Lee calls special session limited to Ford deal

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at Ford’s announcement it will build an electric vehicle and battery plant at the Memphis Regional Megasite on Sept. 28, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has issued a call for lawmakers to return into a special session starting on Oct. 18 to take up a $500 million grant for Ford to build a new electric vehicle and battery production campus in West Tennessee and to establish a college of applied technology at the site.

While Republican lawmakers are clamoring for a platform to denounce what they see as federal overreach on mask mandates and COVID-19 vaccines, Lee is limiting the call of the special session to matters related to the Ford deal.

While it remains unclear what exactly lawmakers could do to fight federal court rulings or executive orders, there is still a growing sentiment that a special session should be held if lawmakers are coming back to Nashville anyway for the Ford deal. If so, they may have to take the route of calling themselves into their own separate special session by gathering the signatures of at least 66 House members and 22 senators — a step that has occurred only twice in Tennessee history.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee called for the Tennessee General Assembly to convene on Monday, October 18, 2021 for a special session to address funding, buildout and oversight of Ford Motor Company’s historic $5.6 billion investment at the Memphis Regional Megasite.

“Our partnership with Ford and SK Innovation will transform West Tennessee, and it’s important we ensure this project has the structure, funding and accountability needed to be successful,” said Gov. Lee. “I am calling a special session to secure a lasting impact for Tennesseans, and I thank the legislature for their partnership in an efficient, productive assembly.”

During the special session, lawmakers will address funding to support and benefit the Memphis Regional Megasite, including site development, education and workforce preparation.

The full special session call may be viewed here.