Unlike the testy exchanges on the House floor, the Tennessee Wage Protection Act’s passage in the upper chamber, 25-6-1, was met with only an explanation and a lone voice of opposition.
Sen. Brian Kelsey, sponsor of SB35, moved Thursday to conform and substitute his bill with HB501, which passed the House 66-27-1 earlier this month.
“House Bill 501 will ensure that commerce can work cleanly and efficiently in Tennessee by making sure that our wage and benefit restrictions are made at the state level,” the Republican from Germantown said.
Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, rose in opposition: “This is another one of our preemption bills. I would just point out to the Senate that if you think a community is smart enough to decide whether they should have wine in grocery stores, then I think you ought to be able to think that they’re smart enough on how to set their wage and contracts.”
Every Democrat in the Senate voted against the bill while every Republican, except one, voted in favor of it. Republican Rep. Steven Dickerson of Nashville cast his vote as present, not voting.
Passage by the Senate moves the legislation one step closer to ending a four-year battle to prohibit local governments from setting wages, family leave and insurance benefits that private businesses must offer employees. It also blocks local regulations that address wage theft.
Having passed both chambers, the legislation now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk, where there is no certainty that he will sign it.
“I’m not a fan of the living wage,” Haslam has said. But local “governments should be able to decide for themselves if they want to do that.”
The House sponsor of the legislation, GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin, told TNReport earlier this month he’s confident the governor will sign the bill.
If the bill becomes law it’ll nullify bills passed in Nashville and Shelby County that require businesses that contract with those governments to offer a certain level of wages and benefits to employees.