Capitol Update


February 25, 2022

The legislative session is picking up, and bills are making progress throughout committees. This week, however, a number of bills we are following were scheduled for hearings, but were postponed as committees focused on budget hearings for various state departments and agencies and did not have time to get to all of the bills on their schedule.


Recall Elections

A bill is back on the calendar next week in the Senate State and Local Government Committee that could provide a method for holding recall elections for virtually every elected and appointed position in the state, including county government officials. The amendment was proposed to go on HB1277/SB1316, which as originally filed, simply dealt with a timeline for ouster proceedings. 
The proposed amendment would allow a petition of 20% of the voters of a jurisdiction who voted in the last general election to call for a recall election of elected or appointed officials for a variety of reasons. Included among the list of reasons for a recall was “voter dissatisfaction.” The recall provisions would have applied to county, city, and school officials, as well as some state officials. The bill was previously on the calendar in the committee but was deferred for two weeks after a number of organizations raised concerns over the proposed amendment. In the House, the bill has been deferred until the final calendar of the committee.
Separate legislation to allow recall of school board members statewide was recommended by the K-12 Subcommittee this week. It will be heard by the Education Administration committee on March 2nd. The bill (HB2388) by Rep. Todd is simply removing a provision in the current law that allows recall elections of school boards in only Madison County. A bill passed in 2019 to allow recall elections of school boards in counties in a narrow population class that only included Madison County. After the application of the law was found to be unconstitutional by a court, Rep. Todd has returned with legislation to remove the limiting provision and allow for recall of board of education members statewide. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing in Senate Education. 

Training Supplements

A bill (SB1932/HB2027) by Sen. Watson and Rep. Hicks is moving forward that would create an $800 pay supplement for EMS personnel that complete training requirements. It passed out of the Health Committees in both chambers this week and is headed to the Finance Committees. This supplement would be paid for by the State in a manner similar to training supplements paid to law enforcement and firefighters. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Finance Subcommittee next Wednesday. 
Similar legislation to create a training supplement for county correctional officers has also been filed this year. The bill (HB2571/SB2346) by Rep. Doggett and Sen. Yager is intended to provide an $800 supplement, paid by the state, to county jailers who complete required training. This would put them on par with other deputies who are post-certified and receive a training supplement for complying with those requirements. Many counties are dealing with staffing shortage in their jail and are concerned about losing more jailers when new salary improvements kick in for correctional officers in the state prison system. The bill is not yet scheduled for a hearing but is expected to be presented to committees in the coming weeks.

Emergency Medical Services

Separate legislation related to the Emergency Medical Services Licensing Board is headed back to the Government Operations Committee in the Senate. The bill (SB1730) began as a routine sunset bill before being amended by Senator Bell of McMinn County to vacate the current members of the board and have all positions re-appointed. The bill reached the Senate Floor before being referred back to committee this week. The effort to re-constitute the board apparently stems out of a controversy related to an ambulance service operating in the Senator’s district that wanted to provide mental health transports statewide. The burden of making these transports has traditionally fallen on county sheriffs and has resulted in staffing problems, overtime, and other logistical problems as deputy sheriffs had to drive in some cases several hundred miles to take individuals for mental health evaluations. It has been a goal of sheriffs and county associations for some time to find an alternative solution for these transports. The company starting to provide these services was disciplined by the EMS licensing board for operating in counties where it did not have a license or maintain a base of operations. 
Senator Bell and Representative Howell have legislation (SB2348/HB2289) to authorize the type of operation that the EMS board said was prohibited. That legislation has progressed quickly with the bill on the Senate Consent Calendar for Monday night and awaiting a floor vote in the House. With that remedy nearly in place, it appears the amendment proposing to vacate the EMS board may go away when the sunset bill is returned to committee. 

Charter Schools

A bill that could make it easier for charter schools to acquire property from county school systems was amended and passed out of the Senate Education Committee this week. The bill (SB2168/HB2833) is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Instruction Subcommittee next Tuesday. As amended, the bill requires any school district where one or more charter schools operate to publish information on the LEA’s website for each building operated by the LEA. For any buildings that are underutilized or vacant, as defined by the bill, a charter school would have the right of first refusal to purchase vacant property at or below fair market value. It could alternatively lease underutilized or vacant property for an amount not to exceed the annual capital outlay funding received by the charter school. The bill also allows for “replication” of charter schools, meaning an approved charter operating in a county could create one or more subsequent charter schools that utilize the same academic focus of an existing charter school operated by the sponsor.

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