NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Tennessee on Wednesday put themselves a step away from expanding a school voucher program from two counties to four, including Knox County, and raising the minimum teacher salary in a bill that also bans educators from deducting dues for professional organizations from their paychecks.

The House passed those bills in a flurry of activity to position the Republican-supermajority Legislature for an early exit from its lawmaking session as soon as the week’s end.

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That finish depends on how they proceed with an evolving push by Republican Gov. Bill Lee to pass legislation to keep firearms away from people who could harm themselves or others. The call for quick action follows a shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville that killed six people last month, including three 9-year-olds.

The specifics of the “temporary mental health order of protection” proposal circulated Wednesday. The path ahead remains unclear. It would likely require an amendment to a yet-to-be-announced bill. Lee said legislative leaders provided input, as supporters of the change try to thread a needle in a Legislature that has expanded gun rights significantly in recent years.

“We owe Tennesseans a vote,” Lee said in a video Wednesday. “The tragedy at Covenant didn’t create the problem. Rather, it has shown — more clearly than ever before — that we can do more to protect students, teachers, communities and constitutional rights.”

Tennessee lawmakers have faced national scrutiny over the expulsion of two young Black lawmakers — who are now reinstated — over a House floor gun control protest. Students, parents, prominent political and entertainment figures and others have also applied pressure for weeks to pass gun safety measures.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, moved the two education proposals to the brink of final passage.

The House approved the expansion of Lee’s education voucher program that allows public tax dollars to be given to families to pay for private schooling. The program is currently available under income-level restrictions for students in Nashville and Memphis’ Shelby County. The bill would expand it to Hamilton County, which includes Chattanooga, and Knox County, which includes Knoxville.

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The bill needs another vote in the Senate, where it previously passed only to add Hamilton County.

The GOP-led Statehouse narrowly approved the so-called education savings accounts initiative in 2019. It awards eligible families around $8,100 in public tax dollars to help cover private school tuition and other preapproved expenses.

Nashville, Memphis and civil rights leaders sued to stop the program. Ultimately, Tennessee judges upheld the law in 2022.

Rep. Sam McKenzie, a Knoxville Democrat, said there’s insufficient data to say if the pilot program, in operation for less than a year, is working. He also questioned why there are no rural counties being added.

Rep. Mark White, the Memphis Republican bill sponsor, said adding more counties will help draw in more data. He also said it is not lawmakers’ fault a court blocked the program.

The House passed a different proposal that would raise the minimum salary for teachers, but only under a tradeoff — teachers would be prohibited from having dues deducted from their paychecks for organizations that advocate for their profession. The governor has pushed for that change.

The House vote would raise the minimum base pay for teachers over several years, up to $50,000 for the 2026-2027 school year, which Lee says ranks in the top 10 among states. However, the governor’s push to hang it on a ban on deducting teacher dues to organizations such as the Tennessee Education Association tied some lawmakers in knots.

The House approved an amendment that would have stripped out the dues deduction ban, which a committee had previously passed. But minutes later, a vote on another amendment restored the prohibition.

Republican Rep. Gary Hicks, from Rogersville, said the current system ensures local control — payroll dues deductions are optional at the school district level, and teachers don’t have to join the Tennessee Education Association, or any other professional organization. He noted that certain state employee groups have paycheck deductions, and urged keeping the bill only about a teacher pay raise “that we can all get up and brag about.”

The final bill passed easily.

The paycheck deduction ban has failed as a standalone bill in recent years. And though Lee and the Tennessee Education Association have at times butted heads, including over the school voucher program, the organization is influential among Democratic and Republican lawmakers and has a well-funded political action committee.

The legislation already passed the Senate, which will have to vote again to sync up with the House.

Raises for the next school year are already in the works. Lee’s budget proposal includes $125 million for a boost to teacher pay, which the Tennessee Education Association says will produce an approximately 4% average raise that increases the minimum starting salary from $40,000 to $42,000. And if the proposed minimum raise passes, lawmakers would still need to fund it annually in the budget.

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Lee and other supporters of banning the paycheck dues deductions have argued that it removes the collection of dues for teachers unions from the school districts’ payroll staff. The Tennessee Education Association has said it’s not a union — it’s a professional organization.

Tennessee has already eliminated key rights associated with unions for public school teachers. In 2011, the state passed a law that eliminated teachers’ collective bargaining rights, replacing them with a concept called collaborative conferencing. Additionally, Tennessee teachers lost the ability to go on strike in 1978.

Lee has said the bill is “giving teachers control of their hard-earned pay and guarantee that taxpayer dollars are used to educate students, and not fund politics.”