Anti-Preference Legislation Takes Another Form

Category: State Issues

SB114/HB1198 was heard in both the House and Senate committees this week.  The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) and Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), prohibits the granting of preference based on race, sex, or ethnicity when hiring to fill a position in state government.  This bill impacts all state entities, including the University of Tennessee System.

The University of Tennessee System currently does not make employment decisions solely based on race, sex, or ethnicity.  Doing so would be a violation of existing federal law.

While on its face the legislation seems to mirror existing federal law, it has notable differences that will surely lead to costly litigation for the University, the State, and Tennessee taxpayers.  Additional factors that could lead to litigation include a lack of definition for the word “preference” as included in the bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted two amendments, one changing the language ‘gender’ to ‘sex’ and another changing ‘candidate’ to ‘applicant.’  While some testimony was heard regarding the ambiguity of the word preference in the bill, it ultimately was passed with 6 ayes.  The bill now moves to the Senate Calendar and Rules Committee.

The companion bill, HB1198, was deferred to the next available calendar in the House State Government Subcommittee today, following testimony and a proposed amendment from the Tennessee Board of Regents that would further define the word preference.  This attempted amendment route would eliminate the majority of litigation issues surrounding the current language of the bill.  The bill will be heard next week, March 26th, in subcommittee.

To check the bill’s status, click here.