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Legislators continue to challenge governor's authority on refugee resettlement

Capitol View
Posted at 8:44 PM, May 28, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Legislators continued their challenge of the governor's decision to allow refugee resettlement to continue in the state Thursday.

In a House subcommittee, two bills that would give the state legislature authority over Tennessee's resettlement program passed on to full committee.

Representative Ron Gant R-Rossville filed one of the bills which would keep the governor from making any decision on the resettlement of refugees unless authorized by a joint resolution by the general assembly.

Back in December, Governor Bill Lee made the decision to continue the refugee resettlement program after an executive order from President Donald Trump allowed states to opt out if they wanted.

“The United States and Tennessee have always been, since the very founding of our nation, a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, particularly those suffering religious persecution,” said Lee when he made the decision. “My administration has worked extensively to determine the best outcome for Tennessee, and I will consent to working with President Trump and his administration to responsibly resettle refugees.”

Thursday, after some debate in the rushed special session, the subcommittee voted 6-2 to pass the legislation. A similar bill also passed with a vote of 5-2 with one abstention.

Rep. Gant said he believes the legislature should have a say in a program that costs the state money.

"We must be sure that bad actors do not take advantage of a well-intentioned program like we have seen in other countries as well," siad Gant. "This is to only encourage a conversation going forward that the general assembly does have say-so in the appropriation of money to this program. We ask the governor to submit any plans to go through the general assembly and let us vet this process."