With leadership expressing a desire to adjourn the 2021 session before the end of April and committee chairs announcing targeted closing dates for various committees, the activity around the Cordell Hull building this month began to feel like the session is starting to hit its stride and relatively back to somewhat normal operations. Lt. Governor/Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) recently allowed the general public to once again access the Senate committee hearing rooms and the Senate office floor, both of which had previously been restricted to members only outside of narrow circumstances. The House has been opened throughout session, but with a mask mandate and limited seating in committees.

This past month, a House Resolution to initiate the process of removing Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle from the bench failed in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, following lengthy testimony by three members of the legal community who expressed concerns about the impact the resolution would have on the concepts of separation of powers, and a fair and impartial judiciary. Additionally, another bill began moving through the legislature that prohibits state officials and state employees from bidding on, selling, or offering to sell to the state “services” in addition to the prohibition on selling “goods.” Sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R- Crossville) and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), the measure represents a rare, joint leadership effort that cracks down on lawmakers doing business with the state, an issue that gained increased attention this year in the wake of an ongoing FBI case involving multiple lawmakers and campaign marketing businesses.

This month the House and Senate passed legislation to remove Tennessee’s permit requirement to carry a handgun. The bill is currently on its way to Governor Lee’s desk for signature. Those eligible must be 21 and older to carry a handgun without a permit, or a military member between 18 and 20. Penalties would increase for theft of a firearm from a misdemeanor to a felony. The legislation was brought by Governor Lee. In a surprise move by Speaker Sexton this month, Representative Bruce Griffey (R- Paris) was removed from all committee assignments likely from his attempt to recall legislation concerning e-verify to a full floor vote, following its previous defeat in a House subcommittee.

Several subcommittees took up their final calendars this past week, signifying that the end is in sight for the first year of the 112th General Assembly. The House Transportation Subcommittee and Senate Transportation & Safety Committee had their final meetings on Wednesday, March 31. The House Transportation Committee is expected to finish their work next week. As always, it is pleasure to represent you at the Tennessee General Assembly.