Bill To Level Playing Field For Tennessee Small Businesses Heads To Lee’s Desk (updated April 8, 2021)

The Tennessee Legislature Has Discussed Many Policy Changes In Reaction To The Government’s Response To The COVID-19 Pandemic, Including How Restrictions Affected Small Businesses.  To That End, The General Assembly Has Unanimously Passed Legislation To Level The Playing Field For Small Businesses. 

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

Photo: Located along Main St. in Memphis, the iconic Arcade Restaurant is the oldest in Memphis.

Photo Credit: Brent Moore / CC

Update Published April 8, 2021

The House version of the bill, HB 0855 passed the House Chamber unanimously on Monday, April 5th. The House bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Published March 31, 2021

By Jon Styf [The Center Square contributor] –

Senate Bill 474, dubbed the Business Fairness Act, was approved by the House on Monday, 90-0. It allows a business, regardless of size, to remain open during health emergencies as long as it follows government-issued safety precautions and guidelines.

“Government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers,” Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, said during brief discussion about the bill on the House floor. “We’ve seen big-box retailers stay open while smaller businesses were operating at a 50% capacity or closed altogether.

They can follow any guidelines, state or local, that works best for them.”

The Senate approved the bill, 28-0, last week, and it now will head to the desk of Gov. Bill Lee.

The National Federation of Independent Business, the largest small business association in the U.S., was a leader in creating the legislation, which was supported by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and HospitalityTN, which represents the interests of Tennessee’s lodging, dining and tourism businesses.

“Hopefully, we’ll never have another situation like the one we’ve had with the coronavirus, but if we do, we need to make sure small businesses can survive,” NFIB State Director Jim Brown said in a statement.

Many lawmakers themselves, including Powers, are business owners who had to close during the pandemic.

While discussing the bill earlier this month in front of the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee, Rep. Eddie Mannis, R-Knoxville, noted the effect restrictions had on his business during the pandemic.

“This is great legislation,” Mannis said. “As a business owner who actually was impacted during that time, I lost 100% of my business during that time. You could go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and see these big-box stores, and I often stood there and wondered, ‘Is this really fair?’ and it’s not fair.”

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3 thoughts on “Bill To Level Playing Field For Tennessee Small Businesses Heads To Lee’s Desk (updated April 8, 2021)

  • March 31, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    We should not have had to close. Please give the businesses their life back and mine. With a recovery rate of 99.9%….there’s no reason to close everything. There’s no reason to wear masks (don’t work anyways) and stay apart. If people want to wear a mask and still do the social distancing, that’s their choice and I do believe most would respect that.

  • March 31, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    We need to let consumers decide if a business is successful and if they are following reasonable safety protocols in these type pandemics. Governments job is to keep us informed, not determine who closes and who does not. Consumers will make that decision based upon their spending and which businesses they support. Giving this power to government officials just invites abuse of power!!

  • July 1, 2021 at 7:30 pm

    I have always believed that better handwashing/sanitizing is a benefit, closing businesses randomly is ridiculous!
    I do believe that properly fitted N95 masks work and face shields help. The over the counter masks have little benefit and none if they are dirty or not properly worn.
    People need to stay home when sick and wear a face shield/N95 mask if immune compromised.


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