Proposed Law Would Give Local Governments Authority To Review Presidential Executive Orders, Consider If The EO Is Outside Scope Of Federal Authority And Seek Remedy In Form Of Exemption.
Published February 12, 2021
After one of the most controversial and questionable elections in American history, Joe Biden’s first official act on day one in the administrative office was implementing an executive order that mandated masks be worn on all federal properties, by federal employees, and contractors.
This was followed by a more recent restriction put in place by the CDC which purports that it will be a federal offense for anyone over the age of 2 not to wear a mask on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, etc.
The CDC even went as far as specifying types of face coverings that won’t qualify to protect you from committing a federal crime: face shields, bandanas, and masks with exhalation valves.
Recently, Dr. Fauci recommended doubling up on face masks but Michael Osterholm, a former member of the Biden Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, suggested that while it may limit one’s ability to spread the virus to others, it may make the person wearing them more susceptible to transmission.
Last summer in response to initial federal mandates, Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 54 granting mayors of 89 counties in Tennessee the authority to issue local mask requirements in the event of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, equally implying the power for local legislators to choose against such a mandate.
Earlier this month, an anecdotal analysis and data was completed by curious Tennesseeans comparing current Coronavirus statistics between counties with and without mask mandates in place.
Wilson, Rutherford, and Sumner County which each currently have a mandate in place were compared with Cheatham, Dickson, and Maury which have never implemented a face-covering mandate.
While some potentially influential variables were left out of this equation, the percentage of positive COVID cases were pretty average across the board with numbers varying as little as 5-10 cases across 100,000 people.
“It comes down to personal responsibility, you know, Williamson County’s had a mask mandate long or longer than Rutherford County, yet their spread rate is higher,” Mayor Ogles of Maury County pointed out.
On Thursday, Republican state representative Susan Lynn of Mount Juliet filed bill HB 1229, seeking to give the General Assembly the power to exempt the state from executive orders issued by the president.
The bill was also sponsored by Senator Frank S. Niceley of Strawberry Plains.
The proposed law would give local government operations committees authority to review executive orders issued by a president and then “consider if an executive order applies outside the scope of federal authority and whether the state shall seek remedy in the form of an exemption.”
Following this review, the Attorney General may review the order to determine the constitutionality of said order and determine if Tennessee should seek exemption or declare an order unconstitutional.
In addition to creating that potential protection from federal infringement, local leaders will not be able to issue executive orders restricting a person’s rights, if deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General, whether the order relates to a pandemic, natural resource regulation, agricultural/land use regulation, the 2nd Amendment, or financial sector regulations.
We can expect to continue to see updates on bills such as these locally as well as new legislation proposed in light of federal decisions. Stay tuned.