Photo Credit: Gov. Bill Lee / Facebook
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] & The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –
After almost 20 months of Tennessee being held in a State of Emergency, Governor Bill Lee has opted not to renew the order.
The State of Emergency was set to expire Friday evening, November 19th, 2021 and Lee made the announcement Friday morning on his Facebook page that he would not be renewing it.
Lee wrote, “I am not renewing the COVID-19 state of emergency that expires tonight. For almost 20 months, this tool has provided deregulation & operational flexibility for hospitals & industries most affected by COVID’s challenges.”
However, Lee warned, “Should the state face any future surges, we will consider temporarily reinstating this tool, but in the meantime, we are evaluating opportunities for permanent deregulation.”
The state of emergency allowed for 21 different stipulations to help medical providers through the COVID-19 pandemic, including allowing out-of-state health care providers to practice in Tennessee, retired medical providers to re-enter the workforce and practical nursing graduates to practice under supervision without taking an exam.
The emergency order allowed for National Guard and State Guard members to conduct some health care and emergency services operations. It also suspended certain certificate of need (CON) regulations, such as restrictions on hospital beds available to treat COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 testing was allowed to be conducted at more medical facilities; medical laboratory staff was able to work remotely; inspections of health care, mental health and substance abuse facilities were suspended and quarantine/isolation facilities were allowed to be constructed.
“Appreciate [Lee’s] steady leadership [and] agree it’s time to end the state of emergency,” House Speaker Cameron Sexton tweeted. “[Tennessee] was one of the first to successfully reopen, [and] we remain a national economic leader. Look forward to working [with] the [governor], @[Lt. Gov. Randy McNally], [and the] General Assembly, so [Tennessee] continues to lead!”
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Conservative Tennessee lawmakers and residents have been calling for months for Lee to bring an end to the state of emergency and with it an end to his emergency powers. However, at the end of each 60 days, Lee opted to renew.
Under Tennessee law, no state of emergency may continue for longer than sixty days unless renewed by the governor.
Most recently, he renewed the state of emergency for an additional two weeks while he “reviewed” the new legislation passed in the Special Session, which he then signed right before the deadline where the legislation would become law without his signature.
In February of this year, Senator Mark Pody filed a Resolution with the Tennessee Senate to add an Amendment to the Tennessee Constitution to limit the emergency powers of Federal and State officials.
Senate Joint Resolution 144 (SJR0144), drafted by Tennessee Stands, was introduced on February 11th and passed on First and Second Consideration, and was then referred to the Senate Judiciary committee.
The resolution aims to bar any order or declaration issued by the Federal Government or the State Government from infringing on the individual rights of Tennesseans as outlined in the Tennessee Constitution.
Further, the resolution, if passed, will bind Tennessee government officials to their respective duties and powers as defined by the Tennessee Constitution.
However, for the legislation to pass into law, it will need to pass the 113th General Assembly during the 2023-2024 session in both houses by a simple majority and finally, go to the general ballot in 2026 and also pass the vote of the people by a simple majority.
Meanwhile, in no less than 8 other states, bills were passed into law during the Spring of this year that limited their governor’s powers.
In response to Lee’s announcement on Friday, Tennesseans have made their opinions known.
Sherry Birchall said, “One thing the past 20 months has taught us is, we need a constitutional amendment to limit governors’ rights to use the “state of emergency”. It has been an absolute disaster for our nation and I’m sure the founders never ever would have approved this abuse.”
“Long overdue, now follow Governor Ron Desantis’ lead and protect the rights of ALL TENNESSEANS,” Janel Fernweh said.
Jeffrey Murray echoed Fernweh’s statement, “About time you do something right. Desantis is way ahead of you!”
Karen Roe warns Lee, “It’s about time! I think you have seen the writing on the wall since you are running for Governor again. Now get some spine and stand up to the CMS mandate. Free our healthcare workers to make their own choice without any retaliation if they choose to not take it.”
“You should have NEVER imposed this crud for so long. Your small good deeds here and there do NOT undo the intense damage you have done to the people and State of TN,” Erin Edwards states.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com
About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.