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TN Senate passes bill that could risk around $1.3 billion in federal funding, $750 million in grants

SB 1440's fiscal note said the bill risks nearly $1.3 billion in Department of Education funding for Tennessee.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Senate passed SB 1440, which could risk nearly $1.3 billion in federal education funding for the state and $750 million in federal grants from the Department of Health, according to the bill's fiscal note.

The fiscal note outlines how the state's budget could be affected by passing a certain piece of legislation. It said the bill would affect nearly 20 parts of the federal code, which would negate $1,293,583,239 of federal funding given to Tennessee. 

It also says that $750 million in federal grants to the Department of Health would be at risk should the bill pass. It said that Title X grants and many others have a different definition of "sex" than what the bill proposes.

The bill would define sex as a "person's immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth," and requires that definition to be used on all government-issued documentation.

The bill would prevent transgender people, among other people, from changing their driver's licenses and birth certificates, and could conflict with federal protections.

The Department of Education requires schools to respect a student's gender identity. If a state refuses to follow its rules, then the state would risk funding from the federal government.

"I think we're courting controversy and endangering sort of the fiscal stability of the state here to achieve no valuable end," said Senator Jeff Yarbro (D - Nashville).

East Tennessee Senators Becky Duncan Massey (R - Knoxville) and Richard Briggs (R - Knoxville) both voted to approve the bill. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally voted to approve the bill, too.

"The way the bill was presented, they didn't change one word of state law," Sen. Briggs said. 

He said he did not want to comment on the fiscal note, because he hadn't reviewed it firsthand. He said if the bill would affect federal funds, he would no longer support it. 

"I supported the bill because it properly defines the term for government purposes," said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. "I am hopeful the measure will not jeopardize federal funds. If it does, we can rectify it later."

SB 1440 has passed the Senate. It must pass the House of Representatives before it becomes law.

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