Hawk to try again for September special session

State Rep. David Hawk’s bill calling for September sessions of the Legislature died in committee, but now there will be a September session anyway under Gov. Bill Haslam’s call. The Greeneville Sun observes that gives the Republican lawmaker a chance to say “I told you so” — but he’s not exactly doing so.

“It never had a chance to fail because it never moved,” he said Monday. The state House’s Government Committee passed the measure, but “it never really took off in the Senate,” Hawk said.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey “was never particularly supportive” of the idea, he said.

Had the bill moved forward and become law, the fall session would have begun the first Tuesday after Labor Day.

Hawk noted, however, that passage of his bill would not have actually impacted the 2016 situation. As originally drafted, Hawk’s measure would have scheduled a fall session every other year, with the first year being 2017.

In a phone interview Monday, Hawk said that the need to call the legislature together this month illustrates an oft-repeating situation that prompted him to draft his measure in the first place.

Hawk said state business that needs the legislature’s attention frequently comes up in summer months. With legislative sessions not beginning until January, the legislature is unable to deal with summer business in a timely manner.

Hawk’s goal was to add a fall session on a permissive basis. In a year in which no mid-year issues arose, the session would have convened for one day and immediately adjourned.

Had there been legislative business, however, it would have been dealt with in the fall session without requiring the calling of a special session or delaying legislative action until the next January. Hawk has said he believes such delays are usually not in the best interest of Tennesseans.

He said he is likely to bring a similar bill back before the legislature, this time with the proposed fall session scheduled annually rather than every other year.

Haslam’s call for a special session comes after the U.S. Transportation Department determined state law doesn’t comply with a federal “zero tolerance” drunken driving statute. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated Tennessee would lose $60 million in federal funding if it remained out of compliance as of Oct. 1.