NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In a year where Tennessee lawmakers passed a $40 billion budget, the General Assembly also made headwinds in passing new laws from targeting transgender people, to open carry gun laws.
Lawmakers also took extraordinary steps to address COVID concerns and gave away millions of dollars in incentives for promised jobs in what is being called a once in a generation investment.
The year concluded with not one, but three legislative sessions clearly outlining the priorities for the Republican majority at the Capitol.
With increased penalties for illegal use of guns, lawmakers passed open carry, cementing one of Governor Bill Lee’s top legislative priorities.
“In Tennessee, we believe that penalizing law-abiding citizens is not a solution for reducing crime,” Lee said.
Lawmakers also went after transgender athletes and bathroom usage, decisions which are now facing lawsuits.
Scott Cepicky, a Republican said, “They should have to answer to not only the universities in Tennessee, but across the nation and also the women that have benefited from Title IX over the years.”
“This slate of hate and this discriminatory legislation is an albatross that’s going to hang around Bill Lee’s neck as well as these other legislators who support this discriminatory legislation,” John Ray Clemmons said.
Lawmakers also took a swing at some criminal justice reforms with “Truth in Sentencing” laws to ensure mandatory time served for criminals.
“I think the legislature and the governor are trying to walk a tight rope or protecting public safety, and facilitating treatment and rehabilitation for convicted offenders,” Jim Todd a former prosecutor and attorney for the Hagan Todd law firm said.
Lawmakers capped the year off with two special legislative sessions, one to prevent businesses to be able to have their employees be subject to COVID mitigation strategy, and another to write a nearly $900 million dollar incentives package for Ford to build electric vehicles and batteries at a West Tennessee mega site.
“They have been trying for some time to develop a workforce and have something that would bring jobs and money and revenue into those rural counties,” former Republican Speaker Beth Harwell said.
Republican lawmakers also led a charge to require women who have an abortion to cremate or bury the remains.