The Tennessee General Assembly adjourned sine die bringing an end the two-year legislative session shortly after 3 a.m. on Friday. The rare, early morning adjournment was due to hours of negotiations between the House and the Senate on numerous items. The legislature was primarily focused on passing a revised 2020-21 fiscal year budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial disruption of the state’s economy. However, several other issues created a stalemate between the House and Senate, which at times became contentious.
While the Senate recessed last week after passing its version of the 2020-21 fiscal year state budget, leadership in the House decided to return on Monday. At times, the mood on the House floor became tense as protestors inside the Capitol and outside on the Legislative Plaza demonstrated over several issues, including the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from inside the Capitol.
In addition to budget negotiations, various conference committees were assigned late Thursday night in an effort to strike a compromise between the House and the Senate on certain bills. In the end, the Chambers were unable to resolve differences on several pieces of legislation and decided to adjourn.
The highlights of the new $39.23 billion 2020-21 fiscal year budget include:
- $14.5 million authorization for the UT Health Science Center to use state bonding authority to acquire the Memphis Bioworks Vivarium with UTHSC revenues;
- $575 million allocation for the state’s rainy-day fund;
- $25 million for a state sales tax holiday;
- $50 million state employee buyout program, expected to eventually result in $65 million in savings; and,
- $210 million in city and county grant funding.
Furthermore, the budget keeps in place the scheduled 2021 elimination of the Hall Income Tax and charges the executive branch with eliminating $20 million in vacant state positions. The budget also no longer includes pay raises for teachers, state employees, higher education employees, and legislators. The new budget was further reduced by $1 billion from earlier plans Governor Bill Lee had proposed in January as the state was experiencing a historic revenue surplus.Tags: 111th Tennessee General Assembly, FY20-21 budget, Sine Die