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Bill calling for September Tennessee legislative session in odd years advances

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(The Center Square) – A bill calling for a September legislative session in odd years made its way through Tennessee’s House State Government Committee.

The session would begin on the Tuesday after Labor Day and run through the end of September, if necessary, and the Legislature could take on up to 99 bills.

A fiscal note on the bill said it would cost the state more than $600,000 mainly in per diem and mileage expenses.

House Bill 1791 passed 13-8 and next heads to the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, said this was the ninth year the bill has been proposed, with the idea that the legislature has called special sessions – including on public safety in 2023 – and the bill would allow for all bills to be heard.

“It can be as much as a few hours or up to the end of September,” Hawk said.

Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, asked why the bill appeared nine years ago and Hawk said it came from constituent concerns after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015 to overturn state same-sex marriage bans like Tennessee’s.

“The fact that you continue to bring it up for that reason is wrong, it is immoral, and it goes against the oath that we have to not do things that are injurious to our community and constituents,” Pearson said. “I hope that you will stop wasting our time on this bill for the 10th year.”

Hawk vehemently disagreed, saying addressing constituent concerns should be the priority.

“Your thoughts and your opinion are not germane to this issue,” Hawk said. “I cannot disagree with you more strongly.”

Rep. Tom Leatherwood, R-Arlington, later said he agreed with Pearson that the session wasn’t necessary and that special sessions can be called if necessary.

“I actually agree with Rep. Pearson on his position here, and that might have just passed your bill buy, hey, it’s Valentine’s Day and I wanted to share when we can agree,” Leatherwood said.