NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Another busy week in the legislature yielded more tense moments and the passage of new bills. If you missed it, we have you covered in our weekly state Capitol roundup.
RNC, DNC, Tennessee
After Nashville’s Metro Council denied the RNC in 2024, state lawmakers filed a rash of bills going after the local government. Tensions between the two sides have been bad, at best.
But on Friday, Nashville Mayor John Cooper extended an olive branch by sending a letter of interest to the Republican National Committee, indicating the city is interested in the RNC. Of note, he did the same to the Democratic National Committee for the DNC.
A source with knowledge of the situation tells News 2, this move from Cooper is a gesture of goodwill in an effort to improve relations with the state.’
At some level, it appears to have at least started the reparations process.
“Would it simmer some things?” Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Tennessee) said Thursday. “I think it would start the process of having a better working relationship on many issues, not just the bills that are here.”
Sexton said bills reducing Metro’s power could be withdrawn if the city continues to play ball for the RNC. Still, the bill to halve the council is here to stay, regardless. Reporters asked Sexton if that bill would be withdrawn.
“No,” Sexton said and quickly paused. “No.”
LGBTQ+ bills sailed through committee
Bills to ban children’s transgender care and possibly criminalize certain drag shows are now just one step away from going before the governor.
Equality groups staged a rally and marched into a House Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday evening to urge lawmakers to vote against the drag bill. But it was to no avail.
It did, however, provide for a bizarre back-and-forth between House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Civil Rights attorney Abby Rubenfeld. The exchange saw Lamberth asking Rubenfeld her law credentials and Rubenfeld responding that she “graduated from Boston University in 1979, possibly before (Lamberth) was born.”
The bill passed along party lines. Next Thursday, the House is scheduled to vote on both that bill and the one to ban children’s transgender therapy. If history tells us anything, they will almost certainly pass.
Abortion exceptions fight heating up
Speaking of tense moments, Sexton rebuked an anti-abortion group after one of its lobbyists and legal advisers testified before the House Population Health Subcommittee.
Will Brewer, the legal counsel, told legislators if they passed a bill potentially adding some exceptions for doctors to perform abortions when the mother’s life was at risk that Tennessee Right to Life would score the bill poorly.
It prompted Sexton, who is not part of the committee, to come down and scold Brewer.
“To do it in a committee, to try to intimidate this committee to go a certain direction is uncalled for,” Sexton said in the subcommittee.
Reporters asked Sexton about the moment later in the week.
“To say that in committee, I’ve never experienced before,” Sexton said. “I thought it was over the top, it was more to, in my opinion, as I said in committee, to intimidate members.”
That prompted Right to Life to punch back, sending out a press release accusing lawmakers of opening the law to accessible abortions. You can read part of that release here.
‘Ties for Terns’
On a lighter note, every year, Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) leads a ‘Ties for Terns’ event, where state Capitol interns can come and pick out some new clothing.
“It’s an event that I started because there was an intern that didn’t have a tie,” Parkinson said. “That simple.”
Every year, he asks the General Assembly to donate. Every year, it answers.
“Honestly, get in about 600-700 ties or so and give them away,” Parkinson said. “We’ve given away a lot of ties.”
You can watch the full story here.
Notable bills coming up this week:
- House committees will discuss several interesting bills, including the bill to halve Nashville’s metro council, a resolution to set up state term limits, a bill to mandate the TBI to process rape kits within 30 days and a bill to potentially decriminalize small amounts of cannabis
- The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss eight cannabis bills
- The House Education Administration Committee will hear all bills pertaining to third-grade retention
- The House Health Committee will hear the aforementioned abortion bill
- The House floor will hear bills to ban children’s transgender therapy and potentially criminalize some drag shows
Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.
What lawmakers had to say about: Abortion Ban Clarification | Marijuana Reform | Transgender Therapy and LGBTQ+ Rights | Dept. of Children’s Services | Education | Crime/Public Safety | More
You can also find daily coverage from the session here.