TENNESSEE LAWMAKERS AJOURN SESSION AND APPROVES BILL ARMING TEACHERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Tennessee General Assembly has concluded its session for the year, and a significant bill is now on its way to the Governor’s desk for his expected signature. Lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow teachers to carry firearms in Tennessee’s public schools. As the final vote was cast, visitors in the gallery erupted with chants of “Blood on your hands” and “Vote them out.”

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton ordered the galleries cleared, including the press. The bill, sponsored by Republican Ryan Williams, would enable teachers to carry concealed handguns on campus under certain conditions. It specifies that parents would not be informed about which teachers are armed, but student resource officers would be aware. The bill assigns liability to the individual staff member, not the district or school, in the event of firearm use. Teachers authorized to carry must keep the weapon concealed at all times.

The legislation prohibits part-time school employees or substitute teachers from carrying firearms on school premises. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) among local law enforcement, the school district, and the school principal is one of the prerequisites. If an MOU is established, then teachers and staff at that school must fulfill additional requirements, including a background check, a psychological evaluation, and 40 hours of firearms training.

Even if the Governor signs the bill into law, it would still require approval from local school boards.

Highlights of the 2024 legislative session include:

Safer Communities 

  • Strengthened restrictions for issuing bail to keep violent criminals off the streets
  • Passed Jillian’s Law requiring involuntary commitment for criminal defendants found mentally incompetent to stand trial 
  • Increased penalty for child rape to death or life without parole
  • Created a new felony offense for repeat misdemeanor offenders
  • Protected citizens’ right to bear arms
  • Protected property owners from squatters
  • Increased criminal penalties for illegal immigrants 
  • Sent Tennessee National Guard troops to Texas border to secure southern border
  • Added 60 positions to the Tennessee Highway Patrol
  • Added 13 positions to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation 

Protecting Children and Families 

  • Restored parental authority online by requiring age-verification and parental consent for minors to create a social media account
  • Restricted minors’ access to online pornography through age-verification requirements for websites
  • Strengthened law to keep obscene materials out of public schools

Education 

  • Increased investment in K-12 education by $261 million 
  • Maintained commitment to raise teacher’s starting salary for $50,000 by 2026
  • Improved access to quality facilities for public charter schools 

Pro-Business / Economy 

  • Passed the largest tax cut in state history by modernizing the franchise tax
  • Maintained fiscal responsibility in the face of declining revenues 

Health 

  • Invested $105 million to strengthen rural and behavioral health
  • Provided $97.7 million to support Tennessee’s hospitals
  • Passed phase out of the Certificate of Need (CON) permit requirements to increase access to health care and lower costs
  • Established program to allow working individuals with disabilities to still receive TennCare

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