Local lawmakers discuss reopening economy

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Local lawmakers said getting the economy back on track is necessary for our local governments and businesses.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Monday he will allow his “Safer at Home” order to expire April 30th and most businesses can reopen May 1st.

“For the good of our state, social distancing must continue but our economic shutdown cannot,” said Gov. Lee. “While we continue to emphasize social distancing for Tennesseans, I will not extend the safer at home order past April 30th.”

Lee’s announcement comes after calls from protesters and many state lawmakers for him to reopen the economy.

“There’s no perfect decision to reopening the economy in Tennessee,” said Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville.

Rep. Hawk told News Channel 11 it is simply to soon to tell whether it is too early or too late to reopen the economy.

“The virus is not going to be gone, so we’re going to have to figure out how we deal with the virus going forward,” he said, “knowing that we don’t have a vaccine right now.”

Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City said we need to bring business back online as quickly and safely as possible.

“You can say you are going to open business,” said Crowe, “but if people are afraid to go to work, they’re not going to go to work, so that’s why you have to have that critical balance there to make it work.”

Crowe said he has worked on a health policy manual with the president of Borla Industries on how to safely conduct business practices in accordance with CDC guidelines. He said that policy has been sent to Governor Lee.

“It’s a great road map, I guess a blueprint that you might say,” said Sen. Crowe, “to keep Tennessee business working.”

Cover page of the Borla Industries health policy manual that was put together with the help of Sen. Crowe. Any business that would like access to the health policy manual can call Crowe’s Nashville office at (615) 741-2468.

These lawmakers also agree going forward, there is a lot to be considered.

“It is a balance of health and safety, constitutional rights, the needs our citizens the needs of our small business owners, it really is all of the above lifted into one thing,” said Rep. Timothy Hill of Blountville.

Hill said as the economy begins to reopen, safety is still important.

“We want normal daily lives,” he said, “we want that, but we need to be incredibly careful in relying on science and kind of just seeing where it goes from here.”

If not by the June-session, Hill said he thinks lawmakers could see a flurry of bills he likes to call, “guard rail bills,” by next year’s legislative session. He also said he thinks there will be a tremendous amount of discussion in the House Commerce Committee, which Hill serves as chair.

Rep. Hill said going forward, questions need to raised about constitutional liberties, and what can and cannot be done in a state of emergency.

Sen. Crowe said any business that would like access to the health policy manual can call his office in Nashville for a copy. The number is (615) 741-2468.

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