Lawmakers urge governor to veto anti-public health bills stripping rights from local governments, private businesses

In a letter, Democrats say four bills ‘threaten the rights’ of Tennesseans

NASHVILLE — More than two dozen lawmakers are urging Gov. Bill Lee to veto the most egregious anti-public health bills passed by Republicans in the most recent extraordinary session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

After just two days of debate, Republicans in the legislature passed a handful of bills placing major limitations on private businesses, local governments and public schools to implement health measures.

“Governor, we should be a state that respects the role and authority of local governments and a state that promotes public health and protects the rights of those saving lives,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to the governor.

“In addition to undermining the health of our citizens, these extreme measures irresponsibly threaten the rights of voters, cities, counties, schools and private organizations to sensibly govern themselves,” they said.

Lawmakers urged Gov. Lee to veto four bills in total:

  • Senate Bill 9014,
  • House Bill 9076,
  • Senate Bill 9008, and
  • House Bill 9072

Senate Bill 9014, referred to as the “big bill,” by its sponsors included a variety of government mandates targeting vaccine and mask requirements. Business groups opposed the measure saying it weakened their ability to set health policy to keep their employees and customers safe.

Another point of contention: the letter signers say the legislation unnecessarily jeopardizes billions worth of federal grant funding from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan as well as the legal operating authority of Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which oversees workplace safety in the state.

In addition to the GOP bills that sabotage public health measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19, the majority party passed two other bills worthy of a veto, lawmakers say.

With Senate Bill 9008, Republicans took aim at Nashville’s district attorney, who publicly said his office would no longer commit time and resources to prosecuting simple possession of marijuana charges.

With House Bill 9072, Republicans approved a measure that will insert partisan politics into local school board elections. Under the bill, county parties can call for a primary election in school board races.

The full letter is included below:

Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly