Tennessee Republicans lead charge against forced government discrimination in Covid-19 special session
Legislation protects against vaccine, masks mandates and sets health care standards
The House and Senate chambers concluded a third extraordinary session of the 112th General Assembly Oct. 30, passing a comprehensive legislative package that restores individual rights of Tennesseans by protecting against harmful federal mandates.
The extraordinary special session covered a number of issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, including President Joe Biden’s unconstitutional plan to deny Americans their right to make personal health decisions for themselves by forcing millions of private-sector employees to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
The General Assembly passed seven key pieces of legislation:
Vaccines: House Bill 9077 prohibits an individual, private business, government entity or school from mandating or compelling a person to show proof of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Mask mandates for the general public: House Bill 9077 sets strict standards for how and when a publicly-funded private business or local or state government entity declares a mask mandate for the general public. It allows for a mask mandate in severe conditions when the governor has declared a state of emergency for Covid-19.
Mask mandates in schools: House Bill 9077 prohibits a public school or school board from requiring a student or person to wear a face mask on school property unless certain severe conditions are met.
Mature Minor Doctrine: House Bill 9077 ensures health care providers get written consent from a legal guardian before vaccinating a child against the Covid-19 virus.
Unemployment benefits As amended, House Bill 9077 specifies that a person who was terminated or left their job because they failed or refused a Covid-19 vaccine is eligible for unemployment benefits.
Covid-19 Liability: Extends liability protections in the Tennessee Covid-19 Recovery Act to July 1, 2022. This provides protection to health care professionals and facilities, businesses, non-profits, religious organizations, public institutions of higher learning, individuals, and other legal entities from claims arising from Covid-19 unless there is clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence or willful misconduct.
Heath care standards of practice:
- Quarantine – Establishes the commissioner of health as the sole authority to determine quarantine guidelines.
- Monoclonal Antibodies – No government agency may prioritize monoclonal antibodies to any group. Health care providers must exercise independent professional judgment when determining whether to recommend, prescribe, offer or administer monoclonal antibodies to any patient they believe needs it.
- End-of-life care – Hospitals may not restrict patients from having at least one close family member present during their stay as long as the family member tests negative for Covid-19 and is not exhibiting symptoms of the virus or other communicable disease. The amendment aims to prevent patients from dying alone.
Legislation adds transparency to school board races
In an effort to create more informed voting and transparency in local school board races, House Bill 9072 allows the election of local school board members to be partisan. This gives voters more information while potentially increasing participation and strengthening local accountability.
Attorney General may step in if local DAs refuse to prosecute
House Bill 9071 authorizes the state attorney general and reporter to petition the Tennessee Supreme Court to appoint a district attorney general pro tempore when a district attorney general refuses to prosecute charges of criminal offenses without regard to facts or circumstances.
Oversight of Tennessee Health Departments streamlined
Upon declaration of a pandemic, House Bill 9076 gives the governor exclusive declaration to direct all local health departments until the public health crisis has ended and the declaration for a state of emergency has expired. Currently, 89 of Tennessee’s 95 county health departments fall under the state’s authority. The state’s six independent county health boards include Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby and Sullivan. House Bill 9076 establishes uniform oversight over local boards of health in all of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
Creating greater efficiency for use of Covid-19 relief funds
House Bill 9073 authorizes banks in Tennessee holding public deposits to pledge cash as collateral for public deposits.
Limiting state of emergency orders
House Bill 9075 decreases the amount of time a state of emergency may continue under an executive order or proclamation issued by the governor from 60 days to 45 days.
Tennessee declares right to nullify unconstitutional mandates
House Joint Resolution 9005 declares the Tennessee General Assembly will nullify any attempt by the federal government to penalize citizens of the Volunteer State in efforts to enforce unconstitutional Covid-19 vaccinations, mandates or other Covid-related restrictions.
These bills now head to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature before becoming law.
The House and Senate chambers will convene for the second session of the 112th General Assembly on Tuesday, Jan. 11.
Jeremy Faison lives in Cosby and represents House District 11 which includes Cocke, and part of Jefferson and Greene counties. He can be reached at 615-741-6871.