Home » Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley: First Actions of 111th General Assembly

Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley: First Actions of 111th General Assembly

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   Final Actions of the 111th Session of the TN General Assembly

   The 111th General Assembly adjourned to become a part of Tennessee history on the morning of June 19th with several important bills approved during the final week of legislative action.  This includes the state budget, a bill to ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected, and a resolution allowing voters to adopt a Right to Work Constitutional Amendment.

    Resolution allows voters to embed Tennessee’s Right to Work Law to state’s constitution

   A resolution to add Tennessee’s Right to Work law to the state constitution passed its final hurdle for the year. On June 17th, the Tennessee House of Representatives approved the measure by a vote of 68 ayes to 22 nays. Senate Joint Resolution 648 had passed the Senate earlier this year.

   Now, the resolution will be required to pass by a two-thirds majority in the 2021 or 2022 legislative session in order to appear on the ballot for a statewide referendum in November 2022. The amendment would become part of the state constitution if adopted by a majority vote in the 2022 governor’s election.

   Tennessee’s Right to Work statute has been state law since 1947. It provides workers cannot be hired or fired based on their membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization. When introduced in 1947, supporters of the bill argued that it would “be of great advantage to the average member of organized labor.” It also protects the rights of those who choose not to join a union.

  Twenty-seven other states have Right to Work laws, and nine of those have passed constitutional amendments, including neighboring states Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Alabama amendment passed most recently in 2016. Another neighbor, Virginia, is presently considering repealing its Right to Work statute. A constitutional amendment would offer greater protection for workers against such repeal efforts. “Tennessee’s Right to Work laws have been critical to producing the economic growth our state has experienced over the last decade,” said Lt. Gov. McNally.

   Senate approves major pro-life legislation banning abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected

   Major pro-life legislation, which includes a prohibition on abortions where a fetal heartbeat exists, was approved by a vote of 23 to 5 by the Tennessee Senate. Senate Bill 2196 is part of Governor Bill Lee’s legislative priorities for the 2020 session.

   “This legislation defends the right of our most vulnerable citizens, the unborn,” said Leader Johnson. “I am proudly pro-life and have been a long-time opponent of abortion. I appreciate Governor Lee championing this historic legislation and believe we have a strong bill that will withstand a constitutional challenge.”  

   “Tennessee is a state that values life,” said Sen. Gresham. “This comprehensive, life-affirming legislation prohibits abortion once a heartbeat has been detected. I am very pleased it has been passed to protect those who are unable to speak for themselves. I also appreciate the work done by our Senate Judiciary Committee in helping get the bill in the best shape possible to move forward.”

   Last summer, the Senate Judiciary Committee studied ways to implement pro-life legislation that will meet court scrutiny. The legislation includes a layered structure that prohibits abortion after the unborn child reaches certain gestational age milestones. The “ladder” provision bans abortion at 11 gestational age milestones ranging from 6 weeks to 24 weeks, with severability clauses for each step of the ladder. It is modeled after a Missouri law to protect against legal challenges. A medical emergency exception is provided, under the bill, if certain requirements are met.

   The bill calls for mothers to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion where the gestational age and the fetal heartbeat will be determined. The proposal also prohibits discriminatory abortion based on the unborn child’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis. In addition, the legislation eliminates the requirement that the Department of Children’s Services provide court advocates and other information about judicial procedures to minors who are considering an abortion.    

   I was happy to support and vote for this legislation. Protecting the life of unborn children is of the upmost importance. This is a step in the right direction to ensure the safety of the unborn in our state. I value life and I will continue to be an advocate for the unborn and support all legislation that ensures they are protected. The legislation now goes to Governor Bill Lee for his signature.

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