State lawmakers aim to finish special session Wednesday


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — State lawmakers are poised to finish up their special session Wednesday, but passionate debate continues regarding protesters on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill.

While there’s help for businesses and telemedicine, the bill aimed at the protesters may define this special session.

“This is a very important bill,” said Senate Judiciary Chair Mike Bell whose committee debated the “protest” measure first thing Wednesday.

Protests about racial injustice have been going nearly two months on Legislative Plaza.

The legislature’s Republican supermajority generally wanted new penalties for vandalism, protections for law enforcement during protests, and new definitions about camping on public property for any protest statewide.

“There were many shortfalls within the current law with what we have seen just a few months ago,
what we saw in Nashville-Davidson County a few months ago,” said Sen. John Stevens while referencing attempts to burn down the Historic Metro Nashville Courthouse in early June.

While the Republicans said the bill protects peaceful protests, a minority Democrat voiced opposition.

“Because I find it is not for the sake of justice, but it is for the purpose of silencing people,” said Memphis Sen. Sara Kyle.

At the same time Wednesday, members of a Tennessee House committee dealt with another part of the special session call from Republican Gov. Bill Lee.

It’s a measure requiring insurance companies to reimburse telemedicine visits at the same rate as in-person healthcare visits.

“I am cautiously optimistic that people see this as something that works,” said Rep. Robin Smith, who brought her background as a nurse to the bill.

The third area of the governor’s special session call dealt with protecting businesses and health care providers from COVID19 lawsuits, except in cases of “gross negligence.”

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