The Tennessee State Capitol. Credit: Eric England/Nashville Scene/Special to the Banner

The Tennessee General Assembly’s chaotic special session has ended after passing only four pieces of legislation.

The session, which began on Aug. 21 following Governor Bill Lee’s call to address public safety, was declared by advocates for gun laws to be over before it started. The narrow parameters of the Governor’s call meant that legislation could only address issues like mental health, school security and human trafficking. And despite the presence of Covenant moms and representatives every day at the Capitol, the session closed out on Tuesday doing little to satisfy their demands. 

Infighting between House and Senate Republicans over some pieces of legislation that House leadership wanted passed could have extended for weeks. The cost of the special session to taxpayers was approximately $58,000 dollars per day. 

The Senate ended first. After gaveling in at 10 a.m., the Senate went through some procedural actions before picking up amendments that the House had made to three of the four bills the Senate had passed. SB7088, which addressed human trafficking, was passed in both chambers uniformly and is already headed to the Governor’s desk. But three additional bills differed between the chambers, and the apparent compromise was that the Senate would agree to the House’s amendments as long as they didn’t have to pick up any other bills. 

Those amendments did the following:

  • Senate Bill 7085 is the safe firearm storage promotion bill. The House amended the bill to add an extra $1.1 million appropriation for a firearm safety ad campaign. The Senate concurred and passed the bill.
  • Senate Bill 7086 codifies an executive order Gov. Bill Lee made in April, changing the requirement for how long a clerk has to notify TBI of the final dispositions of criminal proceedings against a person to within three business days after the final disposition of their proceedings. The house changed it back from three business days to 72 hours. The Senate concurred and passed the bill.
  • Senate Bill 7089 was originally a $30 million spending bill, funding various mental health and school safety initiatives. As a part of the agreement with the House, this appropriations bill will now also put $30 million towards security for higher education institutions and $50 million towards community mental health agencies.

The House version of the appropriations bill originally appropriated $149 million dollars. However, because much of that money would have been used to fund legislation not passed by the Senate, it will not actually be spent. 

The House floor session went far quicker than the Senate’s on Tuesday. Rather than pick up any of the five bills on their calendar, the House gaveled in and quickly voted 71-18 to concur with the Senate to adjourn Sine Die. This came despite protest from the Democratic Representatives, who all voted against the motion.

Barring another special session, the Tennessee General Assembly will be adjourned until January.