Aug 28, 2023 - News

House, Senate spar as Tennessee's special session continues

Illustration of a clock face with fountain pens for hands, with ink drops scattered around.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As the special session responding to The Covenant School shooting enters week two, feuding among lawmakers has boiled over.

  • Republican leaders in the House are aggressively criticizing senators for setting aside most of the legislation filed for the session.

Why it matters: The special session allows lawmakers to speed up the normal legislative process and approve measures more quickly.

  • House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) wants to make significant changes to the juvenile court system. Other bills include efforts to bolster mental health offerings in schools and upgrade school emergency plans.
  • But the Senate tabled almost every measure and only approved four bills last week.

What they're saying: "A small group of Senators are refusing Tennesseans a voice on timely matters that could save lives," said state Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby).

The other side: Senate leaders say a narrow approach is appropriate, and broader policy discussions should wait until the regular session in 2024, when lawmakers will have more time to vet legislation.

  • Senate leaders said they considered all of Gov. Bill Lee's legislation because he called the special session, although they rejected some of his proposals. All other measures were set aside until January.

Between the lines: The Republican majorities in both chambers oppose gun reforms and remain staunchly against plans to separate guns from people who are deemed dangerous.

What's next: The Senate and House must agree to end the session. Sexton told WKRN lawmakers won't finish Monday because they still need to negotiate a compromise.


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