special session

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.

Lawmakers call selves back into session to fight COVID-19 mandates

A very special place.

Tennessee lawmakers have called themselves into special session for just the third time in state history. They will return next week after concluding the current special session called by Gov. Bill Lee to approve the Blue Oval City joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and SK Innovation.

Here’s the release from Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville):

NASHVILLE — Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) today formally issued a call for the third extraordinary session of the 112th General Assembly. As outlined in Article 2, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution, this call was at the request of both chambers of the General Assembly. The session will cover a number of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including overreaching health care mandates.

“The members of the Senate and their constituents have been clear about the need for this session,” said Lt. Governor McNally. “The Covid-19 crisis — and how various institutions have adapted and reacted to it — has created new and unique legislative challenges. This is an opportunity to make the General Assembly’s voice heard on issues regarding masks, vaccines, executive power, and federal mandates.”

“For several weeks, we have heard from Tennesseans that have significant concerns over the unconstitutional and burdensome mandates being imposed upon them,” said Speaker Sexton. “As an elected body, it is our responsibility to let the distinctive voices of our communities be heard on these issues. I look forward to working together with Lt. Gov. McNally, the House, and Senate to create solutions that preserve the individual choices, freedoms, and liberties of all Tennesseans.”  

Signed by over two-thirds of the members of both chambers, the call will bring both the House and the Senate back into session on October 27, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. The call would allow legislation related to vaccines, masks, and other restrictions relative to COVID-19. Legislation to address the various unconstitutional federal mandates issued by the Biden administration would also meet the call guidelines. Additionally, legislation regarding the independent health departments and restrictions on monoclonal antibodies would also be appropriate under the call.

Here are the House committees for the special session

Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) speaks to colleagues on the House floor in Nashville on Oct. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Senate is keeping its regular committees in place for the special session, but House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) is appointing special panels to hear the Ford incentive bills and other legislation.

Here are the special House committees:

Commerce

  • Chair: Vaughan
  • Vice Chair: Todd
  • Bricken
  • Chism
  • Freeman
  • Gillespie
  • Griffey
  • Halford
  • Harris
  • Hurt
  • Leatherwood
  • Miller
  • Moody
  • Parkinson
  • Powers
  • Ramsey
  • Travis
  • Vital
  • White

Health and Safety

  • Chair: Terry
  • Vice Chair: Grills
  • Calfee
  • Campbell
  • Carringer
  • Cepicky
  • Cooper
  • Doggett
  • Hakeem
  • Hardaway
  • Howell
  • Johnson of Knox
  • Lafferty
  • Ogles
  • Ragan
  • Rudder
  • Smith
  • Thompson

Finance, Ways & Means

  • Chair: Hazlewood
  • Vice Chair: Hicks of Hawkins
  • Baum
  • Boyd
  • Camper
  • Carr
  • Faison
  • Farmer
  • Gant
  • Garrett
  • Haston
  • Hawk
  • Helton
  • Hodges
  • Lamar
  • Lamberth
  • Littleton
  • Lynn
  • Shaw
  • Whitson
  • Williams
  • Windle

Calendar & Rules

  • Chair: Zachary
  • Vice Chair: Russell
  • Beck
  • Camper
  • Curcio
  • Darby
  • Faison
  • Halford
  • Hazlewood
  • Howell
  • Jernigan
  • Keisling
  • Kumar
  • McKenzie
  • Mitchell
  • Lamberth
  • Marsh
  • Reedy
  • Terry
  • Warner
  • Weaver

Robinson attends special session despite federal fraud conviction

Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis), center in yellow, hears from Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis), right, on the Senate floor in Nashville on Oct. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) surprised observers by attending the first day of a special legislative session despite her recent conviction on federal wire fraud charges.

Robinson’s attorneys have asked the judge to throw out the verdict or order a new trial, but no decision has yet been made on that front. Republican leaders had hoped Robinson would sit out the special session on Ford incentives and the one expected to follow on COVID-19 mandates. The question will be whether the GOP now decides to being ouster procedures.

Robinson isn’t scheduled to be sentenced until just before the regular session begins in January.

Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) attends a special session Nashville on Oct. 18, 2021, despite her recent conviction on federal fraud charges. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

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.

Price tag for Ford megasite deal hits $884M

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at Ford’s announcement it will build an electric vehicle and battery plant at the Memphis Regional Megasite on Sept. 28, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

When lawmakers return into special session next week to take up an incentive package for Ford’s Blue Oval City at the Memphis Regional Megasite, they might be surprised the price tag has now reached $884 million.

Gov. Bill Lee’s administration had already disclosed the $500 million grant it had agreed to provide to Ford and battery maker SK Innovation. But as first unearthed by Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Andy Sher, the legislation appropriates state funds for three further items.

Here’s the breakdown:

— State grant to Ford Motor Co. or its affiliates: $500 million.

— Road work: $200 million.

— Building, demolition, and related work on site: $138.2 million.

— Construction of Tennessee College of Applied Technology at the site: $40 million.

— Consulting and legal services: $5 million.

— Establishment of a new Megasite Authority of West Tenenssee: $675,000.

Just like any other major investor, Ford and SK Innovation will also qualify for statutory job tax credits worth $4,500 for each new job created. The Haywood County location also qualifies for an enhanced credit of an additional $4,500 for five years. Or the company can choose the “super tax credit,” of between $4,500 and $5,000 per position (depending on wage level) for up to 20 years.

The enhancement and super tax credit can’t be used together, so the Blue Oval City project will have to decide whether to go for the large per-employee credit for a shorter amount of time, or the lesser amount for longer.

The full projected employment level of 5,800 workers times $4,500 is $26 million. At the enhanced level, the total credit would balloon to $52 million against the projects franchise and excise tax obligations.

Tennessee Business Roundtable opposes efforts to ban companies’ mask or vaccine mandates

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

The Tennessee Business Roundtable says it opposes efforts to either require or prohibit company COVID-19 rules.

“The Tennessee Business Roundtable opposes federal or state laws interfering with an employer’s management decisions concerning COVID vaccinations or mask mandates,” according to a policy decision adopted Friday morning. “Employers should be free to run their businesses without unnecessary government interference.”

The statement comes as some Republicans have called for emulating Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in trying to ban companies from requiring customers or employees wear masks or be vaccinated. Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) this week denounced those who support businesses’ authority to decide such matters themselves as “medical Nazis.”

A special session penciled in for Oct. 27 could address the issue.

The state group’s position appears to be at least partially at odds with its national counterpart, which includes the chief executives of some of the country’s and Tennessee’s largest employers like Amazon, Home Depot, and Walmart. The national Business Roundtable has voiced support for President Joe Biden’s vaccination requirement for companies with more than 100 employees.

New TNJ edition alert: Ford incentive deal gets scant attention amid furor over COVID-19 mandates

The 6 1/2-square-mile Memphis Regional Megasite.

The new print edition of The Tenenssee Journal is out. Here’s what we covered this week:

— Ford session near, but still no official call on COVID-19 mandates.
— Robinson faces Senate removal following conviction in fraud trial (with cameos from John Ford, Tommy Burnett, and Ed Gillock).
— Cue the waterworks: State releases plan for spending federal funds on water, sewer projects.
— Obituary: Jim Coley, social studies teacher who spent 14 years as lawmaker.

Also: Mick Jagger on a pedal tavern, big school districts and teachers’ union frozen out of BEP review, Randy Boyd apologizes for Mark Pody fundraiser, and Steve Cohen makes an endorsement in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

As always, access your copy of the TNJ here or subscribe here.

House GOP member takes aim at ‘medical Nazis’ in General Assembly

Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) attends a meeting at the legislative office building in Nashville on Dec. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Bruce Griffey, who is certainly not averse to courting controversy, is at it again. This time, the Paris Republican is taking aim at what he calls “medical Nazis” in the General Assembly who support companies’ authority to require employees or customers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“This is a threat by the financial elite against the poor’s ability to support their families!” Griffey writes in an email sent to all House members, nine Republican state senators, and Gov. Bill Lee.

Griffey wants lawmakers to emulate Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in barring private businesses from imposing vaccine mandates. Supporters to curbing anti-coronavirus measures are trying to gather the requisite two-thirds of signatures of House and Senate members to call themselves into a special session over the issue after the governor declined to get invovled. It remains to be seen whether Griffey’s wild talk will help or hurt that effort.

“I sincerely believe history (and Tennessee voters) will not be kind (and will have harsh ridicule) for those in favor of vaccine mandates,” Griffey writes in the email. “I am sure Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and CCP President Xi Jinping and other notable oppressors in history are smiling with glee!”

Here’s the text of the Griffey email:

In case anyone has not heard, Gov Abbott in TX has banned all vaccine mandates in Texas per his EO.  The Texas Legislature will take up the issue in a special session. 

I’m not against vaccines, especially for older Tennesseans, those at greater risks due to personal health conditions, or anyone that voluntarily wants to take the vaccine.  But, I am vehemently opposed to vaccine mandates by government, Employers or business owners in Tennessee.  I am also very frustrated that we, today, apparently have a number of “medical Nazis” in the TN House and Senate that think it’s ok for some Tennesseans, (those with financial power via their business ownership or employment of other Tennesseans), to discriminate against fellow (powerless) Tennesseans by requiring vaccines by threatening them with the loss of their job and/or ability to conduct business.  This is a threat by the financial elite against the poor‘s ability to support their families!   This is unacceptable in my opinion.  This is something I would never believe I would see in America.  

I sincerely believe history (and Tennessee voters) will not be kind (and will have harsh ridicule) for those in favor of vaccine mandates.  I can only imagine what our Founding Fathers would think of us.  At the same time, I am sure Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and CCP President Xi Jinping and other notable oppressors in history are smiling with glee!  I urge you all to Please stop and think!

Forcing vaccines via mandates has the opposite effect on free people in my assessment. We have a responsibility to protect the freedoms of Tennesseans to make their own health decisions. If we give Tennesseans a choice and educate them about the effectiveness of the vaccine to prevent severe outcomes and death for those at greatest risk, we will see better participation.  

It is undeniable that Covid typically has a survival rate of 99% and much greater for younger Tennesseans without underlying health conditions!!!! 99% PLUS!!!!   Moreover, vaccines DO NOT stop the spread of the virus!!!! Furthermore, these silly cloth masks are a joke (in my opinion) and the science does not support their use!  N95 masks work. 

Why in the world should we allow certain Tennesseans in power to discriminate against fellow powerless Tennesseans who do not share their political view?  Biden, his administration, and oppressive Liberals love this crap!  Conservatives hate it!

If you want the vax- get it!  If you don’t – don’t get it!  It should be the personal decision of every Tennessean, and the parents of Tennessee children – not the politically biased/charged TN Dept of Health seeking to circumvent the wishes of Tennessee parents via some informed minor doctrine.   There are also other therapies for treatment of the virus other than the vaccine – some more effective than others.  Corporate media intentionally fails to report on the successes other countries are seeing in their fight against COVID with the use of other therapies such as ivermectin in India and Africa.  Natural immunity is far better than the vaccine immunity.  These alternatives are being ignored.

I hope a vast majority of you will join me and others in the Special Session and show Leadership like TX Governor Greg Abbott and stand up for the freedoms of Tennesseans we swore an oath to protect.

And to those members that fraudulently and intentionally ignore the distinction between personal health choices and decisions that end the life of another human being, I will pray for you and hope that one day you will realize your grave error in judgement and promotion of the killing of innocent human beings.  May God forgive you for your ignorance.  History will not be kind to you.  Hitler didn’t fair well did he?

From: A Conservative GOP Male, 

Bruce I. Griffey, Esq.

State Representative District 75

Sexton threatens abstentions on Ford deal if there is no second session on COVID-19 mandates

Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) speaks to colleagues at a House Republican Caucus on July 24, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Republicans may sit on their hands rather than vote for a $500 million incentive package for Ford’s massive investment in West Tennessee if there isn’t going to be another special session on COVID-19 mandates, Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said Friday.

“If there wasn’t a special session, you’d have members who vote against [the Ford deal] in the House,” Sexton told WWTN-FM. “Instead of getting the 90-plus votes that is like everyone’s in unison with the decision and wanting Ford, you’d be in the 70s. It would still pass, but is that really the message you want to send to the biggest investment in Tennessee history?”

Gov. Bill Lee has called a special session for the week of Oct. 18 to address issues related to the Ford deal. He extended his executive order allowing parents to opt their school children out of mask mandates on Thursday and said he wants to fight against federal rulings and orders about the issue in court rather than in the General Assembly.

That’s not good enough for some GOP lawmakers.

“You just have members who are like, If I’m in East Tennessee, and it’s great that we landed that in West Tennessee, but I’ve got families and parents over here and who need help and we’re not doing anything to help them. And why can’t we?” Sexton said.

“Members at that point may choose to vote for it anyway or they may choose to say I may not vote no, but I’m not going to vote yes,” he said.

One issue Sexton said lawmakers may want to take up is whether businesses should be subject to lawsuits from workers they require to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Currently they have absolute immunity if an employee has a reaction to that vaccine,” Sexton said. “So, I think it’s important for us to go in and take a look and say if you do a mandate on your employees then you shouldn’t have the immunity to where they don’t have any repercussions if that happens.”

The business community is likely to take a dim view of lifting liability protections enacted amid the pandemic.

Sexton and Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) issued a joint statement on Friday:

The Ford megasite deal is transformational for Tennessee, and we look forward to working with Gov. Lee to finalize this project as part of his special session call for Ford Motor Company. At the same time, we have heard from many Tennesseans seeking relief from burdensome Covid-19 mandates being imposed upon them. We are working together per our state constitution to call an additional special session upon the completion of the megasite session to address issues surrounding Covid -19.”