Blue light special? Bill would allow speakers’ cars to ignore traffic rules

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A bill to authorize the state cars transporting the governor or speakers of the state House and Senate to use emergency lights is up for final approval in the Senate on Thursday.

[UPDATE: The bill passed 27-3 and is headed to the governor’s desk.]

Under current law, the THP cars carrying Gov. Bill Lee, House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), and Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti across the state aren’t explicitly allowed to use blue lights.

The bill sponsored by freshman Sen. Adam Lowe (R-Calhoun) and Rep. Lowell Russell (R-Vonore) would exempt protective detail troopers from following posted parking rules. They could also pass through red lights or stop signs without coming to a halt, exceed the posted speed limit, drive against the flow of traffic, and disregard restrictions on turns.

Lawmakers are pursuing the bill despite opposition from THP leadership.

The General Assembly in 2021 approved $750,000 in new funding for the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s protective detail, which doubled the number of Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers assigned to the speakers to two each. The speakers were also assigned two vehicles, up from the previous one.

The legislative hallways are rife with stories about one speaker’s trooper being reprimanded for operating the state cars above the posted speed limit. The Safety Department won’t confirm whether any disciplinary action has been taken against members of the protective detail for their driving habits due to what a spokesman calls the “potential operational vulnerability” of identifying the troopers on the detail.

The House has already passed the measure unanimously.

Lee’s out-of-state recruiting campaign lands 11 troopers

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference in Nashville on March 22, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee’s push to recruit new Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers from other states has resulted in 11 people joining the ranks.

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced efforts to recruit out of state law enforcement to the Tennessee Highway Patrol have netted early results as the administration focuses on proven crime prevention methods and addressing law enforcement staff shortages

“Just last week, we welcomed five new troopers to our ranks from across the country to strengthen public safety,” said Gov. Lee. “I challenge these new Tennesseans to recruit their former colleagues to the best agency in the country as we continue to welcome troopers nationwide to join us in Tennessee.”

Last fall, Gov. Lee’s nationwide pitch offered out of state troopers incentives to move to Tennessee and join the Tennessee Highway Patrol. So far, early recruiting efforts have brought 11 new troopers who bring new skills and diverse experience to the ranks.

Out of state law enforcement officials interested in joining the Tennessee Highway Patrol can learn more at

In addition to recruitment efforts, Gov. Lee has focused on proven crime prevention and key public safety investments to directly support law enforcement across Tennessee:

— Creation of a $150 million Violent Crime Intervention Fund for law enforcement agencies across the state to invest in evidence-based programming and resources

— $30 million to support relocation bonuses for out-of-state police officers seeking to move to Tennessee

— Expansion of state funding for law enforcement basic training and increasing the frequency of training for new recruits

— Access to a statewide hiring portal that includes qualified law enforcement recruits from outside of Tennessee who are looking to relocate

Read more about Gov. Lee’s statewide public safety agenda here.


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