By David Seal [Special to The Tennessee Conservative] –
Jefferson County Commission has stated its expectation that Tennessee government operate within constitutional boundaries with special emphasis on the executive branch. This expectation was recently expressed in Resolution 2023-47.
In calendar year 2000 when the Tennessee legislature was controlled by liberal democrats, Public Chapter 946 was signed into law. The public act purportedly gave the governor authority to declare an emergency, to suspend certain laws, and to make rules that have the effect of law.
Fast forward to the age of Covid-19. When the governor declared a state of emergency, certain laws were suspended, businesses were deemed as essential or non-essential, limits were placed on citizens constitutional right of assembly, and many jurisdictions were emboldened to impose face-mask mandates, all based on the governor’s many executive orders, some of which ran contrary to the Tennessee Constitution.
Under the Tennessee Constitution, the governor never had the power to suspend laws or impose limits on constitutional rights, but T.C.A. § 58-2-107 created the illusion that the governor did have such power. Jefferson County Commission is asking the legislature to repeal the emergency powers statute and urging the governor to stay in his lane.
“I encourage other counties, municipalities, and organizations in Tennessee to take a stand on this issue by making their own resolutions. If we fail to act, we can only blame ourselves the next time businesses are shuttered, or mask mandates are imposed under the emergency powers statute.” – Commissioner Austin Brooks (R-White Pine)
Here are the sections from Article II of the Tennessee Constitution on which the Jefferson County resolution is based.
ARTICLE II. Distribution of Powers. Section 1. The powers of the government shall be divided into three distinct departments: legislative, executive, and judicial. Section 2. No person or persons belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any of the powers properly belonging to either of the others, except in the cases herein directed or permitted.
Commissioner Janet Norton (R-Dandridge) moved the resolution on October 16, 2023, along with 13 co-sponsors.
To obtain a WORD draft copy of the resolution that can easily be adapted, please send requests to email@example.com
About the Author: David Seal is a retired Jefferson County educator, recognized artist, local businessman, 917 Society Volunteer, and current Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party. He has also served Jefferson County as a County Commissioner and is a citizen lobbyist for the people on issues such as eminent domain, property rights, education, and broadband accessibility on the state level.