Legislature adjourns 2016 session

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers adjourned the 109th General Assembly on Friday without scheduling a veto override session.

Some House members had worried that Republican Gov. Bill Haslam could reject key legislation after lawmakers have gone home for the year.

But others raised concerns that returning in late May to consider veto overrides would keep lawmakers under a fundraising ban as they try to jump-start their re-election campaigns.

Among the potential candidates for gubernatorial vetoes are measures seeking to direct the state attorney general to sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program, allow counselors to decline to provide therapy to patients based on religious and personal beliefs and allow faculty and staff to be armed on the campuses of public colleges.

Haslam said he didn’t give any assurances to lawmakers that he would avoid vetoing their legislation.

“They have constitutional responsibility, and we do too,” Haslam said. “I wasn’t going to give everybody blanket assurance that we aren’t going have any vetoes and take that to the bank.”

One bill lawmakers won’t have to worry about a veto on is contentious measure seeking to loosen stormwater runoff rules. Haslam in a letter to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey on Friday said he is allowing that bill to become law without his signature, saying he is concerned about the limits it places on the state to protect water resources.

“I am a strong proponent of economic growth and development, but I am equally committed to ensuring that we protect Tennessee’s air, land and water resources,” Haslam wrote about the bill sponsored by Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, and Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer.

Southerland was also the Senate sponsor of a bill to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee that Haslam vetoed last week. A bid to override that measure failed in the House on Wednesday.

Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden, who was the sponsor of two of the four bills Haslam has vetoed since coming into office, was a lead proponent of holding a veto override session.

“This is not an offensive gesture toward the governor,” Holt said. “This is simply an opportunity for us expand and utilize our constitutionally given power to check the governor if a veto were to occur.”