Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Government from Classifying Businesses, Workers as ‘Essential’ or ‘Nonessential’


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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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].







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2 Thoughts to “Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Government from Classifying Businesses, Workers as ‘Essential’ or ‘Nonessential’”

  1. Ironic. Most of government is nonessential. Yet, they are still here.

  2. 83ragtop50

    I do not see this action as being of any substance. It appears so focused on terminology that it would open the door for the control freaks at the state level to just coin new classifications to pick winners and losers in the future. The government should have NO authority to force businesses to close without a violation of existing law that would be cause for the closure.