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TN House passes legislation banning residency requirement for Memphis first responders, clearing key hurdle

The bill will now be adjusted next week between Senate and House versions; Memphis House Democrats & Republicans were sharply divided during lengthy debate.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Memphis first responders could soon live outside city and Shelby County limits, after state legislation cleared a key hurdle Thursday morning.

The Tennessee House passed a bill (HB 0105) which would ban city of Memphis residency requirements for Memphis Police officers, Memphis firefighters and EMTs.

The legislation will go through final adjustments between the state House and Senate next Thursday.

The House debate lasted nearly 45 minutes Thursday morning.

Memphis Republican representatives argued the bill will help MPD recruit and retain new officers. Democrats believe it's state overreach into Memphis' affairs.

"This bill is not only about where our officers and our firefighters and first responders live, it's about local control," Rep. Jesse Chism, (D) Memphis, said on the House floor.

"You don't get jobs without safe streets and quality of schools, that's all we are asking for in this and to have a debate about where a law enforcement officer lives in my opinion is just ridiculous," Rep. Mark White, (R) Memphis, countered.

Tennessee House Democrats said Thursday they believe the bill - if signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee - will be challenged.

Eliminating the Memphis first responder residency requirement is supported by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis.

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R - Germantown), who sponsored the senate version, released the following statement: "With this law, Memphis could quickly hire a multitude of new police officers. This bill will support our police, fire officers, and emergency medical service workers who keep us safe by allowing them to live where they choose. This solution will increase public safety and help us fight our rising crime rates.”

RELATED: State representatives outraged by the advancement of new house bill

RELATED: Tennessee House bill on police residency amended to only include Memphis

RELATED: Tennessee Senate approves St. Sen. Brian Kelsey's bill to allow first responders to live where they choose

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