NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton filed eight critical bills that could reach the floor before Republicans and Democrats during this week's special session.
Some legislators have filed some bills that are similar in nature to what Sexton wrote. All 78 will have first reading Tuesday night, followed by second reading on Wednesday morning. They will then go off to committees. Of the 78 bills filed for the special session, several mimic each other in wording and purpose.
Sexton explained the impetus of his some bills, while waving off the concern some businesses have over proposed legislation dealing with vaccine status.
"I haven't looked at all the bills that have been filed," Sexton said. "But we are working through legislation. Last week we passed the 'Texas model' on the House side, and I think what we will do is very similar to that. I don't think it meets the definition of what businesses are worried about."
Most recently in Texas, that state's lawmakers didn't follow along with Gov. Greg Abbott to not allow vaccine mandates for Texas entity's, including private businesses. Currently, an executive order banning all vaccine mandates has stayed in place.
Previously on Wednesday, Democrats have already responded to the slew of bills filed and to the special session itself.
"I think this is a manufactured crisis," House Minority Leader Karen Camper, D-Memphis, said. "I think we can deal with all of this — every bill he's filed — when we come back in January. "There's nothing overly urgent about them. I think we are wasting taxpayer dollars. It's a political agenda. This is a group of people — the speaker in particular — as long as I have known them, that businesses should be allowed to run their businesses the way that they want. And now to come back and what I see is the big hand of government — that they are totally against with their own principles and everything they say the believe in — is no longer valid. That is what this says to me."
Here's what Sexton wants to accomplish:
- Sexton wrote two bills that would effectively punish district attorney generals for not enforcing executive orders and rules in emergency proclamations. It would also require a pro tem district attorney to oversee the law that the DA refused to prosecute. In a separate bill, he would also like those DAs to incur a financial civil penalty for not doing enforcing orders. This could affect the likes of some DAs in Middle Tennessee. One recent example is Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk, who said in August he will not prosecute local school officials who violate Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order that requires school districts to allow parents to opt out of mask mandates. Cameron said prosecutors have discretion, but they didn't have the right to say they wouldn't abide by it.
- Like the bill Republican Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Maury County, filed, Sexton additionally filed another bill that would make school board races partisan. From the legislation's filing, push back started from school groups. Both the Tennessee School Board Association and the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents supports nonpartisan school races. Cameron said the bill was important to plenty of members in both the House and the Senate.
- Not filed by any other legislator, Sexton would like to add cash as a form of eligible collateral for purposes of the collateral required to be pledged to secure public deposits.
- A bill from Sexton will also affect the governor's powers. It would decrease the time of a state emergency may continue under an executive order or proclamation issued by the governor from 60 days to 45 days.
- One bill filed by Sexton would provide the governor power over the health department. That bill would also allow for county mayors to file order on the basis of health and safety, and would allow the health commissioner exclusive authority to quarantine persons and businesses for purposes of COVID-19.
- Additionally filed by other members, this Sexton bill would allow former employees of a business to receive unemployment because they refused a COVID-19 vaccination. Sexton said he and other members think this is the "right way to go."
Like other legislation put forth by Republican members, Sexton's bill would prohibit government or a private business to ask for proof of vaccination. It additionally prohibits employers from taking action against those who do not get the vaccine or failing to hire an unvaccinated person. It's unclear how this would be reconciled with federal legislation requiring large businesses to have vaccine mandates.
This is a developing story that NewsChannel 5 will update with comments from legislators.