The Senate determined during its Monday floor session that governments shouldn’t classify workers as “essential” or “nonessential.”
In its entirety, the bill would prohibit the governor and all state or local government entities and leadership from classifying or categorizing businesses, trades, professions, or industries as “essential” or “nonessential.”
State Representative Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin) first introduced the bill back in December. State Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) became a sponsor on the bill in February. The legislation has moved through the Senate far more quickly than it has in the House. State representatives kept deferring action on the bill in both subcommittee and committee.
Across all 50 states, the coronavirus pandemic sparked the debate over what constitutes an “essential” or “nonessential” business or operation. A month into the nationwide state of emergency issued over the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Bill Lee ordered Tennesseans to stay home – unless they were engaging in what was considered “essential” activities or businesses. Businesses like barber shops, salons, and entertainment venues didn’t make the list. However, businesses that offered groceries, household supplies, automobile supplies, office supplies (to work from home), and/or sanitation supplies were authorized to continue operations.
Immediately, state lawmakers voiced concerns that small businesses would suffer incredibly from those types of mandates.
Nearly a year later, a survey from the Federal Reserve Bank indicated that 30 percent of those surveyed wouldn’t recover without further government assistance. Nearly all of those respondents reported that they will suffer pandemic-related hardships for at least another year.
In states like California and New York, in-person worship services were considered “nonessential” through court rulings on churches that challenged state regulations. This bill wouldn’t address religious institutions.
In the House, the bill is being held on desk for further consideration.
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