The first special session of the 113th General Assembly concluded on Tuesday morning, preceded by a week of difficult negotiations and controversy. Ultimately, the legislature passed three bills dealing with public safety and passed an appropriations bill to fund the special session and accompanying legislation. Early in the week, it was clear that differences between the House and Senate would present challenges, with the House wanting to pass nearly thirty bills and the Senate determined to pass only three.

By Thursday morning, the stalemate between the House and Senate had still not been resolved, so legislators gaveled back in Monday. The Senate quietly conducted their business on Monday and adjourned, but tempers flared in the House. Representative Justin Jones informed House colleagues of his intent to call for a vote of no-confidence on House Speaker Sexton. During House proceedings a few hours later, the chamber voted to prevent Representative Jones from being able to speak for the duration of the day through a new ‚Äòout of order’ rule. In short order, the galleries erupted into protest, Speaker Sexton ordered state troopers to clear protestors from the galleries, and the Democratic super-minority left the proceedings in protest.

On Tuesday, it seemed that Republican leadership of both bodies were eager to adjourn sine die. The Senate accepted changes that the House made to the three bills that were still under consideration and approved more than $100 million toward public safety measures and mental health access. House Republicans quickly conducted procedural business and adjourned sine die, despite pushback from Democrats. Representative Jones was unable to initiate his vote of no confidence, and heated conversations continued between legislators after adjournment.

The following three bills passed out of both chambers:

1. House Bill 7012

  • Exempts all sales of firearms safes and firearm safety devices from state and local sales and use tax.
  • Requires the Department of Safety to provide free firearm locks to a Tennessee resident upon such resident’s request and instructions on its website for making such requests.

2. House Bill 7041

  • Requires TBI to submit a report on child and human trafficking crimes and trends in this state, based upon data available to the bureau, as well as current programs and activities of the TBI’s human trafficking unit, to the governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the speaker of the senate by December 1, 2023, and by each December 1 thereafter.

3. House Bill 7013

  • Changes from 30 days to 72 hours, the time frame within which a clerk of the circuit or general sessions court must notify the TBI of the final disposition of criminal proceedings against a person after final disposition of such proceedings.

The House and Senate also passed an appropriations bill to cover the cost of the special session and to fund the following items:

  • $50 million in grant funding to mental health agencies
  • $30 million in school safety grants to public and private higher education institutions
  • $12.1 million in recruitment and retention bonuses for mental health professionals
  • $10 million additional funding for school safety grant fund
  • $4 million in funding for the mental health safety net
  • $3 million in funding for the behavioral health scholarship program
  • $1.1 million to fund a public safety campaign for safe storage