Special legislative session going into another week as tensions between House and Senate grows

Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 11:30 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - The special legislative session in Nashville is officially going on until next week after state leaders could not find common ground.

Some lawmakers and gun control advocates who are unhappy with the bills that have passed.. say the money spent on the session will be a waste.

Tensions between House and Senate leadership rocking the boat on getting legislation passed. Lawmakers will meet again on Monday to try to adjourn the special legislative session.

State senators passed four bills.

After the Senate recessed Thursday until Monday, Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally says they’ve done everything the governor has asked in his call.

“Both bodies might have a little bit difference of opinion as to what should be done and hopefully we’ll come to an agreement and pass some of the bills we have suggested, pass the appropriations bill and whatever else is deemed essential,” said McNally.

All the bills assed by the Senate, meet some parts of Governor Bill Lee’s call but House Republicans say more can be done.

“They did the things they wanted to do and that’s fine,” said Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton. “That’s up to them. If they don’t want to propose any single thing to do. Then just say they don’t want to propose any single thing to do, then just say they don’t want to propose anything. That they have no ideas, and they just want to go home.”

The daily cost for this session, according to the state Legislation Administration Director, is over $14,000 for travel and per diems for senators.

The house more than doubles that, at more than $44,000 dollars a day.

“You can’t see it, that these kids are really struggling,” said Covenant school parent Mary Joyce.

Mary Joyce and other Covenant School parents say they’re unhappy with the way this session has gone.

The horrific school shooting at the Covenant School back in March is the reason the special session was called.

In a press conference, some of the parents said their children live with trauma and injuries from the day that a shooter came into their school and killed six people including three kids.

They say Senators left too many bills on the table, while their children still live with trauma.

“Sometimes she’s up and other times she’s not,” said Joyce. “She has lost 50% of her hearing in her left ear because that was the side closest to the door where she was being shot at. She has real trauma. All the third-grade class has real trauma.”

The Covenant families here are also asking leadership in the House and Senate to set aside their differences to get some of these bills on school safety and mental health passed.

“We’re in it for the lang haul,” said Covenant parent Sarah Shoop Neumann. “We don’t give up. We’ve got faith unlike anything else. We’ve lived through hell and we’re here and we’re still united in it and we’re going to keep show up. Every January for regular session after. We’re going to do that until we get change.”

Parents, democratic lawmakers and others say they’re dissatisfied that gun control efforts won’t be considered.

“We shouldn’t be sitting here trying to beg for courage from the executive of this state or from our colleagues across the aisle to just simply do the right thing,” said House Democrat Caucus Leader John Ray Clemmons. “People across Tennessee want us to do whatever we can to protect our children. There’s nothing partisan about that.”

Bills preventing minors’ autopsy from being made public without parental permission, and other bills on school safety passed on the House floor Thursday night.

Governor Bill Lee called for a temporary mental health order of protection after the Covenant School shooting. Speaker Sexton has gone on record saying it wouldn’t have support from Republicans in the House. Lieutenant Governor McNally says it’d have to be flushed out more and could be brought back up in January.

The Governor released a statement about the special session Thursday:

Bills tabled or without approved House or Senate companions may be heard again Monday or in January.

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