NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WKRN) – Major cities across the state of Tennessee are trying to figure out how to respond to new COVID laws passed in a special session this weekend.
The GOP qualified majority has targeted leading independent health councils to prevent them from implementing COVID mitigation strategies.
If signed by Gov. Bill Lee, the state’s 6 independent health boards could have their authority to respond to covid-19 restricted. This includes Davidson, Shelby, Knox, Hamilton, Madison and Sullivan counties.
“The idea of turning off local control over how to manage the disease is crazy. It’s dangerous, ”said Bob Mendes, Metro At-Large board member.
State health commissioner Dr Lisa Piercey is said to be the sole decision maker on quarantine guidelines for when a business or school should temporarily close.
“For the history of the United States and the history of Tennessee, there has been local control of the disease,” continued Mendes, “Here in Nashville in the 1800s, there were annual outbreaks of malaria every year. summer, and the city took care of it locally, control, the local authority took care of it.
Mendes sent a letter to Nashville Mayor John Cooper signed by the majority of council asking for clarification of the laws passed.
It reads in part: “Forcing a new set of rules and excessive mandates in Nashville is unfair and perhaps illegal.” “
Only Shelby, Davidson, Knox, Hamilton, Sullivan and Madison counties would be covered by the new law.
“It will definitely make things more difficult – I read it that the mayor will not have the power to issue decrees on epidemics. We’ll have to rely on the governor who doesn’t make me hot and fuzzy, ”Mendes said.
The governor has not decided whether he will sign or veto the proposed laws, although he may allow them to go into effect without his signature after 10 days.
“The state legislature moved so quickly last week and, frankly, held so many closed-door meetings that the first challenge is figuring out what exactly they happened,” Mendes said. “We know their intention was to limit Metro’s power, and really, we want to find out the different ways we’re going to be impacted.”
Mayor Cooper’s office responded to the letter in a statement:
We share the concerns of council members regarding recent state legislation. Metro’s legal department had already begun to understand how the legislation affects Nashville and Metro’s public health department.
Ginger Hausser, Mayor Cooper’s senior adviser on intergovernmental affairs, briefed Metro department heads on the general impact of the COVID special session on Monday, November 1, 2021.
She will provide a high-level overview to the Executive Committee of the Metro Council during their meeting this Wednesday, November 3 at 5:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber.
This presentation will be recorded and placed on the Metro Council YouTube channel.