Image Credit: capitol.tn.gov
The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –
Tennessee’s special session on public safety is closing in on costing at least $300,000 in stipends in mileage for lawmakers as it reaches its fifth day on Monday.
For each day, those costs increase by $58,576, according to numbers provided by Office of Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley.
But those costs do not include the additional security measures and officers put into place during the special session or the legal fees surrounding lawsuits related to the House rules, including a temporary stay of the rule preventing signs in the gallery set to be heard again in court on Monday.
“Per HB7070, this state legislature has already wasted $232,000 ($58k/day) of taxpayers’ money…to accomplish nothing to protect our children,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, wrote on social media. “And because the GOP leaders in the House & Senate are fighting like spoiled toddlers, the tab is still running. To accomplish NOTHING!”
Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, went over the appropriations for the special session as HB 7070 was discussed in Thursday’s House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
Along with the costs of the special session, the bill includes funding for all of the bills the House is considering in the special session.
The bill included $30 million in non-recurring higher education safety grants for public and private four-year colleges, community colleges and Tennessee College of Applied Technology. Hazlewood explained that the funding would come from a $50 million budget appropriation for a prison that will not be built.
Another non-recurring $50 million would go to an increase in TennCare pay rate for mental health providers.
The bill also included $12 million in non-recurring funding for recruitment and retention bonuses for behavioral health professionals who work with treatment agencies contract through the Department of Mental Health and $3 million for public behavioral health stipends.
Those appropriations will come with full reports on how the funds are spent and the impact of that spending.
The appropriations also include $10M of non-recurring funding for school safety grants for public charter schools and schools in districts that do not already have full-time school resource officers in order to fulfill a commitment Hazlewood said that the Legislature already made in regular session.
The appropriations also include covering a $1.6 million tax loss from waiving sales tax on gun safes and safety devices and $1.1 million to fund a Department of Safety program to promote safe gun storage.
“Has anyone totaled up how much the Special Session is costing along with the cost of elections for expelled members?” Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville wrote on social media. “Fiscal conservatives my arse. Happy to have a Special Session to do the will of the people, but we are doing the will of the gun lobby.”
About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.