110th General Assembly adjourns after a round of House-Senate hostility, more TNReady turmoil

The Tennessee General Assembly’s traditional end-of-session jockeying over last-minute bills boiled over into dramatic brinkmanship Wednesday with a focus on the latest TNReady student testing fiasco, reports the Times Free Press. The 110th General Assembly was finally adjourned late Wednesday night, about 10 days later that legislative leaders had optimistically predicted at the January outset.

The House seized the state’s recently passed $37.5 billion budget as hostage, demanding senators and Gov. Bill Haslam agree to guarantee teachers’ evaluations won’t be at risk after the latest problems.

The House then quickly amended and passed a bill on an 89-0 vote to hold teachers harmless and prevent the state from using scores from the latest botched rollout of student TNReady assessments from applying to educators this school year unless teachers want them used.

The move threw proceedings into turmoil at the Capitol for hours, with Senate leaders saying the problem had already been fixed with legislation rushed through last week. (Previous post HERE.) Other bills became embroiled, and a full-fledged fight was on.

But Wednesday night an agreement was struck. A new bill (HB75, as amended) was whisked through the Senate on a 32-0 vote — as senators continued to gripe it was much ado about nothing.

(Asked on the Senate floor the difference between the bill passed last week and the new version, sponsor Sen. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville), replied, “Substantively, nothing.”)

In the House, the bill was eventually passed 84-0, although some members remained suspicious their teachers were adequately being protected with one member charging the House had “blinked.”

Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, stood with majority Republicans in the well of the House and said “we did not blink.”

“This body made it abundantly clear that no adverse action can happen,” Fitzhugh said. “It’s that simple.”

The language of the bill says: “Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, no adverse action may be taken against any student, teacher, school, or LEA based, in whole or in part, on student achievement data generated from the 2017-2018 TNReady assessments.”

Lawmakers then turned to other legislation as they began a rush to wrap up business and adjourn their annual session.

Note: Adjournment came at about 10:45 p.m.

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