Tennessee House Speaker Sexton expects Nashville to comply with new bills

But city leaders still want control over COVID and public safety
Posted at 1:26 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 19:48:57-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's state against city, fighting for the authority of who is in charge.

Several Nashville city leaders object to new laws just passed in a special legislative session — including those prohibiting mask and vaccine mandates.

Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, is responding. He said legislators are watching and expect the laws to be followed. He further iterated the recent special session makes clear that no city — including Nashville — has the option anymore of issuing mask mandates on their own.

Still Metro city leaders want control when it comes to COVID-19 and public safety, resulting in a disconnect between the two bodies of power.

"We didn't think Metro had the authority — like passing these countywide mandates. They don't have the authority and we made sure they know in this bill they do not have the authority to do that," Sexton said.

He said it's all spelled out in the COVID-19 Omnibus Bill.

But Metro Councilman-at-large Bob Mendes is not so sure.

"They're the big bad boys on the hill and they get to tell us what to do, but we can't stop trying," Mendes said.

And that is what city leaders are doing. Some sent a letter to the mayor to look for gray areas or loopholes and saying "these laws are unprecedented and dangerous."

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

Speaker Sexton said that's a non-issue.

"What I will say for those in Metro government who thinks there are gray areas, we'll see what happens," Sexton said. "We'll be back in a couple of weeks. So we can take care of any of that if there is an issue."

The speaker also objects to Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk, who said he won't prosecute anyone for a mask mandate.

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

The speaker disagrees with that assessment. Speaker Sexton points out the new law does stipulate that DAs who chose not to enforce can now be temporarily replaced on a case by case basis and possibly face civil fines.

"What he's doing is preempting state law, and if he wants to do that, my suggestion is for him to run for state house or state senate. His job is to enforce not pick and chose the ones he does," Sexton said.

The legislation is still on Gov. Bill Lee's desk, where Lee has the option to pass it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.