NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Lawmakers are returning to Nashville Wednesday to take up COVID-19 related restrictions that could stretch from businesses to schools.
It was a rare move for the General Assembly to call themselves into a special session with a broad scope to deal with COVID issues. The final straw that forced the session to push back against pandemic mandates was the support of Lt. Governor Randy McNally.
“A lot of instances that were brought to our attention about people that were being forced out of jobs that they have held for a number of years, there’s a lot of problems with kids who were required to wear masks,” McNally said.
McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton will navigate proposed COVID business and education restrictions.
“What we’re seeing is just a lot of the hypocrisy of the Republican party coming to light on a grand scale,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville). “They’re taking direct aim at business owners across the state of Tennessee, they’re taking direct aim at the at-will employment laws in Tennessee, they’re taking direct aim at the safety of our public education system.”
Among the bills filed, how county health leaders are appointed would change, prohibiting businesses from requiring vaccinations or vaccine status from workers or patrons to making businesses responsible for adverse reactions to the vaccine.
“We all support the freedom of business to be able to do that, but at the same time, there comes a time when you have a monopoly on decisions where folks have absolutely no options left and I join my speakers in saying we should at least have that conversation,” said Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland).
Other bills filed would ban mask mandates in schools, something already deemed unlawful by federal judges in three counties, ban schools from conducting COVID contact tracing, and allow school board races to be partisan.
“They want to put on this dog and pony show and charge Tennessee taxpayers to do it, and they’re going to throw out every conspiracy theory they can, they’re going to throw out every no factual tidbit of political jargon that they can and they’re going to put it in the form of legislation and make us and Tennessee taxpayers suffer the consequences,” Clemmons said.
The cost of the three-day special session averages over $130,000.