Nashville leaders push back on COVID-19 bills

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Posted at 4:31 PM, Nov 04, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — So, who's really in charge of Nashville?

State lawmakers recently passed laws dictating what the city can do on key issues with regard to COVID-19. But the Davidson County district attorney may not enforce those laws, and some city leaders have said they are considering options to push back.

Suffice to say — a storm is brewing. The laws do appear to be written very much with Nashville in mind. They are not yet officially on the books, but Nashville city leaders are preparing for if and when he does.

"They're the big bad boys on the hill and they get to tell us what to do, but we can't stop trying to do our best for Nashville," said Metro Councilman at-large Bob Mendes.

Read more: Passed in the middle of the night, here's what these COVID bills mean

Mendes added that city leaders want to make their own decisions when it comes to COVID-19 and public safety. But the new legislation could prevent things like mask mandates.

"It reads like they worked it out at night over pizza. Definitely some holes at what they drafted," he said.

To that end, Mendes sent a letter — signed by 24 council members — to the mayor saying, "these laws are unprecedented and dangerous." The letter also asks that Metro legal scrutinize the legislation for gray areas.

"Thankfully they are not always great about writing clear laws," Mendes said.

 A key question is how will these new laws be enforced, for instance, regarding masks.

"I'm never going to prosecute a teacher or a school administrator or school board member for keeping our children safe," said Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk.

District attorneys like Funk are included in the legislation. If Funk, for instance, fails to prosecute for a school that violates the prohibition on masks, he could be replaced by an outside district attorney. But Funk doesn't see such a case ever coming to his office.

"I cannot imagine a Metro police officer going to Whites Creek High School to arrest a school teacher or principal because they had a mask mandate," Funk said.

Funk says he will continue to make his own decisions as D.A. on who his office prosecutes and why.

Read more: The legislature checked Nashville DA Glenn Funk's authority. This is how he feels about it.

The question is: How exactly will the state lawmakers respond if they feel the laws are ignored?

The governor is expected to act on the new legislation by this time next week. Mendes says it's certainly possible any dispute with the state could end up in court.