Tennessee lawmakers have not approved many new bills during this week’s special session, however they plan to regroup next week.
Gov. Bill Lee called for the special session to address mental health and public safety in response to Nashville’s Covenant School shooting, which killed six people in March. The session started on Monday, and the Senate decided to adjourn on Thursday, voting to reconvene next week.
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While senators have been under public pressure to pass gun control laws—Republican leaders ordered state troopers to remove members of the public from a legislative hearing room on Tuesday—they have tabled dozens of bills, including nearly all proposed gun legislation.
Senators have instead focused on three bills that are prioritized by Lee. They include Senate Bill 7085, which would require the Department of Safety to provide free firearm locks to residents upon request; SB 7086, which would shorten the reporting time for courts to notify the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) of a final disposition; and SB 7088, which would require the TBI to submit an annual report on child and human trafficking crimes.
House members worked on Thursday to amend the three bills passed by the Senate, and senators are expected to consider the proposed amendments on Monday.
“The decision was made to just go ahead and go home for the weekend, return Monday afternoon, at which time, hopefully, we will have those items from the House that are returned back to us.”
— Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin)
The House filed more than 100 bills in the special session, including some that addressed the availability of mental health resources and gun reform measures. But senators have tabled all bills with the exception of SB 7085, SB 7086, and SB 7088. The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee tabled SB 7091—which would have required health insurance carriers, including TennCare providers, to provide mental health services and treatment to the same extent that they provide alcoholism and drug dependence services and treatment—in less than a minute.
“I cannot believe we have taken what is a school tragedy of a mass shooting, and now turned that here in the general assembly into a travesty of democracy. I’m outraged that this has happened, and we need an apology for that. That should not be allowed. We have arrived at a very scary and sad place in the state of Tennessee where we are using troopers instead of working to enforce public safety. They’re being used to suppress democracy.”
— Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville)