Tenn. lawmakers head to Nashville for special-called session addressing COVID-19

Local Coronavirus Coverage

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) State lawmakers will head to Nashville on Monday, August 10 as Governor Bill Lee has called for a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly. This is primarily in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two major bills will be discussed in regards to the coronavirus, one dealing with tele-health and the other, liability protections for Tennessee businesses.

Lawmakers hope to come to an agreement on how to expand tele-health access for people across the state. State Representative David Hawk says this has been talked about for years, but the pandemic has outlined the importance now more than ever to make virtual health appointments widely available.

“What we are trying to do is expand tele-health and what insurance could and would cover for folks who are not able to get into a doctor physically. The legislation in a nutshell is going to allow folks to remotely see a physician instead of having to go into a physicians office,” said Rep. Hawk.

The concern is protecting patients from COVID-19 exposure, and also accessibility to doctors in this unprecedented time.

The general assembly will also discuss enacting liability protections for Tennessee businesses and entities.

This would protect them from getting sued for most actions related to COVID-19 response, in what lawmakers have called “frivolous lawsuits.”

This is in relation to small businesses, schools, churches and hospitals who might be sued by individuals who disgaree with their actions, or inactions, amid the pandemic. Lawmakers are saying liability protections need to be in place to protect them from these lawsuits that could hinder business operations.

Rep. Hawk supports an exception in certain cases.

“The issue before us is to limit liability on those businesses as well as school systems and other entities, unless there is some blatant negligence carried out.”

Representative Bud Hulsey says he supports the bill, but wants even more protections for businesses. He has had concerns since the first drafting of the legislation.

“If they are sued under the existing bill that the administration wants, they very well may not have to pay anything at the end of the suit, but they are gonna have to cough up all their savings to pay for a defense. I don’t like that at all. I’d like to have a bill where they can’t be sued at all,” said Hulsey.

Another issue set to come before the general assembly Monday has nothing to do with COVID-19, but rather protesting.

Lawmakers will look into creating harsher punishments for protesters who damage property, engage in vandalism, or are unlawfully camping overnight, especially on or near state-capitol grounds.

Both Rep. Hulsey and Rep. Hawk said this is in response to the District Attorney in Nashville not prosecuting protesters for the crimes aforementioned.

The Tennessee General Assembly will convene Monday night at 5 p.m. EST, 4 p.m. CST in Nashville.

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