Alyssa or Jerry). Let's get ready to rumble! 
House vs. Senate
  While the Tennessee Senate is still made up of 28 Republicans and 5 Democrats, the numbers have shifted slightly in the House. Democrats now only hold 25 seats, while Republicans hold 74. Representative Kevin Dunlap lost his seat, but Dwayne Thompson beat Representative Steve McManus in Cordova. However, because Representative David Shepard did not seek re-election, his seat was able to be picked up by a Republican. 

  In terms of leadership, Beth Harwell is still Speaker of the House. Representative Glen Casada is House Majority Leader, while Representative Ryan Williams is Caucus Chairman. The Democrats are still led by Representative Craig Fitzhugh and Representative Mike Stewart. In the upper chamber, Senator Randy McNally will serve as the next Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate.

  As of right now, legislators have not been assigned to committees. This is one of the most crucial pieces of our work, because having labor-friendly legislators on committees that we deal with frequently can be the difference between a bill dying or moving forward. Once committees have been assigned, we will send out a notice to all of you. Some of the many committees that we deal with consistently include the House Consumer & Human Resources Committee, the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee and the House Local & State Government Committees.   
Potential Legislation

  These are some of the issues/bills that we've seen over the course of the past two years. Fortunately, they have not passed. However, given Republicans' extra seat in the House, combined with GOP control in Congress, the White House and likely the Supreme Court, we expect most (if not all) of these to come back. All of the topics listed below would have to be re-filed as new bills. Remember, this is just a partial list of things that we expect to see next month. 
  1. Payroll dues deductions. Last year, a bill was filed that would have eliminated this for teachers. Fortunately, the bill failed in the House and was re-referred to Calendar Committee in the Senate. However, as Representative Harry Brooks noted in committee last year, groups that pushed this bill plan to introduce legislation that would target ALL dues deducting organizations this year.   
  2. Workers' Comp. For the past two years, a bill that would essentially make workers' compensation optional has popped up in committee every  so often. There has been bipartisan opposition to this legislation, but we expect to see it come back in some form. 
  3. Collective Bargaining Agreements. In 2015, former Representative Jeremy Durham and Senator Brian Kelsey filed a bill that would ban collective bargaining agreements between public employees and local governments, utility districts and other entities. Multiple groups stepped up to ensure that this bill was rarely brought up in committee. While the legislation was officially taken off notice earlier this year and Durham is no longer a state representative, we would be surprised if we didn't see something similar come back in 2017. 
  4. Anything dealing with local control. Following Nashville voters' approval of Amendment 3 in the summer of 2015, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill this year that overturned that decision. Pre-emption has been a big issue recently, and we expect legislators to try to exert control over local governments on other issues, too.
Alyssa Hansen, Communications Director
1901 Lindell Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203  |   615.269.7111