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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
House Bill 1871 (HB1871) sponsored by Representative Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport-District 2) and Senate Bill 1982 (SB1982) sponsored by Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald-District 28) which recognizes natural or acquired immunity to COVID-19 as being equal to getting vaccinated became Tennessee Law on Friday without Governor Bill Lee’s signature and takes effect immediately.
The law prohibits governmental entities, local education agencies, schools, and private businesses from adopting or enforcing laws, rules, or practices that fail to recognize acquired immunity as providing a level of immune protection that is at least as protective as a COVID-19 vaccine or treat individuals with acquired immunity differently than individuals who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
An individual’s immune system resistance to COVID-19 that is acquired naturally as the result of that individual’s prior infection with COVID-19 must be verified either by a letter from a licensed physician or be documented with a laboratory test showing antibody, memory cell, or T cell immunity.
Last month lobbyist Eric Mayo speaking on behalf of the governor told senators that Lee had concerns about “businesses being put in the situation where they aren’t able to make the decisions best for their business.”
As governor-elect at the end of 2019, Lee stepped down as chairman of Lee Company, his Franklin-based business that specializes in HVAC, electrical, and plumbing, among other services. While on the campaign trail, Lee promised to step away from his company so as to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest. His company holdings were placed into a blind trust and his transition team said he would no longer have communication with the company regarding business decisions.
A source reported to The Tennessee Conservative that when vaccines for COVID-19 became widely available in 2021, Lee Company made them optional for employees. Our source who was employed with Lee Company at the time opted not to receive the shot as he had already recovered from COVID-19. His hours were then markedly reduced forcing him to find other employment. The new legislation will hopefully end this kind of workplace discrimination going forward.
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Lee did sign a different COVID-19 health related law more than a month ago. HB1867, sponsored by Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville-District 14) and SB1823 sponsored by Jack Johnson (R-Franklin-District 23) was signed into law on March 11th, 2022. The law requires an employer with a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy to grant an exemption to the policy to any person who provides a medical reason supported by a statement from a licensed healthcare practitioner or a religious reason.
Lee has chosen not to veto any bills since taking office. The Republican supermajority in the Tennessee General Assembly could override him if he were to do so. Bills he does not sign become law but without his official stamp of approval.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.