Tennessee lawmakers could make their last trip to Nashville for the year this week and close out business for the session.
Even so, there is still significant legislation and work to be done, and there is always room for surprises as lawmakers complete their work.
Senate to pass budget
After last week’s bitter debate among House members, the Senate will take up the state’s $37 billion budget this week.
The House had a marathon meeting Thursday that added millions in extra spending to the budget; however, they undid those additions and passed the measure in a rare Friday session. The latest version of the budget sends $55 million directly to counties to pay for road projects.
The Senate will take up the budget Monday evening and is expected to pass it with significantly less in-fighting than the House.
Airbnb bill finally gets vote
After months of debate, lobbying and surprise amendments, the House is expected to vote on a bill that would prevent any bans on short-term rental properties.
Senate sponsor, Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, introduced a surprise amendment late last week that would single out the state’s largest cities by preventing bans in those cities, leaving intact bans in Republican strongholds.
The House is scheduled to take up the measure Monday evening and the Senate Finance Committee could take similar action next week, which would put it on the floor for a full Senate vote.
De-annexation may fizzle out
A once-divisive issue that has fizzled this year in committee could come back and wind up on the Senate floor for a full vote this week.
Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, has worked on the legislation for a year after it was referred back to committee last year.
The legislation has been amended significantly, and Watson initially opposed the amendments. Unless there’s a last ditch effort to advance the issue, it could stay in the Finance committee until next year’s session.
With the state’s annual spending plan likely to pass, lawmakers will then take up measures that have been funded in the budget, several of which will gain approval.
Among the bills that have received funding in the budget that need approval this week is one to create a Middle College scholarship program and another exempting Tennesseans 100 years or older from paying the Hall Income Tax. There’s also a bill relating to the HOPE Teacher’s Scholarship and another increasing the death benefit for first-responders that have been included in the final budget.
Tennessee’s General Assembly operates on a two-year cycle, so some bills that were not discussed or voted on this year could come back next year. With the biggest bills and the budget likely to be put behind them, there is a possibility the legislature could adjourn by the middle or end of the week.
House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, expressed optimism that lawmakers could wrap up work by Tuesday but the waning days of a legislative session seem to always have a way of dragging on due to some unforeseen circumstances and this year is likely no different.
One thing is clear — the end of the 2017 session is near.