2018 Tennessee Legislative Summary
BY RON SHULTIS
There have been two things on my mind recently: wrapping up the 2018 legislative session and wondering who my Packers are going to draft to shore up their secondary in the upcoming draft. Then it dawned on me, the legislative session and NFL draft are similar in a lot of ways. You have various groups all looking to move and accomplish conflicting and competing agendas at the same time. Meanwhile, countless deals, trades, and agreements are in constant flux with millions, if not billions of dollars, on the line.
With that in mind, let’s look at Beacon’s policy issues and draft our successes from the 2018 legislative session:
#1 Pick: Medicaid Work Requirements
The last time there was meaningful reform to entitlement programs was in 1996 when Congress passed the bipartisan Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Beacon has long argued that education and employment are the two most important factors to creating cycles of success for those living in poverty. Beacon Impact, the Beacon Center’s advocacy partner, worked to support a bill that directs the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare, to submit a waiver to the federal government to implement reasonable work requirements for able-bodied, working-age adult enrollees without dependent children under the age of six years old. This new law, which passed overwhelmingly in both houses, will incentivize work and provide a path and support to help able-bodied Tennesseans to move from government dependency to self-sufficiency.
First Round Pick: Occupational Licensing
Beacon has led the effort to reduce overly burdensome licenses and ways to limit the government’s ability to deny Tennesseans the right to work. In line with Beacon’s work in sensible justice reform, Beacon Impact developed a policy addressing a licensing board’s ability to deny an occupational license for an unrelated prior criminal conviction. For example, if you got a DUI 10 years ago, should you really be denied the opportunity to work as a barber? In response, Beacon Impact went to work with legislators to unanimously pass legislation in the House and Senate called “The Fresh Start Act.” Now, licensing boards can only deny someone a license if their past crime directly relates to the job they are seeking.
Additionally, after Beacon released our Dirty Dozen package highlighting what we believe are the 12 most overly burdensome licensing laws in the state, which had a direct legislative impact. The legislature passed a law permanently repealing the requirement that those practicing animal massage therapy obtain a costly veterinarian license. This will allow people like our clients Martha Stowe and Laurie Wheeler to get back to work doing what they love. Finally, Beacon Impact helped prevent passage of a bill requiring an auctioneer’s license to sell items online and another bill that would require a license to become an “art therapist.”
Mid Round Pick: Criminal Justice Reform
The Coalition for Sensible Justice, made up of Beacon, the ACLU, Goodwill, Nashville Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee County Services Association, worked with legislators to fund pilot programs for sheriff and probation departments to launch re-entry programs. The funding is based on reducing recidivism to help incentivize better outcomes. In addition, the legislature passed Gov. Haslam’s Juvenile Justice Reform Act that seeks to reform “justice by geography” by addressing the discrepancies in the treatment of juvenile defendants across the state.
Late Round Pick: Short-Term Rental Protection
Fighting for property rights has always been one of Beacon’s core issues. Unfortunately, a few local governments—led by Nashville—have trampled on these rights and curbed the economic liberty of property owners by banning home sharing. While Beacon Impact argued for a preemption on a cities’ ability to regulate homesharing, ultimately a compromise was passed that still allows cities and counties to ban short-term rentals, but grandfathers in everyone who was operating lawfully prior to a local ordinance being enacted.
Undrafted: Hair Braiding
Beacon has championed the push for a repeal of the license required to braid hair and included this unnecessary license in our Dirty Dozen report. Due to our efforts, Gov. Haslam included a repeal of the natural hair stylist license in his legislative agenda. Beacon Impact brought numerous hair braiders to testify in favor of the bill to highlight the real-world impact of the license. Unfortunately, other controversial aspects of the bill—such as merging the barber and cosmetology licenses—ultimately killed it and the hair braiding license repeal along with it. Beacon will continue to advocate for the repeal of this license.