Special session decision next week says Governor’s Lee’s office

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee legislative session finished with a flurry of late-night, last-second activity on some issues followed by calls Friday for a special session to do things left undone.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Republican Governor Bill Lee’s spokesperson Gillum Ferguson said “conversations about the prospect of a special session are ongoing and we will have more to say about that next week.”

Several lawmakers and business interests have been concerned about three bills in particular.

They include measures about helping tele-medicines efforts, an effort to limit COVID-19 liability for businesses and action concerning what is called “certifcate of need (CON) for hospitals.

All three were not passed when lawmakers adjourned their regular session for the year at 3:15 a.m. Friday.

No one can remember such a wee hour adjournment, but a state budget snag unsnarled with compromises between the Republican-dominated House and Senate.

Minority Democrats were critical.

“We did pass a budget which I did not support for a number of reasons particularly related to teacher funding and funding for maternal health,” said Memphis Sen. Raumesh Akbari shortly after 3-AM.

The 2020-21 budget ended up with no teacher raises as planned in Governor Lee’s original proposal or money to study postpartum issues for young mothers.

There’s also no major expansion of sale tax holidays for consumers, but lawmakers did pass through the federal relief money designed to help city and county municipalities.

“So local governments will have some extra money to help make up some of the deficits that was caused by the COVID-19,” said Wilson County Republican Senator Mark Pody.

That will be about $200 million dollars sent to the states like Tennessee as part of the Federal CARES Act.

The governor’s voucher plan for Memphis and Nashville also did not receive the funding for it to begin in the fall. A Nashville court order has stopped the program for now.

Amidst all the numbers and late-night rush to the end, it was a retiring Knoxville lawmaker who banged the final house gavel. Rep. Bill Dunn served 26 years in the House with an honest character never questioned.

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