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Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm / Unsplash


Every year, politicians on both sides of the aisle put forward a number of ceremonial, contentious bills. With little hope of passing, most are introduced as either a political badge of honor or a means to expose the will of the body. That being said, we also see bills that should raise a little Cain, yet glide through both chambers without much fanfare. Here are a few bills on the docket that'll make you go huh?


On the third day of last August’s special session, the Government Operations Committee heard Covenant mother Mary Joyce’s testimony on behalf of herself; Erin Kinney, mother of William Kinney; and the Scruggs family. At the time, Joyce expressed support for an autopsy bill filed by William Lamberth and Jack Johnson, the respective majority leaders of the House and Senate.

According to Joyce, the autopsies of the Covenant tragedy’s victims were being held by media outlets and would be released if the bill didn’t pass. In the end, the bill was not passed and no pictures were ever released: Current law does not allow the release of victim images and protects the identities of minor victims in autopsies made public.

Despite this, the exact same autopsy bill is back on the docket with two new sponsors: Rep. Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough) and Sen. Shane Reeves (R-Rutherford). Though the bill may have been put forward in good faith last summer, its resurrection may point to an ulterior motive.

While Joyce supported the autopsy legislation, the committee also heard testimony in opposition to the bill. Deborah Fisher, Director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, called for further review of any “unintended consequences” its language may result in. As of this writing, no adjustments have been made to the bill, which changes Tennessee Code and creates new restrictions on the release of county medical examiner reports, toxicological reports, and autopsy reports.


Last month, Leaders Lamberth and Johnson filed a bill that would exempt county mayors from the Open Meetings Act, a bog-standard Sunshine Law. As “nonvoting ex officio [members] of the county legislative body,” the bill would allow mayors to sidestep transparency during certain meetings.

In a similar spirit, both majority leaders filed another bill meant to keep government doings in the shadows, this time allowing the Department of Tourist Development to keep select records under lock and key. If passed, the legislation would allow the commissioner, with the agreement of the AG, to make information deemed “sensitive” exempt from FOIA requests for up to ten years.


Mirroring much of the zoning legislation we've seen reshape Nashville in an attempt to create “affordable housing,” Rep. Elaine Davis (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) have proposed a bill that would require “each municipal and metropolitan government” to adopt at least four “housing strategies.” These include things like zoning to reduce size requirements for single units, reducing restrictions on facades and building materials, encouraging the construction of tiny homes, and allowing for duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes.

In addition, Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Dale Carr (R-Sevierville) put forward a bill that would allow local governments to adopt a “voluntary attainable housing incentive program by ordinance.” Among other things, if passed, the legislation helps municipalities incentivize “property owners who seek to build attainable housing.”

On top of these bills of questionable rapport, there are also a few half-baked notions such as Sen. Adam Lowe (R-Calhoun) and Rep. Clay Doggett’s (R-Pulaski) bill which would create a committee to monitor federal government overreach: A bureaucratic solution that partially echoes the bolder "Restoring State Sovereignty Through Nullification Act" that failed to get a “second” during senate committee last year. Huh.