Monday, March 16, 2020

State Lawmakers Will Focus on Budget, Recess Early

Posted By on Mon, Mar 16, 2020 at 4:27 PM

click to enlarge State Capitol building
  • State Capitol building

The Tennessee General Assembly will work to pass an amended budget and recess to "to focus on an immediate plan of action" for the coronavirus outbreak and at least one group lauded the move as it pauses action on certain bills.

On Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, and House Speaker Cameron Sexton issued the following statement:

“Over the last week, we have remained in close contact with the state’s health leaders, and we have continued to carefully monitor the complex and aggressive COVID-19 virus in Tennessee.

"The latest guidance from both the CDC and Department of Health requires us to take unprecedented action. In the best interests of public health, we have jointly decided to limit all remaining legislative business to fulfilling our constitutional requirement of passing a balanced budget, and any associated actions that will ensure Tennessee can keep its doors open.

"This is a serious time for our state and country, and we all must make adjustments in response to this threat. Our approach will take into account the unique public health challenges this complex virus presents, as well as the economic disruption likely to occur as a result of its spread.

"Passing an amended budget now and recessing will allow the General Assembly to focus on an immediate plan of action, while still determining needs down the road. This pathway forward should only be reserved for extraordinary circumstances.

"We will continue operating out of an abundance of caution and take additional action if it becomes necessary.”

Ashley Coffield, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, called the move "wise" and also said it pauses some "extreme legislation to ban abortion."

"Today the General Assembly made a wise decision to recess and focus its attention on the crisis at hand," Cofield said in a statement. "We should all be grateful for their willingness to put politics aside in an emergency, and this means the extreme legislation to ban abortion is delayed for the time being.

"We will continue to monitor the situation, and we will be prepared to fight for the Tennesseans who depend on abortion access, should circumstances change."

The move also pauses other legislation, like Lee's permit-less gun-carry bill, a bill to make the Christian Bible the state's official book, a chemical castration bill for some sex offenders, and more. 

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