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Tennessee Democrats upset debate on controversial bills cut off by supermajority

Barbara Cooper
Posted at 6:01 PM, Apr 26, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — State Democrats objected Tuesday to the way the Republican supermajority cuts off debate on important laws.

Since the Republicans control about 75% of the power at the capitol they can use House Rule 36 to basically stop debate at any point.

According to Democrats, this happened Monday on three bills.

Two of the bills involve how transgender students are dealt with at schools and in sports.

The bills allow teachers to ignore a student's preferred pronoun without repercussions for discrimination and stop transgender girls from competing in female sports up through the college level.

The third bill prevents local governments from stopping petroleum pipelines from being built in their areas.

In 2021, advocates in Memphis rallied against a local petroleum pipeline because of the chance it could pollute the Memphis Aquifer.

Debate on all three of those bills was either cut off, with few arguments heard, and in one case, no debate was allowed at all.

All that has to happen is for one Republican to call to end the debate. Then, if they get more than two-thirds vote from the body, no one else can speak.

Democrats say these bills need to have a debate, even if there's a slim chance they'll be stopped because they are directed at certain groups.

Memphis Democrats said they feared one bill will undue local decisions.

"We come up here and pass a bill to bypass city council municipalities and counties that saw the importance of stopping installation of the pipelines there," said Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis. "Why, as a state, would we defy your city councilman municipalities where the people live?"

Speaker Cameron Sexton's office sent NewsChannel 5 a statement saying they followed the rules on this.

Democrats called it an abuse of power. They said even the voice of the minority of voters should be heard in Tennessee.