Tennessee General Assembly underway with key issues at the forefront

With the start of the year comes the return of state lawmakers to Nashville, where they'll spend the next few months debating — and ultimately deciding on — what new laws are coming to Tennessee.

There will be a new governor in the executive branch, a new speaker of the House and a record-high number of freshman lawmakers, bringing some degree of unpredictability about what will take place.

Though its only real requirement is to pass a budget, the 111th General Assembly will introduce legislation on a host of issues. 

Here's what to look for this session.

Issue the Tennessee legislature likely will take up in 2019

Thousands of bills will be filed this year in Tennessee. While there are the usual issues— Democrats continuing their (all but certain to fail) efforts to expand Medicaid and some Republicans likely again pursuing permitless carry gun bills — there also will be new themes this year.

Criminal justice reform: Making changes to the state’s criminal justice system is near the top of Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s priority list. Now that President Donald Trump has signed into law federal criminal justice reform legislation, there’s little question similar efforts to reduce recidivism will be made in Tennessee.

Although a more comprehensive overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system and sentencing laws likely won’t come until next year, according to Republicans in the House of Representatives, preliminary and more immediate reforms supporting re-entry programs, job training and easier expungement for nonviolent offenders, for example, will likely be taken up.

There will likely be some bipartisan agreement on approaches, as has taken place around the nation, though it's possible Democrats and Republicans will introduce legislation on the issue.

School security: House Republicans plan to take up a bill that would place a school resource officer in every school in the state, legislation that would particularly benefit schools in rural counties without an existing SRO program.

The legislation, being spearheaded by freshman Rep. Brandon Ogles, R-Franklin, is estimated to come with a $40 million annual price tag. It's Republicans’ attempt to address school safety concerns in light of an increasing number of mass shootings nationwide.

Continue reading on Tennessean.com.


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