TN special session live updates: As House, Senate end special session, chaos ensues

TN special session live updates: As House, Senate end special session, chaos ensues

The Tennessee state Capitol was filled with drama again on Monday as lawmakers returned for a second week of work during the special session on public safety.

In many respects, the week began like last week ended: The House plowing through legislation as the Senate quickly adjourned, set on sticking to the narrow slate of legislation it already passed.

Meanwhile, in the House, Democrats walked out of the chamber en masse after a 70-20 vote to silence Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville. House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, had ruled Jones out of order twice, setting up the vote under controversial new House rules.

By mid-morning, the House and Senate reached a deal to end their deadlock and both chambers adjourned before noon CT.

Follow along today for the latest updates.

Tempers flare on House floor as special session adjourns

Moments after the House adjourned, the environment devolved into a physical scrum between lawmakers, including House Speaker Cameron Sexton, as Reps. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, attempted to confront him with signs after gaveling out of the special session.

As a crowd formed at the bottom of the speaker dais, it appeared Sexton, R-Crossville, made physical contact with Pearson while pushing passed him. Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and Pearson then had a heated exchange before Republicans exited the chamber.


Tennessee Special Session ends with confrontation among lawmakers

The Tennessee House adjourned early Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023, effectively ending a special session on public safety. House Democrats and the public in gallery protested, leading to a confrontation on the House floor.


— Melissa Brown, The Tennessean

House adjourns, special session over

The Tennessee House ended its special session to angry cries from protestors, screaming “Vote them out” from the galleries as lawmakers quickly emptied into the halls. The Senate had ended early in the morning.

The House kicked off Tuesday morning with tempers already high after a contentious Monday afternoon session. House Republicans moved to quickly end the floor session, after House Republicans reached an agreement with the Senate to end the special session.

House Republicans had hoped to push through additional bills, which Senate Republicans largely refused to do.

“Unfortunately, we have no additional business to attend to in this particular body,” Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, said. “By the way, I wish we did.”

House business devolved into a back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats, as Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, attempted to bring a vote of no confidence against House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville. Jones was disciplined on Monday afternoon after Sexton ruled him twice out of order, under new House rules.

— Melissa Brown, The Tennessean

‘All this for what’: Demonstrators unhappy with how legislators handled the special session

A mixture of reactions were present among protestors as legislators began walking into the House chambers.

Tears, shouts and jeers could be heard as demonstrators filled the gallery. Shouts of “Hello empty seats,” “You don’t represent us,” and “All this for what?” overlaid the quiet crying of a number of Covenant parents and activists, sitting cradled in the arms of friends and families.

Below, legislators didn’t look at the gathered citizens.

As legislators read the Pledge of Allegiance, demonstrators angrily shouted “For all! For all!”, repeating the final phrase of the pledge of allegiance that says “liberty and justice for all.”

— Angele Latham, The Tennessean

Senate adjourns for special session

The Senate adjourned sine die, signaling an end to the special session. The House must still follow.

As the chamber completed procedural matters, a woman in the gallery protested that the chamber had done nothing to make the state safer or prevent gun violence. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, ordered her removed from the gallery.

Before adjourning, the Senate also concurred with a House amendment to a bill making a slight change to the deadline local courts are required to update records in the state’s background check database.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, noted that the committee had made the change after hearing feedback from local clerks on the 72 hour reporting requirement. Larger counties can do it, smaller counties “would love to” but can’t.

“They approached us in judiciary committee, saying ‘please change it to three days,’ so we did,” he said. “We’re really impressing a hardship on the clerks of these small counties.”

“Why in the world would the House send something back over that everybody was happy with? For a win?” Gardenhire said. “I would suggest that we refuse this.”

Johnson said that he did not disagree with Gardenhire’s point, but noted that there is no penalty if clerks fail to comply — implying that the deadline is unenforceable.

— Vivian Jones, The Tennessean

Rep. Pearson: Thank you for showing up

Rep.  Justin J. Pearson climbed into the House gallery to encourage and thank demonstrators as they prepared for the announcement of the deal struck between the House and Senate.

“Thank you for showing up, thank you for making your voice heard,” he said, to the raucous approval of crowd.

— Angele Latham, The Tennessean

As news of a deal between House and Senate spread, one Covenant mom wept

As word of the deal started to spread throughout the crowded Senate gallery, attendees began to hastily file into the halls, on their way to the House meeting.

Standing in the back of the gallery, Sarah Shoop Neumann, a mother of a Covenant School student, cried quietly.

— Angele Latham, The Tennessean

Senate concurs with House amendments to appropriations, gun lock bills

Carrying out an agreement reached between the House and Senate on Tuesday morning, the Senate concurred with several changes proposed by the House on bills that the upper chamber approved last week.

Last week, after committee testimony, the Senate had removed $1.1 million in funding for an ad campaign on gun safety that the Department of Safety would be required to undertake, after the department told Senators that it could pay for the campaign with existing funds.

The House later put the $1.1 million back in the bill. Senators unanimously concurred with the amendment to restore the $1.1 million on Tuesday.

In a funding bill to pay for the session, the Senate had previously allocated $16 million for sign-on bonuses and pay incentives for mental health workers in the state’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The House reduced that to $12 million in bonuses, and allocated the remaining $4 million for behavioral health safety net grants.

— Vivian Jones, The Tennessean

House, Senate reach a deal

Senate and House leadership have reached an agreement, according to a legislative aide familiar with the details of the deal.

During its session this morning, the Senate is in the process of concurring with changes made by the House to the four bills the upper chamber already passed. Changes include restoring funding the Senate previously removed for a public service ad campaign on gun safety, and reallocating some funding for behavioral health safety net grants.

No further House bills are expected to be considered, and Senate committees will remain closed.

The special session is expected to adjourn today.

— Vivian Jones, The Tennessean

Senate Democrats ask for more meaningful reform

During debate on a bill returned from the House to provide free gun locks and make permanent a sales tax holiday on gun safes, Senate democrats asked the legislature to consider more meaningful reforms to promote gun safety.

“This is just a band-aid solution to a bigger problem,” Sen. London Lamar, D-Memphis said. “I appreciate this program is a piece of the overall solution. But please don’t be confused that this is going to reduce gun violence in our community – because it’s not.”

Sen. Charlane Oliver, D-Nashville, agreed.

“We came here to work. We came here to actually put bills forward that would prevent violence in our community,” Oliver said. “This special session is, quite frankly, a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“We’ll continue to keep kicking this can down the road in January, but we’re not doing the work that people elected us to do,” Oliver added.

— Vivian Jones, The Tennessean

Gov. Lee meets with House, Senate leadership

Ahead of both chambers returning on Tuesday morning, Gov. Bill Lee held a meeting with House and Senate leaders at his office in the state Capitol to attempt to broker an agreement between the two chambers, currently in stalemate.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, both attended, along with other leadership.

“Governor Lee asked legislative leadership to meet this morning and encouraged them to work through differences and determine the best path forward,” Lee spokesperson Elizabeth Johnson told The Tennessean.

Despite the governor’s efforts, it appears that still no deal has been reached.

The Senate gaveled in for business just after 10 a.m., with a gallery full of spectators holding signs calling for better gun safety laws.

On the Senate’s agenda Tuesday are two previously-passed items that are now returned from the Senate: an appropriations bill, and a bill to provide free gun locks to Tennessee residents and make permanent a sales tax holiday on gun safes.

— Vivian Jones, The Tennessean

‘Bad solution to a bigger problem’: Safe gun storage bill receives mixed responses

The early morning crowd of demonstrators filled the seats of the Senate gallery Tuesday, as the 10 a.m. session commenced.

Audible approval—done with snapping and flicking of paper signs—could be heard while the senate debated a bill to encourage safe storage of firearms.

“Please don’t think this is going to stop gun violence, because it’s not,” said Senator London Lamar, to a building wave of snaps. “This is just a bad solution to a bigger problem.”

— Angele Latham, The Tennessean

Catch up on Monday