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What's Special About Special Session

What's Special About Special Session

It’s officially official. Yesterday, Governor Lee signed a proclamation designating that the special session on public safety will take place at 4 p.m. on August 21st.

Aside from confirming the date and time, the proclamation also establishes the session’s legislative guidelines. It’s important to remember that we’ll only see bills that fall within the boundaries of Lee’s parameters; that being said, there’s a lot included on the list.

Unsurprisingly, mental health resources and school safety programs are at the top of the list, along with:

  • An update on the analysis TBI conducted.
  • Suggestions to improve the Tennessee Instant Check System for firearm purchases.
  • Temporary mental health orders of protection.

The 12th line item—which outlines orders of protection— confirms that the red flag law conversation may take place, despite other accounts that “extreme risk orders” did not make the cut.

Additionally, the language used in the proclamation is very similar to the wording used in HB1574/SB1564, late-filed by Sen. Heidi Campbell and Rep. Bob Freeman during regular session. That being said, there were some unexpected topics included as well.


For starters, the proclamation includes “reports from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation regarding human trafficking.” Now, we can only speculate as to how the subject made its way onto the list, but we know that various legislators and special interest groups have been meeting with the governor throughout the summer. Likewise, Tennesseans were given the chance to submit their input regarding public safety measures they found most important, and various GOP leaders have vocally backed solutions to address the growing issue of human trafficking in the state.


Near the bottom of the list is a mention of “limiting the circumstances in which juvenile records may be expunged.” While the rehabilitation of criminal offenders has taken priority in state-level criminal justice reform bills over the last few General Assembly sessions, it looks as though preserving the database may be a priority when discussing preventative measures during the special session. Line (6) also mentions creating “identification of individuals arrested for felonies.”


Finally, the last item on Lee’s list indicates there may be a discussion about the School Safety Act. Back in June, the governor highlighted the launch of this program, which was passed in order to encourage the placement of armed SROs in every public school. The act also made additional funding available to public and private schools in Tennessee so they could make physical safety upgrades to school buildings.

“We want schools across Tennessee to know that they can apply for this funding now,” said the governor on June 21st. “And we hope that you’ll encourage others in your district to do so as well.” Of course, that has not been the case in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Though MNPD’s Chief Drake was ultimately the one who stepped forward and rejected the funding for SROs in elementary schools, citing staff shortages, MNPS Director Adrienne Battle previously made clear that the district had no intention of placing SROs in elementary schools because it “criminalizes childhood behavior.”

It’s unclear if this scenario will become part of the conversation on August 21st, but Governor Lee has expressed his disappointment. “Any decision by local government to not use every tool at their disposal is a disservice to parents and teachers who are counting on us,” Lee told News2 on July 14th.