VIDEO: Gov. Lee Statement on Public Safety Special Session

“This has been an important and difficult week for our state - but we have reasons to be hopeful.”
Tuesday, August 29, 2023 | 06:03pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee marked the close of the special legislative session on public safety and thanked Tennesseans for engaging in continued efforts to strengthen safety across the state.

Four of the Governor’s proposals passed both chambers, including an appropriations bill designating more than $100 million in public safety funding.

  • SB7088/HB7041: Requires TBI to submit a report on child and human trafficking crimes and trends in Tennessee by December 1, 2023, and annually thereafter.
  • SB7086/HB7013: Requires reporting of accurate, complete and timely records from court clerks to the TBI within 72-hours and requires electronic submissions of dispositions and expungements to the TBI.
  • SB7085/HB7012: Directs the department of safety to provide free firearm locks to Tennessee residents upon request; requires department-approved handgun safety courses to contain instruction on the safe storage of firearms; exempts the retail sale of firearm safes and firearm safety devices from sales and use taxes beginning November 1, 2023.
  • SB7089/HB7070: Appropriates $50 million in grant funding to mental health agencies, $30 million in school safety grants to public and private higher education institutions, $12.1 million in recruitment and retention bonuses for mental health professionals, $10 million additional funding for school safety grant fund, $4 million in funding for the mental health safety net, $3 million in funding for the behavioral health scholarship program, and $1.1 million to fund a public safety campaign for safe storage.

Video of the Governor’s comments here and full transcript below:

This has been an important week for Tennessee – a difficult week, but I believe a week that’s hopeful. Let me explain why I say that.

Public safety matters to every Tennessean, and it is a matter of urgency for every Tennessean.

We have a rising crime problem in this country. It is one of the most complex issues that we face, but the goal should be simple: Tennesseans want to live in a safe neighborhood. That is why I called the special session. That’s why we worked with the General Assembly for months to bring forth ideas and suggestions that they might have ways to make our state safer.

I came from the business world. In business, to be successful, you have a process of continuous improvement. What has happened this week is a part of that process. In the business world, you move when you see a problem. You do not wait. If there is a problem, you address it urgently.

We have made some headway this week – four of our bills passed. Significant funding was focused on issues that matter to public safety. We have improved the background check system, attacked human trafficking, improved access for safe storage, and funded mental health resources across the state. We made progress.

It’s also encouraging to that thousands of Tennesseans weighed in and engaged in the process over the last several months.

I want to speak particularly to the Covenant parents who were a part of that engagement process in an important way. Their presence made a difference, and they reminded Tennesseans that there is hope in the midst of tragedy. They brought that hope into this process. They also reminded us that civility is not a weakness. I’m thankful to them.

What happened this week matters to the people of Memphis. It matters to the people in East Tennessee.

We will go forward, and we will continue to build upon our efforts on public safety because it does matter.

We all share the same goals. We want our children to be safe, we want our streets to be safe, and we want our neighborhoods to be safe. As difficult as it is, it is possible to make progress. So, we should be hopeful.

There is no one, perfect solution, but we should recognize the significance of this special session. We made progress in public safety, and we elevated a conversation about public safety that will continue, and that’s important.

I’ve said this many times before, and it’s fitting to say it today. There will always be critics, but the credit belongs to those who were in the arena, and that’s tens of thousands of Tennesseans who engaged in this process over the last several months.

I also want to thank the members of the General Assembly that engaged in this process and helped move the ball forward.

We have much work to do, but together, the work that we did this week and the work that we’ll do in the future will make Tennessee a safer place. And for that, I am very hopeful.