Tennessee Legislature Criticizes Biden Overreach on Covid 19
This information is provided courtesy of 28th District State Sen. and Dr. Joey Hensley R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles and five other counties.
The Tennessee General Assembly adjourned the Third Extraordinary (Special) Session of the 2021 legislative year on Oct. 30 after tackling important issues regarding state and federal response to COVID-19.
Recently, we looked at comprehensive legislation addressing mask, vaccine and quarantine mandates.
In the second of this two-part series, we will look at other bills passed before adjournment, including a resolution calling on the Tennessee Attorney General to fight unconstitutional mandates from the federal government.
On Sept. 9, President Biden made an announcement regarding his executive order requiring COVID-19 vaccines for federal employees and contractors and instruction to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to likewise develop a rule applying the mandate to employers with more than 100 employees. On Nov. 4, OSHA issued those federal rules which are expected to affect more than 100 million Americans.
The resolution passed by our General Assembly during the Special Session asserts that “it is the right of the Tennessee General Assembly to enact such legislation as it deems necessary to nullify actions taken by the federal government regarding COVID-19 when those actions violate the United States Constitution.”
I am very pleased to report that the lawsuit has been filed by Tennessee and six other states contending that the mandate prohibits the rights of sovereign states.
In other action during the special session, the General Assembly passed legislation which allows the Tennessee Attorney General and Reporter (AG) to petition the court to appoint a district attorney pro tem where the elected district attorney general preemptively and categorically refuses to prosecute all instances of a criminal offense without regard to the facts and circumstances of the case.
The State Constitution already provides for the court to appoint a pro tem in such cases. Senate Bill 9008 allows the AG to have a role to better ensure the State Constitution and the laws of Tennessee are followed.
Unfortunately, Tennessee has seen cases where a local district attorney who disagrees with the merits of the law feels he or she has the authority to decide whether to execute their duties without regard to the facts.
This legislation aims to ensure that in these cases it is very clear that it is not up to a district attorney general to decide which laws are valid and which are not.
The General Assembly also voted during the Special Session to allow local political parties to call for primary elections for school board members to provide greater transparency regarding a candidate’s political philosophy.
Currently, partisan elections of school board members are prohibited by law. Senate Bill 9009 is permissive, leaving the decision to local party officials.
Most elected offices in Tennessee are primary-based partisan elections. Under Special Session legislation, school board members would be free to identify as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or any political party they may choose in the case the local party has petitioned for a primary election.
The General Assembly acted during the Special Session to bring more transparency and accountability to the process of the Governor issuing executive orders.
Senate Bill 9012 shortens the time a Governor’s executive order can be in effect from 60 to 45 days.
Under this legislation, if the Governor sees a need for an executive order to extend longer than 45 days, he/she can reexamine the order and reissue it. The change will require the Governor to more frequently justify why the order is needed.
Finally, legislation was passed before adjournment of the Special Session setting statewide standards for local health departments’ authority.
Upon declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the bill gives the governor exclusive jurisdiction to direct local health departments until he/she declares it no longer significantly impacts the state.
Senate Bill 9013 prohibits state and local health officials from superseding, vacating, or refusing to comply with the governor’s executive orders or directives.
Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville Tenn., 37243, by calling 615-741-3100, or calling toll free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100, or faxing 615-253-0231. His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald Tenn., N 38462. His telephone number is 931-796-2018, his cell phone is 931-212-8823, and E-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org