Legislation Tabled, Legislature to Reconvene in June

Columns at the Tennessee State Capitol.

When the legislature reconvenes on June 1, the bills below are still “live” and could impact UT if passed into law. Although it is yet to be seen whether members will take up new business when they reconvene, limit new business to a supplemental spending bill, or simply adjourn “sine die,” the UT Government Relations and Advocacy team will continue to engage on the issues below to protect UT’s best interests.

Name, Image, and Likeness
Several bills (HB2649, HB2648, HB1694HB1710, and HB2112) aimed at student athlete compensation for public higher education institutions, including a measure to create a state taskforce to study the impact of such a decision, are all tabled but may be re-visited when the legislature returns in June.

Campus Advisory Boards
Legislation brought by UT allowing the campus advisory boards to conduct electronic meetings was set to be heard this week in the House Education Committee, but was ultimately tabled due to the adjusted schedule. The legislation may be heard when the legislature reconvenes in June.

If passed into law, all UT campus advisory boards will be able to call electronic meetings when needed while still being subject to open meetings laws allowing the public to attend and monitor the meetings. The measure is sponsored by Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) and Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville).

“Campus Carry”
Legislation (HB2102) by Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) and Rep. Rush Bricken (R-Tullahoma) that would permit concealed carry by students on public college and university campuses was set to be heard this week but will ultimately be deferred until the legislature reconvenes. Another similar measure by Rep. Chris Todd (R-Jackson) and Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) that would include other areas such as public parks is also tabled.

The University of Tennessee has long opposed legislative efforts to expand the current list of exceptions of those able to possess firearms on public campuses.

Tuition Discounts
HB2130, a measure seeking to limit new statutorily-mandated tuition discounts unless fully-funded by the state passed last week in the House Higher Education Subcommittee and will be placed on hold until the legislature reconvenes. The bill was set to be heard this week in the House and Senate Education Committees.

State-mandated tuition discounts and waivers, while well-intentioned, are funded at a mere 11 percent by the state, leaving public colleges and universities on the hook to raise the rest of the funds through tuition charged to the broader student population. For UT alone, the discounts cost over $8 million annually. The University supports the legislation, which is sponsored by Rep. John Crawford (R-Kingsport) and Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga).

4-H Participation
Legislation ensuring K-12 students are counted as present for attendance purposes when participating in 4-H activities will be deferred until the legislature reconvenes in June. While the measure has already passed unanimously (99-0) on the House floor, the measure had yet to be heard by the Senate.

4-H is a program of the UT Institute of Agriculture and provides over 170,000 Tennessee youth with hands-on STEM and citizenship education. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) and Senate Education Chair Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville).

The Governor’s legislation aimed at improving early childhood literacy rates will be placed on hold until the legislature reconvenes. The Governor’s legislation has made strides in the House but has yet to be heard in the Senate.  With only one-third of Tennessee third grade students on reading level, the University of Tennessee supports the spirit of the legislation.

Among other provisions, the bill:

Codifies certain curricular requirements, including providing candidates with instruction on the science of reading and systematic phonics instruction;
Requires candidates for an elementary school teaching position in grades K-2 to pass a new licensure test developed or identified by the state to test the knowledge of the science of reading; and,
Requires educator preparation program faculty specifically teaching K-2 literacy to pass the licensure test, unless the faculty member has an active Tennessee teacher license.

Notable revisions made by the Administration in their latest amendment include no longer mandating aspiring principles take the licensure test and limiting the scope of testing for ed prep faculty.  Legislative amendments have also been floated removing the testing requirement for educator preparation program faculty, among other revisions.