Tennessee’s Special Session: What You Need to Know

August 16, 2023

What is a Special Session?

Article 3, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution states that the governor “may, on extraordinary occasions, convene the General Assembly by proclamation, in which he shall state specifically the purposes for which they are to convene; but they shall enter on no legislative business except that for which they were specifically called together.” It is worth emphasizing that a special session is limited to consideration of matters specifically enumerated in the governor’s call.

Key Details

Governor Bill Lee issued the special session proclamation and presented the administration’s legislative and budget priorities that will go before the Tennessee General Assembly during the special session on public safety, convening August 21. It will be a three day session.

Details From the Administrative Package

  • Codification of EO 100 and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Report Implementation: Requires reporting of accurate, complete and timely records from court clerks to the TBI within 72-hours and requires electronic submissions of dispositions and expungements to the TBI
  • TennCare Mental Health Coverage Waiver: Directs TennCare to seek a waiver from the federal government to allow federal matching funds for Medicaid to cover services for mental illness and substance use disorders at institutions of mental diseases
  • Addressing Mental Health Workforce Challenges: Budget initiatives that prioritize opportunities to grow and retain mental health professionals in the state
  • Reforms for Mental Health: Expands access to mental health treatment by eliminating certain collaborative practice requirements for Advanced Registered Practice Nurses with psychiatric training
  • Strengthening the Identification of Individuals Arrested for Felonies: Provides for the collection of DNA at the time of an arrest for all felonies
  • Human Trafficking Report: Resolution directing TBI to report on the state of human trafficking in Tennessee
  • Promoting Safe Storage: Eliminates taxes on firearm safes and safety devices, provides free gun locks, expands safe storage training in state-approved safety courses, and creates a public service announcement to promote safe storage

What Else Will the Legislature Consider?

In addition to the seven items in the governor’s package, we expect to see bills related to the transfer of youth from the juvenile justice system to the adult system, leading to an increase in the amount of incarcerated youth with disabilities or mental health issues. As advocates for youth in the youth justice system, we are disturbed to see the proposed legislation increasing youth incarceration as a response to the tragedy at The Covenant School, a tragedy that had nothing to do with the youth justice system. We have released a press release on this topic, linked here.