KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday he plans to sign legislation passed during a recent special session which would limit the abilities of most local entities and businesses to institute COVID-19 safeguards and exclude several industries from federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
Lee told reporters Wednesday in Nashville he won’t sign the legislation as is but would work with lawmakers to address what he called “a few technical issues.” Lee’s office previously said the Ford Motor Co. and other manufacturers had expressed concerns with several of the proposals being discussed during the special session.
Lawmakers agreed to allow some industries to enforce vaccine mandates, while limiting other industries from implementing a requirement. The Associated Press reported exceptions include health care facilities and businesses like entertainment venues as long as they require either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
Businesses reliant on federal money could also apply to the state to be exempt from the vaccine mandate ban.
Government entities such as public schools would be prohibited from implementing mask mandates, according to the Associated Press. Those entities would only be allowed to require masks if they lived in a county with a rolling average 14-day COVID-19 infection rate of at least 1,000 per 100,000 residents, a threshold not met in Tennessee over the past two years.
Under the legislation, private schools could implement mask mandates. Exemptions include state and local jails and airports.
Other bills passed during the special session include limiting the state’s six independent county health boards from issuing their own preventative health measures during a pandemic, allowing local political parties to nominate candidates for previously nonpartisan school board elections, shortening the maximum length of a state of emergency issued by a governor from 60 to 45 days, and a bill that would allow the attorney general’s office to petition a court to replace district attorneys who “peremptorily and categorically” refuse to prosecute certain laws such as Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk who said his office will no longer prosecute individuals found with small quantities of marijuana.
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