mandates

What’s on tap for latest special session?

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Lawmakers are back for yet another special session later this week, the third one this year. This time, Republicans are hoping to demonstrate to constituents they are doing something — anything — against what they see as federal overreach on COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.

Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Press has taken a deep dive into the legislative proposals that could be taken up. They include:

— Banning private companies from requiring employees or customers to be vaccinated.

— Ending the right of minors to decide whether to get vaccinated without the parents’ consent.

— Curbing the authority of the state’s six independent county health boards.

— Making workers who suffer side effects from required vaccinations eligible to sue their employers or file for workers’ compensation benefits.

— Writing into law Gov. Bill Lee’s executive orders allowing parent to opt their children out of school mask mandates.

— Converting school board elections into partisan contests.

“The call is broad enough where we can discuss what all the states have done and figure out if there’s a direction we want to go,” House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) told reporters last week. “We’ll see what direction that we want to come out on to protect individuals from who want to have their personal decision in what’s happening to them.

The petition to return into special session also includes an item that appears to have little to do with the pandemic. It would allow lawmakers to “address a district attorney general peremptorily refusing to prosecute all instances of a criminal offense without regard to facts or circumstances.”

The language appears to be in response to Nashville prosecutor Glenn Funk’s announcements that he won’t pursue criminal charges for the possession of small amounts of marijuana or those who violate a new state law requiring businesses to post warnings about policies allowing transgender people to use bathrooms of their own choosing.

Tennessee Chamber weighs in on special session

The Tennessee Senate meets on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce is weighing in on next week’s special session called in response to federal mandates on COVID-19 vaccinations and masks.

Several GOP lawmakers are interested in enacting laws banning companies from requiring customers or employees to be vaccinated, a potential move raising flags with the Chamber.

“We do not believe government, at any level,  should unnecessarily interfere with health, safety and operational decisions of private businesses,” the Chamber said in a statement.

Here’s the full release:

As the Tennessee General Assembly returns for a special session to address COVID-19 related policies, the Tennessee Chamber looks forward to working with the Tennessee General Assembly. We hope to collaborate and work through their concerns to ensure legislation considered during the special session does not negatively impact our business climate or employers in our great state. We are thankful to our government leaders who have worked to set our state on a trend that has made Tennessee the best state in the nation for both economic growth and business regulations, especially during the recent pandemic. This has been achieved through a strong tradition of balancing and limiting government intervention into the operations of businesses. Tennessee businesses need the discretion, with limited government interference, to operate their business in a way they believe is most appropriate for their individual operations. 

Regarding federal vaccine mandates, in September, the Tennessee Chamber voiced concerns regarding announced OSHA emergency standards from the Biden administration which requires all employers of 100 or more to mandate and enforce employee COVID-19 vaccination and testing protocols. Our position has and will remain consistent at all levels of government. We do not believe government, at any level,  should unnecessarily interfere with health, safety and operational decisions of private businesses. We look forward to discussing this with our elected leaders in the Tennessee General Assembly who have expressed their commitment to ensuring that Tennessee remains one of the best states in the country to do business.

Here is the petition for the special session on COVID-19 mandates

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is the petition lawmakers are circulating to hold a special session on efforts to dial back COVID-19 mandates. It will take 66 signatures in the House and 22 in the Senate to take effect:

PETITION: Requesting the Speaker of the House of Representatives to call the House into session pursuant to Article II, Section 8 of the Constitution of Tennessee.

We, the undersigned members of the 112th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, and members of the House of Representatives of such body, petition the above presiding officer to call this body back into session in Nashville upon similar action taken by the Senate, on October 27, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. (CDT) for the limited purposes of:

(1) Considering and acting upon legislation to establish uniform standards regarding facial coverings, vaccinations, and other restrictions relative to COVID-19; to address the enforcement and use of state funds by public and private entities for restrictions relative to COVID-19; to address adverse actions against an employee based on an employee’s vaccination status; to address the federal government’s commandeering of public and private resources relative to COVID-19; and to address the federal government’s penalizing, or taxation of, citizens of this state through enforcement of restrictions relative to COVID-19;

(2) Considering and acting upon legislation to address the creation, organization, and authority of local entities and officers charged with the promotion, protection, and maintenance, through local health services or directives, of the health of citizens of this state; to address the provision of monoclonal antibody treatment; and to address authorization to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to a minor without parental consent;

(3) Considering and acting upon legislation addressing liability of an employer, and compensation of an employee, for harm or injury suffered by an employee as the result of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine that was required or incentivized through the employee’s employment; and to address an employee’s receipt of unemployment benefits relative to COVID-19;

(4) Considering and acting upon legislation to address the length of time and enforcement of an executive order or proclamation issued by the governor under the governor’s emergency management powers; to address a district attorney general peremptorily refusing to prosecute all instances of a criminal offense without regard to facts or circumstances; to include cash as eligible collateral and adjust the amount of eligible collateral pledged for the deposit of public funds; and to address partisan elections of school board members; and

(5) Considering and acting upon legislation to make appropriations sufficient to provide the first year’s funding for any act which receives final passage during the extraordinary session; and to pay the expenses of the extraordinary session of the General Assembly, including the expenses of carrying out any actions taken pursuant to this call.