More than 2K bills and resolutions considered in Tennessee
While much of the attention of this year’s legislative session was focused on Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax proposal, there were more than 2,000 other bills and resolutions considered by lawmakers before they concluded their business last week. Some made a big splash before being quietly abandoned. For example, a bill seeking to do away with ending a 40-year-old state law granting legitimacy to children conceived through artificial insemination never came up for a hearing. That one had generated an uproar after it was introduced by Republican Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver of Lancaster. A renewed attempt to pass legislation aimed at requiring transgender students at public schools to use restrooms corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificates was the subject of protests and sit-ins at the office of the bill’s main Senate sponsor, Republican Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet.
Beavers was so upset by the protests that she hired private security to guard her at the Capitol. Senate leadership reminded the guards that they were not allowed to be armed within the Legislative office complex. The transgender bathroom bill later failed when not a single member of the Senate Education Committee was willing to make a motion to debate the measure. Haslam’s transportation funding plan was ultimately passed and signed into law after a solid majority of lawmakers were convinced that the proposal made enough tax cuts in other areas to offset the state’s first gas tax hike since 1989.
Most of the remainder of Haslam’s legislative agenda, including expanding his free community college tuition program to adults and expanding access to rural broadband, were passed without much controversy. But the governor fell short in his goal of bringing Tennessee into line with federal standards on banning all open alcohol containers in moving vehicles. The state prohibits drivers from drinking alcohol, but doesn’t extend that ban to passengers. Haslam wanted to end that exemption to recoup about $18 million in federal funds for road projects instead of having the money be redirected toward drunken-driving enforcement. But lawmakers held firm in their annual rejection of any change to the state’s open container law.
Other notable bills that failed this session would have:
Reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Required the words “Alien” or “Visa” to be printed on the driver’s licenses of people without permanent U.S. residency.
Protected drivers from lawsuits if they hit protesters blocking traffic.
Eliminated requirements to have a state-issued permit to carry a handgun in public.