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2018 TN Legislative Session Wrap-up

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The 110th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned in the late evening of Wednesday April 25th, 2018. The final debate of session arose over the readiness of the state’s TNReady school testing system. The final agreement between the House and Senate before adjournment was to ensure “no adverse action” can be taken against any student, teacher, school or location education association (LEA) regarding this year’s TNReady test results.

2018 entertained the second and final session of the 110th assembly and Governor Bill Haslam’s final year working alongside the legislature. This year, Governor Haslam’s administrative bill packages addressed the opioid crisis and juvenile justice system. After much debate, watered-down versions of the legislation were passed into law. 

The total state budget for fiscal year 2019 is $37.5 billion of which $17.7 billion is state appropriations, $13.9 is federal and $5.9 billion is from other departmental revenues, high education tuition and fees, and bonds. Tennessee’s annual budget was prepared by Governor Haslam’s administration, amended and passed by the Tennessee General Assembly. Two budget items notable for the Disability Community are the $11.7 million one-time allocation for direct support professional wage increases and a recurring budget allocation of $425,000 for mental health peer recovery centers. However, the reduction of several employee positions within the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Department of Children’s Services and Department of Human Services as proposed in the Governor’s initial budget were included in the final budget and will be cut.

A quick review of legislation from the lens of its impact on the Disability Community:

Positive:

  • The library formerly known as the “Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped” was renamed to be the “Tennessee Library for Accessible Books and Media.”
  • The Down Syndrome Information Act to help inform and provide resources to families receiving a new diagnosis of Down Syndrome passed.
  • The Aging Caregiver Law was updated to enroll qualified Tennesseans with developmental disabilities who have a caregiver over age 80 in Employment and Community First CHOICES.
  • Legislation defining least restrictive alternatives to conservatorship passed.
  • Legislation to allow adults who are Deaf or hard of hearing to voluntarily add a notation of their disability to the state of Tennessee’s vehicle title and registration database passed.
  • Legislation to allow individuals with developmental disabilities or acquired brain injury to voluntarily add a special designation on their driver’s license passed.
  • The Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2018 to increase criminal offense designations for abuse of these populations passed.
  • Legislation requiring state universities to allow American Sign Language courses to satisfy foreign language requirement for undergraduate degree programs passed.
  • Two bills regarding corporal punishment of students with disabilities passed: one which “prohibits the use of corporal punishment against a student with defined disabilities who has an IEP or Section 504 plan” and a second requiring each LEA to submit an annual report to the Department of Education detailing its use of corporal punishment in the school year.

Negative:

  • This year, state legislators passed legislation to impose work requirements on "able-bodied working age Tennesseans without dependent children under age six" who receive Medicaid.
  • Legislation to lower the minimum age of requirement below age 60 for individuals who need public guardianship was not successful.
  • Legislation to include “disability” as a status protected from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations in Tennessee state law was not successful.
  • Legislation to prohibit the death penalty as a punishment for defendants with severe mental illness was not successful.

Download here: Our summary of the final status and impact of this session's Tennessee Disability Coalition membership priority legislation (including more information about the items listed above).

Following Fall 2018 elections, next January 2019 the 111th Tennessee General Assembly will convene for the first time.

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Tennessee Disability Coalition

The Coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals who have joined to promote the full and equal participation of men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. We work together to advocate for public policy that ensures self-determination, independence, empowerment, and inclusion for people with disabilities in areas such as accessibility, education, healthcare, housing, and voting rights.

Contact us

Office Address
Tennessee Disability Coalition
955 Woodland Street
Nashville, TN 37206

Nashville: (615) 383-9442Toll-free: (888) 643-7811Email: coalition@tndisability.org