NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Special session only lasted eight calendar days, but it felt like a lifetime.
“House leadership and the people over in the House, I have a great deal of respect for,” Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said. “I don’t hold any animosity toward any of the members, and I don’t think any members of the Senate do.”
Arguments between the two parties and infighting within the Republican supermajority marred what was supposed to be a statewide referendum on public safety.
“At some point, when the other side keeps saying they’re not going to pass anything, at some point you just say, ‘If you’re true to your word, what else is there left to do?’” said Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).
Instead, it devolved into a morass of drama, with few bills actually getting through, infuriating Democrats.
“It was about being in a position to go back to the NRA and justify to them, taking that blood money, so they can stay in office,” Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) said. “That’s all it was. It’s despicable is what it is.”
The drama left those with a stake in the game feeling frustrated and neglected.
“They will ask what our leaders have done over the past week and a half to protect them,” Covenant mother Mary Joyce said. “As a mother, I’m going to have to look at my 9-year-old in the eye and tell her, ‘Nothing.’”
Joyce was joined in that sentiment by the Covenant Families Action Fund nonprofit, which was present throughout all of special session.
Still, the antics almost felt appropriate, as the Tennessee legislature has routinely descended into chaos over the last few months, leaving the state more divided than ever.
“At the end of the day, when nothing was produced out of this special session, more people are going to die,” Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) said.
Republicans say they’ll come back in January and accomplish more. “We’re going to come back and sit down and talk to them and work with them again, just like we would always,” Sexton said. “So, we’re not going to allow this disagreement or leaving here and not continue to focus on stuff.”
But the question remains: Why not now?