NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee signed the special session's omnibus bill on Friday, which will change how Tennessee responds to COVID-19.
The law will have a major impact on the ability of schools, businesses and local health boards to mandate masks or vaccines. Leaders in the state legislature wanted to challenge potential federal government mandates.
"We had a federal government who required businesses against their will who required employees against their will, to make a personal health decision which is an egregious overreach by the federal government,” Lee said.
Gov. Lee only voiced one concern. He wants the law to allow for hospital visits for COVID-19 patients in end-of-life care.
Another big impact is on businesses — many private ones will not be able to require vaccines. Lee defended the move to have businesses included in the bill but is being criticized by some state lawmakers.
"What governor lee has done, he's put businesses over the health of our constituents, over the health of our children, because he's showed where his priority is, he's willing to bend for businesses, but he's not willing to put more money in education or healthcare for Tennesseans,” said Rep. Vincent Dixie (D — Nashville).
The governor signed five other bills that came out of the state's third special session, however, one bill became law without his signature. House Bill 9076, a piece of legislation regarding local departments of health, went unsigned by Gov. Lee.
"I have spoken with Lt. Gov. McNally and Speaker Sexton and am not signing this bill as it requires significant updates to account for the non-pandemic functions of public health departments," said Gov. Lee. "We are committed to working together to address these changes during the regular session."
Lee sent Sexton a letter explaining his concerns about the bill. Click here to read it.
*Kyle Horan contributed to this story.