Tennessee Chamber Of Commerce Calls On State Legislature To End Business Shutdowns & Show More Business Support As They Recover From Response To COVID-19.
Photo: Jamie Ferrell serves customers Monday, April 27, 2020, at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant in Franklin, Tennessee.
Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey / AP
Published January 29, 2021
The Center Square [By Vivian Jones]-
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Tennessee Legislature to end business shutdowns and show more support for businesses as they continue to recover from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tennessee Chamber released its agenda of priorities Thursday for the 2021 legislative session, which resumes Feb. 8.
“The pandemic really drastically changed everything,” Chamber of Commerce President Bradley Jackson told The Center Square in an interview.
The chamber will advocate to end pandemic-related business shutdowns and monitor discussions on which authorities can create and enforce pandemic-related restrictions on businesses.
“There was a lot of confusion, whenever shutdowns started happening, about who was enforcing it, how we’re enforcing it, what were the specific requirements,” Jackson said. “We do think it’s an important conversation for the Legislature to have and consider, if this ever happens again, to have some consistency around it.”
The chamber also will advocate for targeted use of pandemic relief funding for businesses that are struggling the most, and it will support policies that lower business tax burdens.
The Legislature already has addressed one pandemic-related priority for businesses. During a special session last August, lawmakers passed a bill to shield businesses that follow public health protocols in good faith from COVID-19-related lawsuits.
Jackson said he anticipates lawmakers may propose changes to that law in the coming weeks.
“We do think legislation will be filed that may seek to modify it by either pulling parts of it back, which we don’t think is a good idea right now,” Jackson said, emphasizing the business community needs stability in order to continue recovery from the uncertainty of the pandemic.
Jackson said he encourages the state to engage with employers to assist with distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“They can play an important role in that,” Jackson said. “Businesses want to be part of the solution. They want to maintain a healthy and safe workforce and workplace for their customers and their employees.”
In addition to advocating for pandemic-related relief for businesses, the chamber will support efforts to incentivize and provide resources for in-person learning. Eighty-six percent of chamber members believe children should return to school for in-person learning and fear they are falling behind, the chamber reported.
The chamber also will advocate for legislation that would add Tennessee’s right-to-work laws to the state constitution, historic revitalization tax credits and enhanced access to broadband internet.
About the Author:
Vivan Jones, The Center Square Staff Reporter
Vivian Jones reports on Tennessee and South Carolina for The Center Square. Her writing has appeared in the Detroit News, The Hill, and publications of The Heartland Institute.