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Tennessee General Assembly Will Return To Nashville Next Week For Special Session

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Gov. Bill Lee has asked the Tennessee General Assembly to meet in a special session next week to pass some COVID-19 related bills that previously failed during the regular session.

The legislature will also debate measures that address the protestors at the Tennessee Capitol and its grounds. The session is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 10.

“As COVID-19 continues to present unique challenges, we feel it is in the best interest of the state to convene a special session to address liability protections and telehealth,” Lee said in a news release Monday afternoon.

The COVID-19 liability protections would shield businesses from getting sued. This has been a hot issue across the country and in the state legislature.

When lawmakers returned to Nashville in June after a break due to the pandemic, House and Senate Republicans were at odds over whether the law should be retroactive.

House leaders claimed it is unconstitutional to pass a retroactive law. After hours of negotiations, both chambers adjourned before an agreement was reached.

Later that day, Senate Speaker Randy McNally took to Twitter to bash House Republicans, including the sponsor of the measure, Rep. Michael Curcio. The Dickson Republican told WPLN News on Monday that he hopes the legislature ends up approving a measure similar to the one he initially presented.

“Based on the conversations I’ve had about the legislation, it seems we are moving in a direction I can support,” Curcio said.

He said he has not seen any details spelled out but has heard about “concepts” regarding the measure.

In a news release, McNally said having protections of businesses is “more important than ever.”

“The last thing small business owners, pastors, doctors and school superintendents need to worry about are frivolous lawsuits which would further impede their ability to do their jobs in this difficult time,” McNally said.

Special Session Will Address Protests At State Capitol

Besides a surge in COVID-19 cases, the last few months have also brought growing protests against systemic racism, police brutality and Confederate monuments in the state.

For over 50 days, protesters have slept at the War Memorial Plaza in front of the state capitol. They have asked to meet with Gov. Lee, but he has refused.

Instead, Lee wants the legislature to address “laws governing Capitol grounds and surrounding areas that have recently been subject to vandalism, defacement and unlawful overnight camping.”

The special session will last at least three days. It’s expected to cost tax payers about $41,000 a day.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.
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