NFIB urges vote against COVID-19 bill, warns it will score support in ratings

Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) attend an NFIB meeting in Nashville on Feb. 21, 2019). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Voting in favor of the omnibus bill seeking to clamp down on COVID-19 mandates will negatively affect lawmakers’ ratings by the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, according to a letter sent to each member on Friday morning.

Votes on the bill are scheduled for later in the day.

Here’s the full NFIB letter:

Good morning, Members of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly.

NFIB asks for your vote of NO on HB 9077/SB 9014.  NFIB plans to include this vote in our 2021-2022 Voting Record report to NFIB members.

NFIB is strongly opposed to any new causes of action, which are in the amendments to HB 9077/SB 9014. This would be a very inopportune time for small businesses, who are dealing with a severe labor shortage, rising inflation and significant supply chain issues, to face potential litigation. NFIB is concerned several COVID-19 mitigation measures by an employer could be grounds for a private right of action. We understand the views from all sides on this issue, particularly with potential pending federal overreach (please read our letter to USDOL Labor Secretary here). However, we oppose HB 9077/SB 9014, which is consistent with our previous positions on new private rights of action.  Our previously shared letter is attached.

NFIB also is concerned with Section 14-6-101 in both amendments under Chapter 6-Miscellaneous.  NFIB shares the concerns of our Department of Workforce & Labor Development and other groups that if the legislation passes as drafted, the federal government would soon take over regulatory enforcement of various labor laws in Tennessee. Specifically, as Commissioner McCord testified, OSHA would take over TOSHA.  For background, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 authorizes states to establish their own occupational safety and health plans and preempt standards established and enforced by Fed OSHA. OSHA must approve state plans if they are “at least as effective” as OSHA’s standards and enforcement. Currently, 22 states have plans under this system, including Tennessee. Over the last decade, NFIB has received almost no complaints from our members regarding TOSHA overreach.  If HB 9077/SB 9014 were to pass, as drafted, NFIB is concerned many OSHA fines will double and a more adversarial system would result for Tennessee’s small businesses, again at an inopportune time.

Thank you for you support of small business, and please contact me directly with any questions.  Jim    

Jim Brown

Tennessee State Director