Lawmakers await Governor’s answer on Special Session request on banning mask mandates in Tennessee schools

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Lawmakers are reacting to a potential Special Session to ban masks mandates and to ‘curtail the overreach’ local health boards authorities to respond to the pandemic.

The pressure put on by Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton calls on the Governor to call a Special Session to stop local school boards from making mask mandates.

Thursday, Governor Bill Lee avoided questions regarding whether he will be in favor of a special session banning mask mandates in schools as the delta COVID-19 variant soar. Earlier this week he said ‘nothing’s off the table.’

As of Wednesday, there are 49 positive pediatric cases in Tennessee hospitals.

State Capitol newsroom reporter Gerald Harris asked Tennessee House of Representatives for the 3rd district, “Representative do you think a special session should be called to ban mask?”

Republican Rep. Scotty Campbell responded, “I think that individuals should have the right to make the decisions of what they want and do not want to be on their face or in their bloodstreams.”

Democrats have a different take. Many have said to let local school boards make the decisions for what’s best for them.

“I just wish that cooler heads will prevail, and if we’ve had over 16 months to prepare our children in a safe environment for them to go back into we’ve woefully failed that,” Rep. Vincent Dixie, a Nashville Democrat said.

Even though Speaker Sexton asked all 73 Republican house members to sign the request for a Special Session, the request is facing some questions in the Senate.

“Well, that’s just up in the air right now. We’re all trying to deliberate and take our time and see what the right thing to do here is and listen to both sides of it,” Sen. Rusty Crowe, a Johnson City Republican said.

Legislative Democrats said experts should be able to lead.

“We all do agree that the best way a child could learn is in the classroom, no buts about it — I totally agree with that. But, once we get them back in there, can we keep them there?” Dixie questioned.

Dixie, the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, said leadership is desperately needed, and masks are the safest option for the unvaccinated.

“What is the common sense? What’s the right thing to do for our kids? How are we going to protect them?” Dixie asked. “And as government officials, our job is to make sure they have a safe healthy environment to learn in.”

Lt. Governor Randy Mcnally is not advocating for a Special Session to ban masks. The Oak Ridge Republican said he believes the decisions on masks in schools are best made locally, but indicated he will work with state leadership if a Special Session is called.

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