On April 14, 2021, committees in both chambers of the Tennessee legislature voted to advance bills that would create a legal mechanism for death-row prisoners to challenge their death sentences on the grounds that they have intellectual disability. The legislation would close a loophole in Tennessee law that denies prisoners whose convictions became final before the U.S. Supreme Court barred the execution of individuals with intellectual disability any opportunity to present their claims of intellectual disability to the Tennessee courts. House Bill 1026 passed the Criminal Justice Committee by a voice vote, and Senate Bill 1349 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 7-1.

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators introduced legislation to create a procedure to litigate intellectual disability in response to the case of Pervis Payne, who faced execution despite strong evidence that he has intellectual disability and may be innocent. Those bills, which died in committee without a vote, and the bills that were approved by the committees would have established the same procedures to present a prisoner’s claim of intellectual disability but differed in their definition of the disorder. HB 2016 and SB 1349 conform the definition of intellectual disability to the diagnostic criteria contained “in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association.”