Tennessee special session to tackle COVID-19 mandates this week

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 5:50 AM EDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee lawmakers are heading into another special session this week, this time, with a focus on COVID-19 mandates.

The Tennessee General Assembly begins its next special session Wednesday. It’s the third special session this year.

Two bills have been filed so far, both authored by Republican State Rep. Scott Cepicky.

One of the bills would make private employers liable for COVID-19 vaccine side effects. Workers would receive workers’ compensation if they experience a side effect.

The bill classifies side effects as injuries and would allow workers required to get the vaccine private employers to receive workers’ compensation.

Employees would have 30 days after experiencing a vaccine side effect to provide written notice to their employer.

Democrats like State Sen. Raumesh Akbari oppose the special session.

“Quite frankly this other special session is unnecessary,” she said. “They’re going to do some things with health boards, I think requiring state permission for our local health boards to act, some things about COVID vaccines and employers.”

The other bill would make local school board elections partisan. Candidates would be allowed to identify as a member of a political party.

Opponents worry it will lead to more political division.

Supporters say it’s a way to provide voters with more information about the candidates.

Unlike the other two special sessions this year, which were called by Gov. Bill Lee, this one was called by the general assembly itself.

Action News 5 political analyst Michael Nelson says Republicans had been pushing Lee to call a special session to address mask mandates in schools.

Instead, the governor issued an executive order, allowing parents to opt-out.

Federal courts have since blocked the governor’s executive order, including in Shelby County.

“Republicans want to see it done as a matter of law,” said Nelson. “An executive order is one thing, easier to challenge in the courts, as has happened. These legislators want to make it a matter of actual law that you can’t be required to wear a mask in most settings.”

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