Tennessee House spends legislative day pretending the Senate didn’t kill most of their bills
(Photo: John Partipilo)
The Tennessee House of Representatives spent Wednesday debating dozens of bills unlikely to pass after the Senate closed its final committees, having passed only three new laws and a $30 million funding package.
House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, said senators told him they would only pass three bills, but he suggested it didn’t matter to House leaders.
“Normally, I wouldn’t comment on what is going on in the other chamber,” said Lamberth during a committee meeting. “There are 37 bills that still moving through this chamber. Every one of those bills should continue forward.”
Wednesday marked day three of the Gov. Bill Lee’s special legislative session. From the start, the day was about tensions between the House and Senate chambers.
On Tuesday evening, Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, used an ostrich egg to mock his Senate colleagues from the House GOP’s Twitter account for their lack of action on legislation. The tweet congratulated the Senate GOP for “receiving the 2023 Ostrich Egg” because “it must be egghausting” killing so many bills “instead of doing the work people sent us here to do.”
Faison sent an apology email Wednesday, adding he wanted to provide some “levity” during a time of serious discussion. The account deleted the tweet.
Two bills drew a lot of days attention
The hundreds of Tennesseans attending the special session spent the day focused on House committees. Protesters filled the seats in each committee demanding gun control and heckled the Republican lawmakers who pushed legislation they felt didn’t address the issue.
Initially, there was some uncertainty on whether protesters would be allowed to stay in House committees. But Wednesday morning, the ACLU of Tennessee filed suit on behalf of three women ejected from a Tuesday House subcommittee meeting for holding signs. Within an hour of the suit’s filing, a Davidson County judge ruled the House couldn’t ban signs.
Republicans then decided removing the mothers, who made up a large portion of attendees, for what they deemed disruptive behavior for a second day in a row would be a bad look and protesters remained through each committee meeting, one of which didn’t end until nearly 8 p.m.
HB7064 would have expanded who could bring guns onto school property, including those with a concealed carry permit.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Todd, R-Madison County, received harsh pushback from Democrats on the House Education Administration Committee, with Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, arguing the bill was a distraction from the “real issue” of access to guns and was likely to make schools less safe.
The bill died on a tied vote in the committee, offering a symbolic victory to the parents in attendance.
HB7073, which allows 16- and 17-year-olds to be tried as adults for gun-related offenses, is one of the only House bills left that has the potential to pass the Senate, barring a shift Thursday.
House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, is its sponsor, and it appears to be the sticking point between the House and Senate Chambers.
What did the Senate pass?
In the afternoon, the Senate held a floor session where they passed a budget bill, legislation to provide a sales tax break on gun storage and locks, a bill that would codify Lee’s executive order requiring court clerks to notify the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation about felony convictions within three days instead of 30 and a requirement for TBI to make and file an annual report on human trafficking.
The Senate budget package included $16.3 million for staff bonuses for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and $10 million to put school resource officers in charter schools.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said the two chambers were in a “Mexican standoff” over how to conclude the special session, hinting Sexton wanted his crime bill passed before the House passed the Senate approved bills and the chambers adjourned.
Update: The House Floor session is scheduled for noon Thursday. The Senate met at 11 a.m. and adjourned until Monday Aug. 28.
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