Tennessee legislature: 5 things to watch this week

NASHVILLE, TENN. - Lawmakers return to Nashville for another busy week in the legislature, but expect President Donald Trump's visit Wednesday afternoon to disrupt scheduled business as members attend his rally.

It's crunch time as committee calendars start to become longer as lawmakers turn their sights on the end of session. This week they are expected to debate more marijuana bills, approve budgets and hear a resolution banning state travel to California. Here are a few things to keep on eye on this week of March 13:

School Vouchers

Republican lawmakers' latest attempt to establish government funded scholarships that could be used for private schools is making its way through the House committee system this week. Sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, the bill would create a pilot school voucher program that would only affect Shelby County Schools. This is Kelsey's 12th year filing voucher-related legislation. His latest effort will be heard in the House Education Administration & Planning committee on Tuesday.

Marijuana bills

Several bills and resolutions this week deal with medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization. Two bills are set to be heard in the House Criminal Justice Committee. One would increase the amount of marijuana that police would need to find in order to charge someone with intent to distribute and the other bill would exclude a cannabidiol product approved as a prescription medication by the FDA as criminal marijuana.

House joint resolution sponsored by Rep. Sabi Kumar, R-Springfield, supporting medical marijuana will be debated in the House Health Committee.

Second Amendment Tax Holiday

Similar to the tax free weekend for school supplies, a bill proposing a "Second Amendment sales tax holiday" will be presented in committees in both the House and Senate this week. The legislation would eliminate the sales tax the first weekend of each September for firearms and ammunition, just in time for hunting season.

Gatlinburg Relief 

The Senate is set to pass the first of several bills sponsored by Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, that would allow provide financial assistance for private residences damaged in the Gatlinburg wildfires. One bill allowing for public funds to help private residences will be heard on the full Senate on Monday, and another allowing owners to prorate taxes on any property damaged in the fires will also be heard on the floor of both chambers.

Ban state travel to California 

Tennessee lawmakers are striking back after California passed a law banning state-sponsored travel to Tennessee in response to a law passed last year allowing counselors to deny services to gay, lesbian and transgender clients. Led by Sen. Mike Bell, the non-binding joint resolution condemns California for attempting "economic warfare" and urges Gov. Bill Haslam "to ban state-sponsored and state-funded travel within their respective jurisdictions to any state of the Union that has banned state-sponsored travel to Tennessee." The joint resolution will be debated on the Senate floor on Monday.

Reach Kirk A. Bado on Twitter at @kirk_bado

The Tennessean


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