Flirting with trouble? Roberts calls for special session on COVID-19 mandates

Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Sprinfield) speak on the Senate floor on Jan. 10, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) is calling on Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) to join the House in calling for a special session on COVID-19 mandates.

Roberts recently got a talking to from McNally for allowing his Government Operations Committee to veer into discussions about dissolving the state Department of Health and considering livestock dewormer ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.

McNally has been resistant to holding a special session while the pandemic is worsening and has been skeptical of calls to limit private businesses’ options when it comes to their employees and customers.

Roberts is no stranger to going against leadership — sometimes to his own peril. After word got to then-Speaker Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) in 2011 that the freshman lawmaker was raising questions about whether the chamber needed a new leader, Roberts ended up finding himself drawn out of his district the following year in favor of controversial Sen. Jim Summerville (R-Dickson). Roberts defeated Summerville in the 2014 primary to return to the chamber.

Here’s the release from Roberts:

Nashville, Tennessee (September 15, 2021) – On Tuesday, State Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) sent a letter to Lt. Governor Randy McNally requesting a special session take place of the Tennessee General Assembly. Roberts’ letter explains that numerous constituents have reached out requesting a special session.

In the letter, Roberts lays out six topics he suggests to be considered during a special session:

1. Prohibiting mask mandates in public buildings, schools, and universities

2. Recognizing acquired immunity or immunity from monoclonal antibodies as satisfying vaccine mandates

3. Prohibiting Bridgestone Arena and other venues receiving government funding from implementing vaccine requirements, mask mandates, or segregating attendees according to vaccination status

4. Placing the county health departments of Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, and Sullivan counties under the direct oversight of the General Assembly

5. Challenging federal overreach exercised by President Joe Biden related to vaccine mandates

5. Requiring Executive Orders issued during a State of Emergency lasting over 90 days to be reviewed by the Joint Committee for Government Operations for a positive or negative recommendation

A special session of the legislature is held in the interim between regular sessions. It is called for a specific number of days by the governor or upon petition of two-thirds of the members elected to each house. It is restricted to matters specifically enumerated in the call.

UPDATE: Similar letters have been written by Sens. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro), and Paul Rose (R-Covington).