COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) feels confident lawmakers will accomplish something during the special session in August.
“Let’s have a strong conversation,” he said. “Let’s put ideas on the table.”
Tennessee’s governor is up against his own party when it comes to his emergency relief protection order (ERPO) proposal.
He spoke with News 2 after giving a speech at American Legion Boys State at Tennessee Tech on Thursday — a day after some Republican lawmakers signed a letter calling on Lee to cancel the special session.
“I got contacted by a bunch of folks there in my district saying that this is completely uncalled for,” Rep. Bryan Richey (R-Maryville) said. “Then, when you look at the financial impact on Tennesseans when it comes to taxpayer dollars to hold this special session, it’s ridiculous.”
House leadership chastised that letter Wednesday, writing in part in a statement, “If our governor calls the legislature into a special session to discuss any issue, the Republican caucus will certainly be ready, willing and able to debate the best way forward for our state.”
Lee responded Thursday.
“I mean, I think everyone certainly has opinions about this and feelings about this,” Lee said. “I certainly respect the thoughts and opinions of every lawmaker and have a great relationship with them and will continue to work together with them.”
Lee’s best chance to bolster Republican support will likely come from the Senate and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Speaker.
“I support the governor, and I think his proposal was on target,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we can come out with something that addresses his concern about people that are mentally ill getting guns and also address crime in general.”
Still, other senators have said they won’t consider an emergency order of protection. But McNally seemed mildly confident something substantial would pass.
“I think it’s about a 50-50 chance. I think right now, it probably wouldn’t pass,” he said. “But given a little time, let people think about it, they get back home, they interact with the everyday folks that are back home.”
The speaker made the point that ERPOs have polled extraordinarily high the last few months in Tennessee.
“When you look at the breakdown of support in Tennessee for various issues, that’s one that’s in the high 80s and 90s, even with just Republicans,” McNally said. “You look at just Republicans, even the MAGA Republicans – people that identify themselves as that – it’s high. It’s well over 50.”
If no one in the legislature budges though, what’s Lee’s plan?
“At the end of the day, the General Assembly will decide the path forward here,” he said. “I think that we have an obligation and an important responsibility to have the conversation and bring forth the ideas.”