Gov. Bill Lee met with Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton on Sunday night to discuss how to proceed with the legislative session because of the coronavirus pandemic, sources told WPLN News.
The meeting comes two days after Lee announced the capitol will close to the general public, tours and lobbyists.
Sources with knowledge of the meeting, but who were not authorized to speak publicly, said the officials would disclose more information Sunday or Monday. Laine Arnold, a spokeswoman for Lee, confirmed a meeting took place but declined to share additional details.
During the last week, some lawmakers have hinted about a possible shorter session, including the Democratic Caucus.
In a statement to WPLN News, Sexton said he wants to do everything possible to limit the potential exposure to COVID-19.
“We will continue to operate out of an abundance of caution and take additional precautions as they become necessary,” Sexton said.
The speaker added that he wants Tennesseans to follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency said on Sunday that it discouraged gatherings of more than 50 people.
Up until now, the response to the coronavirus in the legislature has largely split along party lines.
On Thursday, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, invited people to come to the capitol for Ag Day on the Hill, which was scheduled for this week. It was later cancelled by the event’s planning team.
Later that day, the House Democratic Caucus called for the legislature to focus solely on addressing the pandemic.
“We believe that we need to eliminate all non-essential gatherings,” Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, told reporters, “so that we can come in and focus only on addressing the coronavirus outbreak.”
Suspending the legislative session indefinitely — rather than ending it altogether — can be unsettling for lawmakers during an election year. According to the law, they cannot fundraise while in session.
Lawmakers are also weighing in the fact that they have not passed a budget yet — their main task during session.
Lee told reporters last week his administration is ready to speed up that process due to the emergency. Republican leadership, though, have said they want time to examine the budget fully. There’s also some major legislation they are considering, including the governor’s anti-abortion measure.