Members of the Tennessee House of Representatives mill about in House Chambers. (Photo: John Partipilo)
A special session of the General Assembly to deal with COVID-19 issues could start Oct. 27 and run several days.
House Republicans received a text message from leadership Wednesday saying the special session is “expected” to begin on that day.
Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville also posted a tweet Wednesday saying the session on COVID-19 matters is “expected” to begin Wednesday, Oct. 27 and run through the following week, with the Legislature even meeting Friday, Oct. 29.
Gov. Bill Lee already has called a special session for Oct. 18 when the Legislature will consider a $500 million incentive package for the Ford-SK Innovation campus where Ford electric trucks and batteries are to be produced at the Memphis Regional Megasite. The companies are investing $5.6 billion in a campus called Blue Oval City where some 5,800 people would be employed.
Some Republican legislators, though, have been pushing for weeks to hold a COVID-19-related special session. Lee has shown no inclination to make an additional call.
But Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who previously opposed a special session, switched his position and House Speaker Cameron Sexton stayed the course in support of a special session to deal with COVID-19 matters. McNally said last week that since lawmakers will be coming to Nashville for a session Oct. 18, they could stay an extra week for a COVID-19 session.
With this new date, though, lawmakers would have a week of down time.
If the governor declines to call the General Assembly together for such a session, the House and Senate would have to approve the gathering with a two-thirds vote in both chambers, 22 in the Senate and 66 in the House. Both of those are attainable with Republican supermajorities, but not all Republicans are enthused with a special session to deal with COVID-19 issues.
In fact, some Republicans are leery of legislation dealing with businesses and vaccines. While most GOP lawmakers have expressed opposition to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees, some don’t think the state should pass legislation prohibiting companies from requiring vaccines either.
That very topic is likely to dominate the debate once a COVID-19 special session is firmed up and called by the speakers of both chambers.
Other matters likely to see legislation are school mask mandates, independent health departments in urban counties and the governor’s powers during a state of emergency.
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