Like all Tennesseans, the Senate is mourning the horrific and senseless attack on Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville, that stole the lives of three children and three adults. In recognition of the victims of the horrific attack, the Senate conducted no business in its floor session last Monday. The Rev. Russell Hall of Mt. Olive Church of God in Cleveland, Tenn., led the Senate in a prayer and members were then dismissed to reflect on the tragic events of the day.

School security has been a top priority for the General Assembly this year. Legislators remain committed to efforts to fortify school buildings and increase security measures to prevent tragedies like this in the future. 

A comprehensive school safety bill was set to be considered by the Senate Education Committee last week, but a vote was delayed one week to review potential improvements to the proposed legislation. Efforts are being made for the most comprehensive school security package. 

In light of what happened at Covenant School, legislators want to take this time to explore any potential improvements we can make to this important legislation. We want to make sure we do all we can to strengthen school security.

Last week, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally wrote a letter to Gov. Lee outlining several ideas for enhancing school safety. Those include securing windows and glass in school buildings as the perpetrator of the Covenant School shooting shot out the

glass of the school’s doors to gain entry. Other ideas include magnetic locks on doors, which keep shooters out and allow first responders speedier access in crisis; centralized and modernized camera systems to help police quickly identify a perpetrator’s location; and armed guards at all public and private schools. 

Protecting the Free Exchange Of Ideas on College Campuses — To promote freedom of expression and educational excellence on college campuses, the Education Committee last week advanced the Tennessee Higher Education Freedom of Expression and Transparency Act, which I sponsored. 

Senate Bill 817 strengthens the prohibition on higher education institutions from being biased in favor of divisive concepts such as critical race theory. It establishes a transparent system for reporting alleged violations and complaints regarding divisive concept restrictions and requires institutions to report violations to the comptroller’s office. 

This bill prohibits bias or favoritism in the treatment of student groups and the use of school property. Under the bill, student-invited guest speakers may not be denied solely on race, religion or non-violent political ideology. 

Finally, the bill requires institutions to ensure employees whose job duties include diversity, equity or inclusion to be devoted to supporting student academic achievement and workforce readiness of all students.  

Enhancing Transparency, Integrity of Elections —The State & Local Government Committee passed a bill last week to ensure voters are both citizens and properly registered.  

Senate Bill 137, which I sponsored, requires the coordinator of elections to compare statewide voter registration databases with other state agencies and county records to identify any voters who have changed addresses without notifying their county election commission, and to compare statewide voter registration databases with the Department of Safety. 

Helping Military Veterans, Their Families — Under the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, children of active duty service members can receive benefits and opportunities to help support them when they transition to a new school or area as a result of their parent’s service to the country. 

Senate Bill 317 extends the benefits and opportunities provided by the compact to children of a member of any reserve component of the armed forces enrolled in grades K-12. 

Senate Bill 724, which I sponsored, allows honorably discharged veterans to obtain a temporary teaching license to fill a vacant position in a school. The permit will only be valid for a short time and must be used to fill a vacant position. 

Both bills were passed by the Education Committee last week.

Increasing Penalties for Desecrating a House of Worship — The Judiciary Committee passed legislation last week to expand the Class E felony offense for desecrating a house of worship. 

Senate Bill 848 adds “knowingly or recklessly” to the current Class E felony offense to “intentionally desecrate” a house of worship.

The 28th District State Senate seat is held by Dr. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and includes Giles and five other counties.

The 28th District State Senate seat is held by Dr. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and includes Giles and five other counties.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.