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Bathroom Issue Leads To Push For Special Session

Posted at 5:39 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 19:31:23-04

Some state Republican lawmakers have been working to call for a special session.

This came just days after a directive from President Barack Obama that requires public schools to let students use bathrooms they identify with. If schools do not, they risk losing federal funds.

Transgender activists called the directive a big win. Some state lawmakers, however, disagreed.

"This is not a dictatorship. This is a republic," Representative Glen Casada said. 

Casada, the House Republican Caucus Leader, has now been pushing for a special session. He said the goal of that session would be two-fold: draft legislation requiring the state to defend schools if they're sued for violating the Federal directive and secondly, urge the Attorney General to sue the Federal government.

"An unelected bureaucracy is dictating law," Representative Casada said. "It's unconstitutional. It' a threat to the sovereignty of the states, and it's time we stand up to the tyranny from this administration."

State law has required two-thirds of both House and Senate lawmakers to agree to a special session. Governor Bill Haslam can call for one himself.

Wednesday, however, Haslam seemed to imply he would not call for one.

"I'll be honest, I'm not certain what the strategy around the special session would be," Governor Haslam said.

Haslam said, while the directive was overreaching, it does not change how school districts have been handling bathroom policies. Because of that, Haslam said the state has no legal grounds on which to sue.

"You should go to court if somebody comes in saying you can't do what you're doing, and at this point our schools are doing what they did last month and last year," Haslam said. "Our advice is continue doing what you're doing in your local schools."

Casada said he has been in contact with state Senators to see if they would push for a special session. Calls to Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey's office have gone unreturned. 
 
Several other lawmakers have also drafted letters to Attorney General Herbert Slattery's office, calling on him to sue over this directive. 
 
Slattery's office seemed to imply they might, if that's what the state wants.
 
“Our Office is just as concerned with the joint guidance letter issued by the Education Department and the DOJ as the Governor and many state legislators are. It is the most recent, and all too familiar, example of federal agencies (not Congress) telling states and now universities and local education boards what to do. We are monitoring the predictable litigation that has resulted. To the extent that our Office can assist and advance the best interests of our State, we will do so.”  -Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III
 
Earlier this year, Representative Susan Lynn sponsored a bill requiring students to use bathrooms that coincide with the gender on their birth certificate. Following guidance from Governor Haslam, Lynn eventually pulled the bill but promised to sponsor again during the next session.