The special session of Tennessee lawmakers scheduled for the week of August 10 will likely cost Tennessee taxpayers more than $100,000.
Legislators were called to the special session by Governor Bill Lee through an August 3 proclamation to address three issues, the first two which could have been addressed during the previous legislative session.
The first issue is limiting the COVID-19 liability risk for healthcare providers, businesses and schools operating in a responsible and safe manner.
The legislature took up the matter under SB 2381 / HB 2623 when they returned in June from a two-month COVID-19 recess.
Each chamber, however, passed a different version of the legislation and a bi-partisan joint Conference Committee Report passed the Senate with a 24 to 5 vote. With 46 Ayes, 36 Nays and 6 Present and Not Voting, the measure failed in the House by not receiving a constitutional majority of 50 votes in favor.
Another piece of legislation regarding the expansion of telemedicine under SB 1892 / HB 1699 was taken up by a different bi-partisan joint Conference Committee. The House went on to adopt the Conference Committee Report by a unanimous 89 votes. However, like many other bills the House passed during the second session in June, the Senate never voted on it.
A third issue that has arisen from some of the protests held on and around the Capitol grounds over the past many weeks is the vandalism and defacement of public property, camping, and other risks to public safety. The General Assembly will also consider whether additional legislation is appropriate to protect the safety of state employees and the public and prevent the damage and destruction to public property.
Legislators will also need to make any appropriations in order to fund the first year of any act passed during the special session.
Tennessee’s constitution requires that bills be considered and passed by a majority of each house on three different days. Even though typically the first two considerations are perfunctory in nature, it will take a minimum of three days for the session.
Members of the General Assembly, with the exceptions of the two Speakers who have a state vehicle and driver, receive a mileage allowance of $0.47 per mile.
Additionally, members receive a per diem based on whether or not their residence is considered within driving distance of Nashville, at a rate of $61 or $284 per day, respectively.
The one-day special session called by Lee for August 23, 2019, to elect a new Speaker of the House of Representatives cost nearly $40,000, according to travel and per diem expense reports for 2019.
– – –
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.