The General Assembly will be in recess until June 1, 2020.
This is not an adjournment. They are “recessing” due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The General Assembly passed what they termed a “barebones” budget last night. They expect to modify that budget when they come back in session in June. Depending on the impact of the COVID-19 virus, there is a possibility they will not come back on that date. The Appropriations bill is the only bill required to be passed by the state Constitution, so if for some reason they are unable to return this fiscal year they will have fulfilled that constitutional requirement.
Advocates of open government and those hoping the General Assembly would join the ranks of other public and private entities in promoting social distancing are pleased. So are many regular folks who have been banned for several days from attending sessions at the State Capitol and the Cordell Hull Building. Irregular folks (lobbyists) have also been banned.
Advocates for a responsible approach to environmental protections and related issues should also be pleased. Several of the worst bills, which seemed heading toward passage, were stopped by this unprecedented action. See bill summaries below and use this time to let your Senator and Representative know what you think about them. We will remind you when they are close to reconvening.
Here are seven recent developments:
- Banning certain regulation of subsurface sewage entities has been stopped, at least for now, by this recess.
- Prohibiting plastic bag distribution for carry-out did not pass, but was received with much more bipartisan legislative support than many of us expected. Sent to “summer study committee” in the Senate.
- Potentially penalizing groups engaged or seeking to engage in compensatory mitigation was stopped by this recess.
- Prohibiting TDEC regulation of certain drip irrigation waste water systems was stopped by this recess.
- Scaling back billboard regulations appeared to be passing this week. However, the current report from the General Assembly indicates the bill passed the House, but not the Senate. We are continuing to monitor this bill.
- Improving used tire recycling failed, but this issue will be back in 2021.
- Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day failed overwhelmingly in the House after passing 28-0 in the Senate. 66 Representatives voted against it and 22 voted for it.