Tennessee House back with new look, bills facing uncertain future

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee House looked very different Tuesday after more than a two-month recess because of COVID-19.

The representatives picked up where they left off in March with a slew of bills, but this time, hearing them cam with all kinds of precautions.

Some of the House members came back to work Tuesday wearing masks and some did not.

While doing so, dozens of bills were considered during day-long slate of House committees, but at this point there is no indication they will even be heard in the Senate.

Its leaders have said they want to focus on the state budget picture, where steep cuts and use of reserve funds could be needed because of revenue lost due to the COVID-19 business shutdown.

A House education subcommittee began with a 90-minute debate on a bill allowing payment of collegiate student-athletes before it did not get enough votes to pass.

“All this bill is saying is that schools can’t stop these student athletes from making money off their name,” said Memphis Democrat Antonio Parkinson before the bill failed on a 4-4 committee vote.

While the debate on the bill went on about 90-minutes, there was no such long argument about repealing Governor Bill Lee’s voucher plan for Nashville and Memphis which did not even get a lawmaker’s second for a vote.

For the few who showed up to watch the house committees, temperatures were taken as they entered the legislative office building with reminders of social distancing everywhere–even covered seats to keep people apart in the committee rooms.

Staffers allowed only 23 people at a time outside of staffers and lawmakers in the committee rooms.

“Once we leave out of the committee they have people going to wipe down all the chairs and all the tables,” said Nashville Democrat Harold Love Jr. “Then the next committee will go in there and we also have plexiglass to separate the members.”

One of those with a mask spoke about why he did not wear it in committee.

“Could not get the words out with the mask on,” said East Tennessee Republican David Hawk. “I am somebody who likes to see facial expressions. That’s how I judge where someone is coming from, so that is where i am on the issue.”

As for the Senate, its finance committee dealing with the state budget picture meets Thursday without an audience.

Its the only Senate committee meeting this week meets before lawmakers are scheduled begin floor sessions Monday.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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