Tennessee lawmakers kick off 2020 legislative session

Published 8:11 am Wednesday, January 15, 2020

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers began the 2020 legislative session on Tuesday, kicking off a busy next couple of months expected to be full of debates on criminal justice reform, abortion and other hot-button issues.

GOP Gov. Bill Lee has said he’s focused on criminal justice reform for his second legislative session in office. He is expected to unveil his specific initiative wish list soon.

Over in the House, Republican Speaker Cameron Sexton will oversee his first annual session after multiple scandals forced former House Speaker Glen Casada to resign from the post last year.

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Sexton will help lead the session with Senate Speaker Randy McNally in the Republican-controlled Statehouse. This year, every House seat and about half the Senate are up for reelection.

The first bill to be debated in the Senate is a proposal allowing faith-based adoption agencies to decline to place children with same-sex couples because of their religious belief without facing penalties.

The bill sailed through the House last year and got pushed back to 2020 to be decided in the Senate.

Supporters argue that while faith-based adoption agencies in Tennessee have been operating without issue, the move is needed to protect against potential lawsuits hostile to the group’s religious beliefs.