NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Local legislators don’t anticipate some headline-making bills to pass in the Tennessee legislature this session.
Rep. Scotty Campbell (R–Mountain City) said he is in favor of a bill that would limit children from learning about “adult-related topics” at school but rather leave it up to parents to make those decisions.
Sen. Jon Lundberg (R – Bristol) said he is in favor of abortion policies, but sometimes just passing bills for the sake of passing bills, is not a good idea.
“Realize there are literally this year 1,500 bills that have been filed so if you’re looking for, ‘Boy, this one could have ramifications,’ there are lots of those,” Lundberg told News Channel 11.
The proposed Texas-style abortion legislation introduced by Rep. Rebecca Alexander (R – Jonesborough) would allow people to sue anyone who helps someone get an abortion regardless of their relationship to the case.
The bill proposes that lawsuits filed against abortion providers would come with a minimum fine of $10,000.
Campbell said he would vote for the abortion ban “in a heartbeat.”
“Legislation like this passed and was signed into law in Texas. It has survived court challenges, and it has been effective in decreasing the number of abortions that take place there and that is certainly the goal of the sponsors of the bill as I understand it,” Campbell said.
Lundberg was a sponsor of the so-called “heartbeat bill” in 2020 that banned abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The bill received backlash from advocates who said most people don’t even know they are pregnant before roughly six weeks, which happens to be around the time a heartbeat could be detected.
Lundberg believes the new bill could undo the work the Tennessee legislature had previously done.
“Concerns with that is frankly over the past few years in Tennessee, we’ve made great strides in ‘life legislation’ and anti-abortion if you will, and in that case, obviously, lawsuits were filed and we’ve had frankly some success in some of those challenges, and that is likely the bill that we passed several years ago going to make it to the Supreme Court. The concern at least I think amongst the Senate is passing something else sets that clock back to zero,” Lundberg said.
“Let’s say we passed a bill two years ago that said, ‘Hey, the speed limit’s 80 miles an hour.’ Somebody filed suit so we keep the speed limit where it is and that suit is going on its way through the to the Supreme Court. Well, if this year, we pass a new bill that says ‘Hey, the speed limit is now 95 miles an hour,’ the court’s going to stop the one two years ago to say, ‘This is no longer applicable because Tennessee has passed a different law so we don’t need to hear it.’ So it takes everything back to zero.”
He said that’s why he is concerned about the new bill.
“We’ve had some legislative victories that way so passing more may actually set us back,” Lundberg added.
Alexander could not be reached for comment on the status of her bill.
The House Health Committee will discuss the proposed legislation Wednesday.
‘Don’t Say Gay’
A Florida-style bill has been proposed by Rep. Bruce Griffey (R – Paris) that would ban “textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender issues or lifestyles.”
“I haven’t seen it, but I want to make certain that there are no unintended consequences, I haven’t talked to the sponsor of that bill,” Lundberg said. “My concern is everything from current events and what’s going on, obviously, you’d wipe out a great deal of conversation and context and I think we face as a legislature difficulty when we reach down in textbooks and get very, very specific and we need to keep our eye on policy.”
Campbell told News Channel 11 he believes the proposed legislation is “essentially dead for the year” as it has been referred back to the house calendar and rules committee.
“In talking with the bill sponsor and looking over legislation, the intention really is to be pro-family and allow families to make decisions about what gets discussed with their children in terms of sexuality, gender, and things of that nature, rather than that being the decision of the school board teacher, the principal or someone in the education system. So this is really an effort by Rep. Griffey to shift that decision to the family, to parents, rather than it being in the public arena, in a school system,” Campbell said.
Griffey’s bill, if approved and signed by the governor, would take effect on July 1.
An amendment was added that would make the law not “apply to textbooks or instructional materials purchased by an LEA or public charter school before July 1, 2022”
“That’s probably an effort to try to get more votes for it, honestly,” Campbell said. “I don’t know how well it is favored or not favored down here. I do think a lot of parents would rather make the decision of having any, any discussion regarding sexuality, sexual orientation, and those adult-related topics rather than allowing the school to determine what gets discussed.”
Griffey could not be reached for comment on the status of his bill.
The Senate Education Committee will discuss the bill Wednesday.