NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee said conversations need to resume between Tennessee’s House and Senate on a key bill before he would call a special legislative session.
His comments came today as further addressed race in his weekly briefing.
For much of this month, protesters asked to meet with Governor Lee on a variety of race-related topics have maintained a presence in the shadow of the capitol on Legislative Plaza, but he’s resisted talking directly to them.
“What is most productive to me is meeting with folks who can actually can listen to these voices of protesters and then engage in policy that will bring about substantive change,” said the governor Tuesday morning.
One cry often heard from protesters is defunding the police.
The governor said people he’s talking to about race are not telling him that.
“I have had conversations with black leaders and none of them–with me to date–have advocated for defunding the police,” added the governor.
The race conversations come as the governor’s own party leadership could not agree on a bill giving businesses immunity over COVID-19 lawsuits in the recently completed regular session, but Lee is not ready to call a special session to deal with it until conversations resume between the House and Senate Republican majority in both chambers.
“Because they have to order for there to be a successful session and a quick session,” said Governor Lee.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart, who listened to the governor’s comments this morning, think protections for Tennesseans would be taken away by the COVID-19 immunity bill.
“We need to make sure f there is a special session, its not designed to take protections away from seniors and other vulnerable people who are threatened by COVID-19,” Rep. Stewart told News 2. “That would be a terrible use of a special session.”
Several Republican lawmakers–including House Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison–have said that if there is a special session eventually, it would be after the August primaries.
Some of the lawmakers face opponents from their own party and a special session in the next few weeks would cut into campaign time and raising money.
This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.