The General Assembly struck provisions removing exclusive health emergency-related powers from the health commissioner and county health officers. The bill originally proposed to create a commission to make decisions on whether or not to exercise those powers. The new commission would have included the governor, the speakers of the State House and Senate, each constitutional officer, and the commissioner of health – or, any designees selected by those officials.
Those provisions were dropped without explanation from either the House or Senate floor as to why. The Tennessee Star inquired with the sponsors what happened. The House sponsor, State Representative Glen Casada, (R-Franklin) divulged that the House Health Committee opposed it. He didn’t go into further detail in his statement to The Star.
“I could not get the committee to support my original bill,” said Casada. “This was what I could get out of committee.”
As amended, the bill was essentially cut in half. The state’s health commissioner and all county health officers will retain their quarantine, building closure, and emergency rulemaking powers.
The bill will only require the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) to publish certain information weekly during a state of emergency on their website. That information would include total tests administered and number of cases for the disease outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic; total positive tests; the type of test used; the number of asymptomatic and symptomatic cases; and the number of false positive tests.
According to the legislative assistant for the other sponsor, State Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), this bill will have to be delayed in the Senate because the Senate Health Committee already closed for the year.
Casada said that he still intends to pass the bill in the House. He noted that he will continue to work with Hensley to pass it next year.
The bill now awaits a hearing before the House Calendar and Rules Committee.
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