Tennessee legislature

State lawmakers return to Nashville Monday for a special-called session to debate the hundreds of millions of dollars Gov. Bill Lee promised Ford Motor Co. so that they would build a new assembly plant in West Tennessee.

Discussion is not expected to last much longer than a week, and will include Lee’s plans for a new technical college at the Memphis Regional Megasite where Ford plans to build its facilities.

The incentives were promised to lure Ford and the automaker’s South Korean battery partner SK Innovation to the vast, long-vacant property. Ford plans to build its new electric pickup trucks at the plant, and SK Innovation will build batteries for electric vehicles. In total, the project will create nearly 6,000 jobs directly.

The price tag may be larger than initially promised. Though Lee and other officials announced a $500 million deal, the legislature is being asked to spend nearly $900 million on the project, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Though there seems to be widespread support for the Ford deal in the legislature, lawmakers are more divided on a proposed second special session tentatively to follow shortly after the first concludes. Republicans want to convene again to crack down on any lingering COVID-19 mandates in the state, and they are gathering the signatures required to call the special session.

Lee has declined to do so himself, so two-thirds of the members of both chambers must agree to one. Despite Senate leader Randy McNally’s initial reluctance to join House leadership, he has since changed course and a second special session seems all but inevitable. (It would actually be the third special session of 2021, following a brief meeting prior to the regular session in January.)