A bill enabling the Tennessee legislature to end public health-related states of emergency was deferred to summer study in the Senate. However, the bill lives on in the House – the representatives are scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday afternoon.
State Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) and State Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) sponsored the bill. Haile was the one who requested to move the bill to summer study. He cited that there were some issues that needed to be worked over, which he didn’t explain in detail.
The bill would have enabled the legislature to end the state of emergency by passing a joint resolution. It would also require the governor to give the legislature a justification, cost estimate, and duration for the state of emergency or executive order, at least 24 hours in advance.
Additionally, the bill sought to impose definitive timelines for any state of emergency or executive order, as well as empower the Tennessee General Assembly to grant or deny any extensions of those state of emergency or executive orders.
Under the House’s amended version of the bill, a legislative council would form whenever the governor declares a state of emergency based on a public health emergency. Members would include the speakers, majority leaders, minority leaders, and majority caucus chair from both the House and Senate. The bill would also stipulate that the governor can’t declare the emergency or issue a related executive order that lasts more than 60 days.
In order to extend the state of emergency or executive order, the legislature or legislative council would have to approve it. The governor would have to receive a joint resolution if the General Assembly is in session. Otherwise, the legislative council would have to approve the extension through a two-thirds vote.
The bill would also require the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) to provide biweekly reports on the status and response costs of the public health emergency to the Joint Government Operations Committee.
A Senate amendment proposed push the enacting date of the bill, if passed, to 2026. The current House version, as amended, would enact the bill in 2023.
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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].
Photo “Tennessee Senate Chamber” by Terrance CC 3.0, photo “Ferrell Haile” by Tennessee General Assembly and photo “Jason Zachary” by Tennessee General Assembly.