General Assembly Completes First Week of Legislative Business, Special Session to Begin Tuesday

The 112th Tennessee General Assembly completed its first week of legislative business Friday. The first week was mostly organizational, with both chambers voting on leadership and announcing committee appointments. There was also a joint convention of the General Assembly to approve the new terms for the constitutional officers, Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Treasurer David Lillard, and newly elected Comptroller Jason Mumpower. The constitutional officers serve on several boards that impact the University, such as the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC).  Next week, lawmakers will begin a special session focused on education-related initiatives.

Leadership: 
In the Senate, Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) was re-elected as Majority Leader, and Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) was re-elected to serve as Minority Leader. UT Health Science Center alumnus Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) was re-elected as Speaker Pro Tempore. Senators Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) and Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) will serve as the Co-Deputy Speakers.

In the House, UT Knoxville alumnus Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) was re-elected as Majority Leader, with Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) as the Minority Leader. UT Knoxville alumnus Rep. Pat Marsh (R- Shelbyville) was elected Speaker Pro Tempore, and Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) will serve as Deputy Speaker.

Committees: 
Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) will replace retired Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) as the Senate Education Committee Chair. Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) and Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) will serve as Vice-Chairs.

In the House, the Education Committee is now structured into two separate committees – the House Education Administration Committee and the House Education Instruction Committee. Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) will serve as the Chair of the House Administration Committee, and Rep. Debra Moody (R-Covington) will serve as the Chair of the Education Instruction Committee. The new Chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee is UT Knoxville alumnus Rep. Justin Lafferty (R-Knoxville).

A full list of committee appointments is available here.

This Week: 
The General Assembly will convene on Tuesday for a special legislative session to address literacy, K-12 student learning loss and other education concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two of the main bills that will be discussed include:

  • With only one-third of Tennessee 3rd grade students on reading level, the Tennessee Literacy Success Act (Senate Bill 7003/House Bill 7002) aims to improve early childhood literacy rates by providing support to educators and requiring schools to use a phonics-based approach in reading instruction. The legislation includes a section impacting Colleges of Education in Tennessee’s public higher education institutions.
  • The Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act (Senate Bill 7002/House Bill 7004) establishes after-school and summer learning camps to remediate student learning loss. It also creates the Tennessee Accelerated Literacy and Learning Corps to provide ongoing tutoring for students during the school year.

Advocates can learn more about the details surrounding the special session legislation here.

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