The 111th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned sine die in the early hours of June 19th after the House and Senate resolved their differences on the Appropriations, Budget Implementation and Bond bills. The bills are much the same as the bills passed last week by the Senate, incorporating some of the ideas included in the House bills passed Monday. The 2021 budget is 29.5 billion dollars. In general, it does not fund any new programs or planned initiatives—including pay raises for teachers, state employees, and legislators. Proposed increases for ECF Choices did not make it into the budget.
The state budget will be balanced over the next three years. It includes a $20 million reduction in vacant positions not filled in the past 3 months. It expands the sales tax exemptions available during the back to school sales tax holiday by doubling the allowed price exemptions i.e. clothing under $200, computers under $3000 and a sales tax holiday the following weekend for restaurant food and beverages.
The Conference Committee reports are at the links below. The bond bill contained an additional two capital projects.
One of the challenges for advocates is that the budget passed appears to include cuts to state agencies, but those cuts are not clearly outlined by program or service. Ongoing attention and advocacy is needed to protect the interests of people with disabilities and their families.
The General Assembly’s June session, post March recess due to COVID 19, was focused primarily on the budget. However, one of the bills that was on our priority list was taken up.
SB1892/HB1699, Telemedicine was supported by a broad group of providers, patient advocates, and hospitals, It would have required health insurance entities to cover and reimburse healthcare services provided via telehealth as well as codifying a fiscal mechanism allowing providers to be paid equal to in-person services.
The bill had been voted on before the recess, but House and Senate bills differed. When the 6-member joint panel convened Thursday evening, the House pushed to get its version approved but it was voted down by Senate members. After further negotiations, the bodies compromised to allow payment parity to continue for 18 months to allow the market to adjust independently as well as broadening eligibility so that more providers under title 63 could utilize telehealth. The majority report passed the House unanimously on an 89-0 vote but the measure was never taken up in the Senate for a final vote, effectively killing it.
The Conference Committee report is at the link below