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The Tennessee Legislature gavels in Tuesday. Here are the bills that may get a lot of attention.

tennessee state capitol building at sunset
Posted at 4:47 PM, Jan 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-10 10:41:37-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Before the legislative session begins, there's always a lot of talk.

"I’m just excited for a new legislative session," said Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, the Democratic House Caucus Chairman. "I’m excited to be a part of that again."

"We’re in a great space, a great spot and we just want to continue that progress," said Rep. William Lamberth, the Republican House Majority Leader.

But what are the bills we'll all be talking about?

Transportation

Leaders on both sides of the aisle can agree that we have a traffic problem in Nashville. Where they differ is how to fix it.

"But if you want to guarantee to go 55 mph into work, into see a show, into go to a game, whatever, then you can use a choice lane," said Lamberth.

Republican lawmakers and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee are proposing choice lanes in Tennessee's major cities. Essentially, a private company would run certain lanes on the interstate where drivers would pay for the opportunity to get around traffic.

"Not only is it great for the folks that choose to pay for the choice lane, but for those of us who don’t, and that will probably be me. It will actually alleviate traffic on those roads. So it speeds up both ways to get into whatever major city you’re heading into," said Lamberth.

But Rep. Clemmons says it's quite literally highway robbery.

"Handing over a state roadway or a third of an interstate to a private company and allowing them to profit off of Tennessean’s inconvenience is unacceptable," said Clemmons.

He wants bigger, bolder ideas.

"Local and regional commuter rail has to be on the table. If we want to build out anything resembling a 21st Century transportation infrastructure system, we have to look at all possible alternatives," said Clemmons.

Abortion Access

Tennessee's controversial trigger ban on abortion is also expected to be a talker.

"We must amend that bill for the benefit of Tennessee's women and families, as well as our health care community," said Rep. Clemmons.

A group of Democrats and more Republicans want to include specific exceptions that aren't currently included in Tennessee's law.

"To not have an exception for rape or incest or life of the mother — and then to threaten medical care providers with criminal prosecution — that’s just wrong. We have to take action to amend that in a productive manner," said Clemmons.

Lamberth says he's willing to talk about it, but is also pleased with the current law.

"We have a really good law on the books right now that protects both mothers and children, and so there’s no reason to change that — that I know of," said Lamberth.

Shrinking Metro Council

The bill would prevent any Tennessee city from having a legislative body with more than 20 members. But that specifically targets Nashville, because it's the only Tennessee city with more than 20 members.

Nashville has the third largest city legislative body in the United States — just behind Chicago and New York City. Republicans are arguing that's wasteful and want to reign that in.

"And we’ve seen throughout the country that a smaller city council serves its citizens well. From a policy standpoint, a smaller council is more efficient, it spends less money, it answers to the people better, it simply gives it more strength," said Lamberth.

Democrats argue this is government overreach.

"When the state of Tennessee is overstepping into zoning laws and the size of Metro Councils or the size of municipal bodies — that’s a dangerous precedent. So what’s to say that your town’s not next?" said Clemmons.

NewsChannel 5 asked Rep. Lamberth if this was retaliation for Metro Council blocking the Republican National Convention from coming to Music City in 2024.

"Absolutely not, I mean that’s ridiculous," said Lamberth. "I do think that was a very poor decision on the council’s part -- and it is a good example of what appeared to us at least at the state level, to be complete disarray."

Other legislation that is expected to really grab attention includes a bill that would ban certain procedures involving transgender care in Tennessee and whether third graders should have to take a test to move onto the next grade.

The 113th Tennessee General Assembly gavels in Tuesday, Jan. 10 at noon.


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