House, Senate wrap up first week of public safety special session

The Senate voted on four bills while the House passed eight pieces of legislation in the first week.
The special session on public safety is over for this week.
Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 4:36 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2023 at 6:52 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - The special session on public safety has ended for the week after Thursday’s House and Senate sessions.

So far, the Senate has passed four bills and tabled dozens of others.

The Senate wrapped up its work for the week after a 12-minute session.

People in the gallery were not happy and voiced their disappointment.

Republicans hold a supermajority in the state Senate with over 80% of the seats. It means Democrats and their constituents aren’t getting much of a say.

“We are not actually allowing the people of Tennessee to have their voices heard when the controlling party is making decisions about whether or not we can even listen to bills,” state Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, said.

The House also wrapped up its work for the week on Thursday evening after passing eight bills.

House Republicans and Democrats attempted to work across the aisle to continue to address public safety issues as part of Governor Bill Lee’s special session proclamation.

The House debated 12 of the 27 bills on its agenda and passed a few mental health bills, an order of protection bill related to stalking, and a bill that prevents autopsies of minors from being public documents unless the parents release the autopsy.

When asked if they felt like they accomplished anything during the first week of the special session to address public safety, House Republicans blamed the Senate.

“They didn’t propose a single idea this week to pass on their floor. We have a lot here in the House,” House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said. “We’re going to come back on Monday and pass those. Hopefully this weekend, they’ll take a look at some of the stuff we’re passing and, hopefully, they’ll come back and say, ‘Hey, we think this will work.’ But it’s really up to the Senate on what they’re willing or not willing to do at this point.”

It has been an emotional week at the State Capitol.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, had previously said he didn’t anticipate opening up any Senate committees to consider bills the House was working on.

House Democrats are preaching cohesion and bipartisanship during this extraordinary session.

“It’s going to take political courage to move us forward,” state House Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, said. “Now, I think we can do it. If we stand together, come together, and push back in a unified way, more of their members are going to have to get on board, but it’s going to take the right leadership on the Republican side to usher it in.”

The special session is costing taxpayers around $58,000 each day. The House and Senate are scheduled to resume the special session on Monday.