NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Bill Lee said he and the Tennessee General Assembly would push back on the federal government vaccine mandate.
Back in September, President Joe Biden created a plan where the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would require all employers of 100 or more employees to get their staff vaccinated or conduct weekly COVID-19 testing. Private businesses requiring a vaccine must also provide accommodations for qualified religious and medical exemptions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"The vaccine — we will continue to make it widely available," Lee said. "We think it should be a choice. The Biden admin has weaponized by making it a mandate. The president promised to stay out of mandates. For regular Tennesseans, it's not about politics. It's about a paycheck. I am preparing to do so in court. It's not the vaccine. It's the mandate. We are making tremendous strides in the treatment and prevention of the virus."
Both the House and Senate will meet for an additional special session next week on Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. to discuss legislation related to vaccines, masks and other COVID-19-related restrictions. Special sessions cost taxpayers $30,750 each day. Each round trip for all lawmakers costs $15,474 in mileage. There is no mandated days for how long a special session must last, according to Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Administration. Previously, state Sen. Dawn White (R – Murfreesboro) wrote a letter to the lieutenant governor, asking for a special session for this exact reason.
Before the special session, Lee made an opt-out provision for schools when it comes to mask mandates, which is being challenged in federal court. Lee said he would take the federal vaccine mandate to court if it necessitated that action.
"A one size fits all mandate is the wrong approach," Lee said. "My strategy has been a limited government approach. Executive orders have been getting government out of the way. I think a limited government approach is the right way to do it. COVID is not an excuse to expand the size of government."