Legislative Update – Week Ending 3/1/2024

TSEA March 2, 2024 Comments Off on Legislative Update – Week Ending 3/1/2024
Legislative Update – Week Ending 3/1/2024

As the legislative session continues, TSEA remains dedicated to keeping you informed and engaged with the developments that affect us all. The legislature is moving swiftly, and we anticipate wrapping up in April. Here are some of the key moments from this week on the hill.

DHS Budget Presentation to the House Finance Committee:

During the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget presentation, Commissioner Carter addressed inquiries regarding the backlog in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits system. He shared some challenges the department has faced since last June, notably the dual-system workload, which he says halved employee productivity and led to a substantial application backlog. With the transition to a new system completed on Dec. 30, Commissioner Carter reported a remarkable 85% reduction in the backlog over the past 30 days. He confidently projected reaching a “steady state”—a point where there are zero backlogged applications over 30 days—by the end of March. Commissioner Carter then took a moment to commend DHS employees for their dedication and hard work during this challenging period. You can view his comments about employees here: https://tnga.granicus.com/player/clip/29655?view_id=726&redirect=true&entrytime=8089&stoptime=8129

Budget Hearings Overview:

This week’s budget hearings unfolded without any unexpected or significant developments.

For higher ed, as we’ve mentioned before, the board of trustees at each higher education institution maintains the authority to use their 3 percent pool toward salary in whatever manner they choose. That being said, the salary pool funding in the governor’s proposed budget is insufficient to fully fund 3 percent across-the-board raises; additional funds must come from the institution. We continue to monitor higher education budget presentations for key indicators of which institutions will be able to fully fund their raises.

Northeast Legislative Event:

We want to thank those who attended the Northeast Legislative Event on February 24, 2024. A special acknowledgment to Sen. Jon Lundberg, Sen. Rusty Crowe, Rep. Bud Hulsey, Rep. Timothy Hill, and Rep. John Crawford for attending and spending time with current and former State and Higher Education Employees. We will soon have a video recap that includes highlights from this event and the events from Dec. in West TN and Middle TN.

Bills we’re monitoring:

(NOTE: We may add additional bills to this list as legislative session progresses)

SB1545/HB1554 Rose, Slater

Senate: Placed on Senate State and Local Government Committee calendar for 3/5/2024
House: Placed on cal. State Government Committee for 3/6/2024

Salaries and Benefits – As introduced, establishes a program under which a state employee may receive up to six weeks of paid leave if the employee becomes a foster parent of a minor child. – Amends TCA Title 3; Title 8; Title 16 and Title 50.

SB1941/HB2143 Haile, Martin, G

Senate: Passed 33-0, 2/24/2024
House: Placed on cal. State Government Committee for 3/6/2024

State Employees – As introduced, permits employees of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of state government to complete Tennessee foster parent training and in-service training during the course of their employment without having to use paid sick, annual, or compensatory time up to a certain amount of time. – Amends TCA Title 4; Title 8; Title 37 and Title 71.

SB2007/HB1960 Campbell, Powell

Senate: Referred to Senate State and Local Government Committee
House: Placed on s/c cal Health Subcommittee for 3/5/2024

Hospitals and Health Care Facilities – As introduced, authorizes public hospitals, upon approval of the hospital’s governing body, to establish a state employee and retiree healthcare incentive program that will allow for the waiver of applicable out-of-pocket expenses associated with medical care at the public hospital for state employees and retirees and their covered dependents participating in the state group insurance plan. – Amends TCA Title 8, Chapter 27.

SB2081/HB2088 Johnson, Lamberth

Senate: Referred to Senate Calendar Committee
House: Placed on cal. State Government Committee for 3/6/2024

Military – As introduced, authorizes the military department to administer a critical skills retention bonus program to be used to award retention bonuses of up to $10,000 to enlisted service members in the Tennessee National Guard; entitles certain state employees who are members of a reserve component of the armed forces of the United States or the national guard to special leave with partial pay during a period in which the members have been called to active duty. – Amends TCA Title 58, Chapter 1, Part 1.