110th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee Adjourned

April 25, 2018

At nearly 11:00 P.M. on Wednesday, April 25, the 110th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee adjourned sine die. Governor Haslam hailed the 2018 legislative session as a success stating, “The investments in this budget and our legislative priorities this session will impact Tennesseans for years to come. I am grateful to the General Assembly for partnering with us to pass meaningful legislation and for its commitment to conservative fiscal principles.” Major legislation enacted during 2018 session addressed the opioid crisis, juvenile justice reform, the reconstitution of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, the sale of alcohol on Sundays, and the state budget.

During session, the legislature debated the implications of Federal Tax Reform and ultimately passed legislation that eliminates an increase in state taxes resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  B2119/HB2310 decouples Tennessee taxes from new federal tax provisions related to interest expense limitations beginning with the 2020 tax year.  Additionally, the bill decoupled the Federal change to tax state economic incentive grants as income.  This change is effective for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2017.  The legislature also removed a proposal from the bill that would have allowed the Department of Revenue to hire third-party consultants to assist with the audit process in Tennessee.  TSCPA’s State Tax Committee was actively involved in the passage of this legislation.

SB2471/HB1724 was enacted to gain consistency between the accountancy law and rules.  The legislation lowers the age of inactive CPA licensees who may not have to pay renewal fees pursuant to rules from 70 years of age to over 65 years of age.

Two separate pieces of legislation, SB2257/HB1831 and SB2258/HB1832, were enacted as crucial components of TN Together, the Haslam Administration’s comprehensive plan to address the opioid crisis in Tennessee. SB2257/HB1831 limits the duration and dosage of opioid prescriptions for new patients, with reasonable exceptions for major surgical procedures and exemptions that include cancer and hospice treatment, sickle cell disease as well as treatment in certain licensed facilities. SB2258/HB1832 creates incentives for offenders to complete intensive substance use treatment programs while incarcerated and updates the schedule of controlled substances to better track, monitor and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of opioids.

Sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Jason Zachary, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 intends to improve juvenile justice results and serve as a starting point for further reform. The legislation balances judicial discretion with new guardrails on placing children in out-of-home custody, brings needed investment in treatment and other services, and ensures individualized case planning, among other improvements.

The University of Tennessee FOCUS Act reduces the current size of the UT Board of Trustees to 12 members, modernizes the focus and responsibilities of the board, and establishes advisory boards for the primary UT campuses, allowing each campus to have a local focus.

SB2518/HB1540, commonly referred to as the “Seven Day Sales” bill, removes outdated regulation on allowable hours of sale for package stores and wine in grocery stores. With this legislation Tennessee became the 41st state to allow the sale of liquor and wine for off-premise consumption seven days per week. Package stores were immediately allowed to conduct business seven days per week upon passage, while the legislation will become effective for grocery stores on January 1, 2019.

Totaling $37.7 billion, Governor Haslam’s final budget includes $15 million in new state dollars to aid in the fight against the opioid epidemic, $30 million to improve school safety, $119 million in higher education initiatives, $247 million in new state funding for K-12 education, $124 million in job growth investments, and increases the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $861 million, more than three times its size in 2011.

Along with closing the business of the 110th General Assembly, the adjournment marked the end of Governor Bill Haslam, Speaker Beth Harwell, and more than 30 other legislators’ final legislative sessions. Governor Haslam is term limited, Speaker Harwell has entered the race to succeed Governor Haslam, and many other members are either retiring or seeking other offices. With such extensive overturn, the 111th General Assembly will bear little resemblance to its predecessor when it convenes in January of 2019.