Tennessee lawmakers reconvened on January 11 in Nashville for the second session of the 112th General Assembly. While the start of the 2021 session was notable due to COVID-19 mitigations that included limited access to legislative offices and committee rooms and the absence of legislative receptions, 2022 signals a return to “business as usual” with open access to the capitol and Cordell Hull Building, the return of days on the hill for advocacy groups, and large legislative receptions.
This week’s first order of business for the legislature is the unveiling of proposed redistricting maps for legislative and congressional district lines, which is required every 10 years to reflect population growth and shifts. Confirming months of speculation on congressional redistricting, House and Senate Republicans revealed their intent to carve up Nashville into two, or possibly three, districts. The practical result would be the dilution of the Democratic vote in Nashville and the likely net of one additional seat for Republicans in Congress. The entire state legislature must approve the proposed plans presented by the House and Senate Republicans, but that hurdle is minimal given the Republican supermajority in both chambers.
Other top priorities are expected to include education funding formula reform, tweaks to COVID-19 protocols passed during the special session, truth-in-sentencing measures, bail bond reform, workforce and jobs initiatives, continued scrutiny of the curriculum choices in public K-12 and higher education institutions, and budget negotiations. The state finds itself in the enviable position of being flush with cash due to strong tax collections, revenues exceeding projections, and the flow of federal stimulus dollars into the state. That being said, the chairmen of the finance committees have expressed reservations about funding any spending bills with recurring price tags attached or eliminating or reducing sources of tax revenue. However, rank-and-file members, anxious to return home to an election environment with good news, may pressure leaders into taking action that can be labeled a tax cut to defray concerns about the state’s ballooned coffers.
As is typical in election years, the pace of session is expected to be quick with the goal of adjournment in mid-April. Governor Lee is expected to give his fourth, but almost certainly not his final, State of the State address on January 31, 2022. The House has announced that its bill filing deadline will be Wednesday, February 2. The Senate has announced that its bill filing deadline will follow on Thursday, February 3.
The Bass, Berry & Sims Government Advocacy and Public Policy Group will be on the ground ready to assist you in matters where business and government intersect. If you have any questions about the 112th General Assembly or other issues in general, please contact the authors.