Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson to the studio.
At the end of the third hour, Leahy and Johnson answered calls from concerned parents about Governor Lee’s state of emergency extension that will last until August 29 and touched upon the potentiality of spreading COVID-19 through elementary and high school students.
Leahy: We are joined in the studio by our good friend Jack Johnson. Jack the phones are lighting up. People want to talk to the Senate Majority Leader.
Johnson: Oh great! Great!
Leahy: Terry in Nashville wants to talk about the governor’s recent order extending the emergency order until the end of August. Good morning Terry.
Caller Terry: Good morning. The order was put out to August 29. That’s two months away. And one of the things that I don’t understand, one thing I’m disturbed about is you don’t even get a comment line. Or you send an email and you get back an obligatory response, like thank you for your letting. So you really can’t respond to this.
One of the things that I’m disturbed about is that I have high school children that play high school football. And they said we can play college football and pro-football but we can’t play high school football. One of the things that is really good for race relations in athletics.
That’s what develops relationships right there. I’ve coached for years for all types of kids. I want to know why our state representatives and state senators don’t do more and allow Governor Lee what he wants to. I thank you for your time and look forward to your answer.
Leahy: Thanks for your call. Senator Johnson.
Leahy: The governor has extended to the end of August and Terry in Nashville thinks its a bad idea because he wants his sons to be able to play football.
Johnson: Sure. There are a couple of things going on. And Terry thanks for the call and the question. Let me say as well I have two teenage boys that are in high school and one is a football player and one is a lacrosse player and they are chomping at the bit to get back to their sports and play.
And Mom and Dad are too. It’s an important part of growing up. It’s an important part of the school process. And we want them doing that. So the governor did extend the emergency declaration but that does not necessarily mean that businesses are shut down or any of that type of thing going on.
It’s difficult with us and it’s going to sound like we are passing the buck but I don’t mean to. We are a part-time legislature and we have adjourned as I discussed earlier sine die. So we have to allow the governor to make some decisions about this. I will tell you he is getting a lot of feedback from people all over the state like Terry and he’s paying attention to that.
Leahy: The reason why the governor can do this is because the legislature passed a law giving him certain emergency powers I think back in the 1970s.
Johnson: Yes. Its been on the books for a long time.
Leahy: Now he is invoking that law. Now I’ve argued that he has overreached. This is me arguing not you. He’s overreached in the application of that law and that the evidence to support some of his actions are not supported by the law. But that’s not yet been challenged in court. Clearly he’s not going as overboard as the mayor of Nashville and the mayor of Memphis are.
Johnson: Or, other governors.
Leahy: Or other governors.
Johnson: Look at some of these governors like in Michigan.
Leahy: A very good point.
Johnson: Listen, we are all kind of flying blind here. This is an unusual circumstance. And we’ve never been down this road before. And the governor understands and he wants to do the right thing. He’s getting a lot of feedback and input from the general assembly and the general public. And he welcomes that. And we know and he knows that we’re going to have to do a post mortem on this whole thing.
And now is not the time probably. Let’s get through this and get COVID behind us as soon as possible. And probably come January when we reconvene in the general assembly I think we are all going to sit down and have a conversation about what did we do right and what did we do wrong. But I can tell you that Governor Lee is making the best decisions that he can with the information he has. Certainly not all those decisions are going to be right. But we’ll do a thorough post mortem.
Leahy: It would seem to me if you look at the science here, first there have been several stories in Bloomberg and others reporting that among elementary school children that it’s not spread by elementary school children. The Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics said open up schools now. That’s their recommendation.
With regards to spreading COVID-19 among secondary school high school students, I don’t think there is a lot of evidence to support that would happen. And I would suggest to the governor this is just me talking, not you. But I think this would be the line of thinking that Terry would recommend. Why extend it to August 29. Why not extend it to the end of July and then make a game-time decision, literally, that would allow football to come back if the evidence is there?
Johnson: Sure. And I’m stepping off into some areas that I don’t know as thoroughly as I probably should. Part of the reason for that emergency declaration is to do things like liability protection for healthcare workers which is very important.
Johnson: And so there are other reasons for the emergency declaration.
Leahy: Caller Jeff in Brentwood wants to weigh in on football and the governor’s decision.
Caller Jeff: Thank you for taking my call. I’m pretty passionate about this, my son plays football and I like a lot of parents its fund to watch and enjoy the camaraderie, it’s just like all these kids that missed out on baseball and soccer, that’s ridiculous.
The bottom line here is and you can correct me if I’m wrong, there is probably not going to be a vaccine for this H1N1 I mean COVID-19. We’re going to have to deal with it. I’m just struggling with wearing the mask. We can social distance and we can use Purell and all that stuff. This is just getting ridiculous.
Leahy: Do you think the governor should end the state of emergency as it relates to allowing high school students to play football?
Jeff: I think the whole thing is ridiculous. Yes, absolutely. He needs to stop it. They need to start telling us who this COVID-19 effects.
Leahy: Yes. Good point. Jeff, thanks so much for your call.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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