Inside the Tennessee Senate chambers. (Photo: John Partipilo)
The Tennessee Senate plans to reconvene this afternoon to consider an omnibus package of bills severely restricting workplace COVID regulations, which have drawn sharp opposition from business and other interests across the state.
Among the most influential voices to weigh in against a portion of the package barring companies from issuing mask mandates is the Ford Motor Company, which was lured to Tennessee by nearly $900 million in incentives approved by the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this month.
The National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee Business Roundtable and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry also opposed much of the business-related legislation, because it puts them in the middle of a fight between the state and federal government.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said Friday afternoon legislative leaders are “massaging” the omnibus bill to satisfy Ford’s concerns before it returns for another vote, but what that ultimately will look like is not yet known.
The hiccup did not prevent the Senate from enacting a slate of other bills Friday that — barring unexpected developments — appear headed to certain passage. They include:
- HB9071/SB9008. The Senate voted 25-6 in favor of a measure that would allow the Tennessee Attorney General to petition a judge to appoint a temporary “pro tem” district attorney when a county district attorney refuses to prosecute certain state laws. The measure is a direct swipe at Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk, who has said he will not prosecute teachers for requiring masks
- HB9072/SB9009. By a 20-10 margin, the Senate voted in favor of a measure allowing counties to make school board races partisan, with a handful of Republicans voting ‘no’.
- HB9073/SB2010, a non-controversial banking measure passed 28-1 allowing banks — where counties and other government entities are depositing COVID relief funds — leeway in putting up the necessary collateral to take in high dollar deposits.
- HB9075/SB9012. The Senate voted 24-5 in favor of a measure reducing the timeline of a governor’s executive order from 60 days to 45 — a reflection of frustration by some TN Republicans over the sweeping emergency powers available to Gov. Bill Lee during the pandemic.
- HB9076/SB9013. The Senate voted 25-6 in favor of a measure that limits the powers of Tennessee’s six independent public health departments, consolidating authority with the state officials. The six departments in Tennessee’s biggest cities have consistently taken stronger COVID mitigation approaches.
- SJR9005, a resolution that calls on the legislature to give the Attorney General authority to take legal action against the federal government and its move to force companies with more than 100 employees to require COVID-19 vaccinations.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.