budget hearings

Lee budget hearings get underway Monday

Gov. Bill Lee, second from left, holds a budget hearing with the Department of Economic and Community Development on Nov. 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig/Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is holding annual public budget hearings this week. Given the state’s massive budget surplus and influx of huge amounts of federal money, this year’s hearings will likely come without the charade of having departments to outline theoretical spending cuts (most of which didn’t come to pass, even in more meager times).

Lee has followed predecessor Bill Haslam’s style in hearings with department heads, mostly avoiding controversy or criticism. Then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, by contrast, would often home in on perceived shortcomings to pressure his Cabinet members to perform better – or be replaced. 

The first of this year’s set of hearings should give a good indication about how things are going to go: The Department of Health has been battered by controversy ever since the firing of vaccine chief Shelly Fiscus this summer. An AP records request found top agency officials were dismayed at her firing. Commissioner Lisa Piercey, meanwhile, was “really angry” that colleagues had written nice things about Fiscus in an email about her departure, according to the report. “It’s been fun around here,” chief medical officer Tim Jones wrote.

It would come as a big surprise if Lee touched on any of that this morning.

UPDATE: Here’s what Lee had to say to open proceedings with the Health Department:

It’s been a long difficult year and I commend you for the work that you’ve done. Much pressure, much scrutiny, much challenge, health issues for many Tennesseans, loss of life, loss of health. And for a department of public helath, there’s probably never in recent history been as great a challenge to deal with and navigate through, and I’m increadibly proud of what you and your team, fully across the board, has done.”

Here’s the full schedule:

Budget Hearing Schedule (all times listed in CT)

Monday, November 1

  • 9 a.m.-9:45 a.m. Department of Health
  • 10 a.m.-10:45 a.m. Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
  • 11 a.m.-11:45 p.m. Division of TennCare
  • 1:15 p.m.-2 p.m. Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
  • 2:15 p.m-3 p.m. Department of Human Services
  • 3:15-4 p.m. Department of Children’s Services
  • 4:15 p.m-4:45 p.m. Department of Military / Tennessee Emergency Management Agency

Tuesday, November 2

  • 9 a.m.-9:45 a.m. Department of Education
  • 10 a.m-10:45 a.m. Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • 10:50 a.m.-11:20 a.m. Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation
  • 11:30 a.m.-noon Department of Tourist Development
  • 1:30 p.m.-2 p.m. Department of Agriculture
  • 2:15 p.m.-3 p.m. Department of Labor and Workforce Development
  • 3:15 p.m.-4 p.m. Department of Transportation

Wednesday, November 3

  • 9 a.m.-9:45 a.m. Department of Economic and Community Development
  • 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Department of Commerce and Insurance
  • 10:45 a.m.-11:15 a.m. Department of Financial Institutions
  • 11:30 a.m.-noon. Department of Human Resources
  • 1:30 p.m.-2:15 p.m. Department of General Services
  • 2:30-3 p.m. Department of Revenue
  • 3:15-3:45 Department of Finance and Administration

Thursday, November 4

  • 9:00-9:45 Department of Environment and Conservation
  • 10:00-10:45 Department of Correction
  • 11:00-11:45 Department of Safety and Homeland Security
  • 1:30-2:00 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • 2:15-2:45 Department of Veterans Services

Here is the schedule for your 2020 Tennessee state budget hearings

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is holding annual budget hearings with the heads of Tennessee agencies next week. The hearings will be live-streamed at www.tn.gov.

Here’s the schedule of events.

Monday, November 9

9:30-10:00 a.m. – Opening presentation from Department of Revenue and Dr. Bill Fox regarding Tennessee’s financial outlook.

10:00-10:30 a.m. – Revenue

10:45-11:30 a.m. – Health

1:00-1:15 p.m. – Labor and Workforce Development

1:45-2:45 p.m. – Economic and Community Development

3:00-3:30 p.m. – Military / TEMA

3:45-4:15 p.m. – Tourist Development

Tuesday, November 10

9:30-10:30 a.m. – Education

10:45-11:45 a.m. – Higher Education

1:00-2:00 p.m. – TennCare

2:15-3:15 p.m. – Children’s Services

3:30-4:30 p.m. – Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Thursday, November 12

9:30-10:30 a.m. – Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

1:00-2:00 p.m. – Human Services

2:15-3:15 p.m. – Correction

3:30-4:00 p.m. – Veterans Services

Friday, November 13

9:30-10:30 a.m. – Safety and Homeland Security

10:45-11:15 a.m. – TBI

11:30 a.m. -12:00 p.m. – Finance & Administration

1:00-1:45 p.m. – General Services

2:00-2:45 p.m. – Human Resources

Monday, November 16

9:30-10:00 a.m. – Financial Institutions

10:15-10:45 a.m. – Commerce and Insurance

11:00-11:30 a.m. – Agriculture

1:30-2:15 p.m. – Transportation

2:30-3:15 p.m. – Environment and Conservation

3:30-4:00 p.m. – Education Lottery Corp.4:00 – Governor Bill Lee Media Availability

Tennessee money cop Justin Wilson dons money suit

Comptroller Justin Wilson enters House budget hearings on Dec. 17, 2019 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)State Comptroller Justin Wilson drew less attention at House budget hearings on Tuesday for what he said than for what he wore. Wilson and his deputy, former Rep. Justin Mumpower, donned matching suits with $100 prints on them.

Mumpower wore a tie with the same pattern on it, but the self-proclaimed “beloved comptroller” resorted to his old reliable Grinch tie.

‘Wildcat’ budget hearings hit 2nd week in House

House budget hearings head into their second week in Nashville on Dec. 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state House is holding its second round of pre-session budget hearings starting on Monday. The hearings are unusual because Gov. Bill Lee has yet to present his annual spending proposal to lawmakers. But the meetings give lawmakers a chance to rake in a couple of weeks worth of per-diems before Christmas and to bask in the spotlight of media coverage in what could otherwise be a slow pre-Christmas news week. Some statehouse wags have taken to calling them the “wildcat” budget hearings (a reference, perhaps, to wildcat strikes, or to the wildcat formation in football).

Everything should be live streamed on the General Assembly’s website. Here’s the schedule:

Monday, House Hearing Room I

  • 9:30 AM – 10:00 AM General Services
  • 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM Military
  • 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM Veterans Services
  • 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM Alcoholic Beverage Commission
  • 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM Human Resources
  • 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM TACIR
  • 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM TN Human Rights Commission
  • 2:30 PM – 3:00 PM TN State Museum

Tuesday, House Hearing Room I

  • 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Correction
  • 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM Board of Parole
  • 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM TRICOR
  • 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM Comptroller of the Treasury
  • 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM Treasury
  • 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM Secretary of State
  • 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM Finance and Administration
  • 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services

Wednesday, House Hearing Room III

  • 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM Administrative Office of the Courts
  • 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM Attorney General and Reporter
  • 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM District Attorneys General Conference
  • 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM District Public Defenders Conference
  • 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM Office of Post-Conviction Defender
  • 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Children’s Services
  • 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM Public Utility Commission

Thursday, House Hearing Room III

  • 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Transportation
  • 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Human Services
  • 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Safety and Homeland Security
  • 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM TN Arts Commission
  • 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM TN Housing Development Agency
  • 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM Tennessee Corrections Institute