NASHVILLE - A legislative session that featured infighting among the majority party and the passage of the state's first gas tax increase in nearly 30 years wrapped up Wednesday after lawmakers approved a final round of bills.
The final pieces of legislation lawmakers addressed ranged from increasing the amount of money legislative candidates could raise during an election cycle to cutting taxes for phone companies.
With more than 1,400 bills introduced in each chamber this year, lawmakers opted to delay final action on several, including a bill related to deannexation, which was approved in the Senate on Wednesday but had yet to be taken up in various House committees. The measure is among many that are expected to be taken up once again when the legislature returns in 2018.
Much of the day was consumed with last-minute negotiations between both chambers, which led to several agreements, including approving a measure to fly the POW-MIA flag in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Legislative Plaza in Nashville.
Among the final bills taken up by the legislature was one that requires disclosure of lawmakers' travel paid for by politicos.
Although there was disagreement on the measure between the two chambers before Wednesday, the House ceded to changes made in the Senate to remove the requirement to disclose trips paid for by governmental entities, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The final bill to be taken up in the House was one that would have allowed lawmakers in both chambers and candidates for the legislature to significantly increase their fundraising ability. The effort to increase the amount lawmakers could raise originated in the Senate, which led to a conference committee.
In the negotiation between the two chambers, the legislation was altered to allow House members to also increase the amount of money they could raise. After a very close vote to essentially return the bill to its original intent, House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, whispered to Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown, who sponsored the bill. Goins requested the bill be delayed until 2018, resulting in applause erupting from the chamber.
After hours of intermittent recesses in between passing bills, both chambers of the legislature adjourned around 1:30 p.m.
Legislative leadership, as well as Gov. Bill Haslam, are expected to hold their annual end-of-session media availability Wednesday afternoon.
Reach Joel Ebert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-772-1681 and on Twitter @joelebert29.