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News & Press: Policy Update

Policy Update: Coronavirus Recess Ends, Bills Taken Off Notice, Strong Act

Friday, May 29, 2020  
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Coronavirus Recess Ends for 111th General Assembly 

      This week marked the end of the Coronavirus recess for the 111th General Assembly. On the House side both sub- and full committees were in full operation seeking to dispense with the backlog of bills. Both Chambers will formally gavel into session on Monday, June 1st. Next week the Senate Committees will begin consideration of the bills on their calendars. Both Chambers are anxious to get their work completed but have expressed a commitment to carefully all the legislation before them.

Tennessee Recovery and Safe Harbor Act

      TICUA has been working with a coalition of over 30 diverse employer associations to ensure protection from frivolous lawsuits related to the Coronavirus. The Tennessee Recovery and Safe Harbor Act (SB2381/HB2623) provides protection for those entities which are attempting, to the best of their ability, to abide by governmental endorsed guidelines related to COVID-19 as they reopen their operations.

If passed as currently drafted, a plaintiff would need to supply fact-based, clear and convincing information, which demonstrates that a campus was acting maliciously, recklessly, or with willful misconduct to cause harm related to the Coronavirus before a lawsuit can go forward. The bill will not protect “bad players” who act with disregard to guidance provided related to reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Passage of this bill will allow TICUA campuses to open with confidence and help mitigate the concern about defending against unmerited litigation dealing the COVID-19 contraction.

It is anticipated that the bill will begin movement through the committee structure this next week. At various points over the past month, the Governor’s office as well as House and Senate leadership have been consulted about the language of the bill. TICUA members are asked to contact their House and Senate officials to explain the importance of the protection. 

Bills Taken Off Notice



Over the past few days, most bills considered by the House committees were taken off notice, essentially ending their possibility of becoming law during the 111th General Assembly. Bills of note which were taken off notice include:

  • HB2107/SB2031 – adds William R. Moore College of Technology as a recipient of the Tennessee Reconnect and Dual Enrollment Grant programs. 
  • HB1199/SB977 – adds William R. Moore College of Technology as a recipient of the Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant. 
  • HB1834/SB1580 – deletes requirement that students must be a Tennessee resident for one year to receive a Dual Enrollment Grant. 
  • HB2305/SB2220 – revises the TN Promise GPA calculation and permits an appeal based on the GPA calculation.
  • HB742/SB1380 – requires TSAC to award $500 for each of the first four Dual Enrollment Grant courses.
  • HB497/SB441 – adds Western Governors University as a recipient of the HOPE Scholarship.

House Education Amends Lee’s Literacy Bill 

      Last night, the House Education Committee adopted an amendment which rewrote Governor Lee’s literacy bill. The amendment vests the LEA’s with more control on how literacy will be taught in their districts.  The bill retains the requirement to not promote any third-grade students to the next grade who have not “shown a basic understanding of the curriculum and ability to perform the skills required in the subject of reading.”

The amendment retains the requirement of teacher preparation programs to train K-3 teacher candidates on how to teach “foundational reading skills of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.” As well, teacher candidates must be able to identify students with dyslexia, students with advanced reading skills, can use and understand student reading data, and how to effectively use high-quality instructional materials.  

The amendment deletes the requirement of university faculty teaching reading strategies to teacher candidates to have an active teacher license, pass a literacy exam, or attend statewide training. The amendment retains, however, the requirement of teacher preparation programs to participate in a college-cost analysis based on net-tuition.

The amendment was drafted as a compromise between the House and the Senate leadership. The bill will be considered by the Senate Education Committee next week.  It is likely that the Committee will adopt this new amendment, thus setting the bill on a pathway for passage.

Strong Act Still in Play    


The bill (SB2177/HB2246) to expand and modify the STRONG Act was passed by the House Education Committee during last night’s actions. The STRONG Act, which is administered by the TN Department of the Military, was passed in 2017 and provides student aid to members of the Tennessee National Guard. Several TICUA campuses serve the Guard through this reimbursement program.

The major provisions of the bill include:

  1. Adds colleges of applied technology to the list of types of institutions that are eligible for reimbursement; 
  2. Extends eligibility for reimbursement to mandatory fees;
  3. Specifies that doctoral programs are not eligible for reimbursement;
  4. Clarifies that semester-hour equivalents, such as hours earned on the quarter system, are eligible for reimbursement, remedial course work is eligible for reimbursement, and hours attempted before graduating from high school or earning a GED are not eligible for reimbursement;
  5. Adds a requirement that a guard member must maintain a 3.0 GPA for reimbursement of tuition for a master's program. The GPA requirement will remain a 2.0 for undergraduate, vocational, or technical programs;
  6. Limits the number of master's degree program semester hours that are eligible for reimbursement to 40 semester hours;
  7. Limits the number of vocational or technical program semester hours that are eligible for reimbursement to 24 semester hours;
  8. Clarifies that only semester hours attempted for a guard member's first bachelor's degree and first master's degree are eligible for reimbursement;
  9. Authorizes reimbursement for 30 additional semester hours for a guard member who is enrolled in ROTC while attempting a first bachelor's degree or first master's degree; and
  10. Specifies that guard members who receive an ROTC scholarship must exhaust the benefits of such scholarship to be eligible for tuition reimbursement under the STRONG Act.

The House bill has been passed on to Finance, Ways, and Means with an uncertain future due to the fiscal note. The Senate version is sitting in the Education Committee awaiting consideration.