Bills Impacting UT Diversity Funding Shelved for Session; Concerns Over Budget Amendments Remain

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Quietly and without fanfare, a bill seeking to divert state resources from UTK’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion was sent to “general sub” during a Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon.  “General sub” essentially means that the bill will not be considered further unless the bill’s sponsor seeks to re-calendar it, but that does not appear likely as Wednesday was the final meeting of the state Senate’s Education Committee for this session.  The move means that both substantive bills impacting UT’s diversity programs (SB1902/HB2066 and SB1912/HB2248) have been shelved for the session.

While this appears to be good news, serious concerns remain over a proposed budget amendment by the Senate Education Committee, which will next be heard by the Senate Finance Committee.  A date for consideration has not yet been set.  The pending amendment seeks to cut $8 million from UTK’s budget and re-assign it to UT Agricultural Extension and rural outreach programs at UT Chattanooga and UT Martin.  It further requires that only federal funds be used to support the UTK Office Diversity and Inclusion.  The Office receives no federal funding, and the restrictive language in the budget amendment essentially eliminates UTK’s ability to allocate tuition and fee dollars or private gift dollars to support the Office’s work.  It is important to note that while this budget amendment has been recommended by the Senate Education Committee, it has not yet been added to the state budget.

A number of steps remain in the legislative process before the General Assembly passes the annual state budget, which it is expected to do in mid-April.

Advocates should take note that we are rapidly approaching the legislative “budget season.”  In the coming weeks, additional budget amendments are entirely likely on the diversity and inclusion issue.  Please stay tuned for more information.

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