Precedent Matters: Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles Questions the Slippery Slope of Bill Lee’s Executive Order Regarding Masks in School


Live from Music Row Tuesday 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 Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles in the studio

Leahy: In studio with us, our very good friend, Andy Ogles, mayor of Maury County. That bastion of freedom. That turbocharged engine of economic growth. Andy, good morning.

Ogles: Good morning.

Leahy: We talked in a previous hour about the debacle in Afghanistan. At 7:15, Senator Bill Hagerty will be joining us, and he’ll talk about his views on that. I’m going to ask him if he’s going to join a number of members of the House of Representatives who’ve called on Joe Biden to resign because of this debacle.

We’ll see what his answer is on that. He’s very critical, of course, of all of the consequences of this disaster, all of which are at the foot of Joe Biden in Afghanistan. But in this hour Andy, and I want to talk about the actions undertaken by Governor Bill Lee.

Yesterday, because he has extended this state of emergency first declared in March of 2020, we’ve been under a state of emergency in Tennessee for one year and five months. One year and five months.

I want to get back to the legal standard for that state of emergency. Yesterday, Governor Lee issued an executive order which, according to his interpretation, he’s authorized to do when we’re in a state of emergency that says, parents will be able to opt-out of this mask mandate that has been imposed on several counties, school boards in Williamson County on a seven to three vote, and in Davidson County in an eight to one vote, have imposed mask mandates.

In Davidson County, it’s K-12. In Williamson County it’s K-5. And now under this executive order, which has the force of law, he says. And many argue it does have the force of law because we’re in a state of emergency and have been for a year and five months.

Now, parents can just write a note. They can write a note to the principal and say, I’m opting out my child and there will be no repercussions. Andy, does the governor have the authority to declare a state of emergency under Tennessee law?

And what are the standards for declaring that state of emergency, which basically gives the governor dictatorial powers? We’ve been under that for a year and five months.

Does the governor have statutory authority? I’ve been scratching my head. Define that. There are a lot of smart lawyers out there who know this stuff. What’s your take on this?

Ogles: The way the law is written, it’s very vague as to when and if he can do it. And so when you look at that, sure. It has the force of law, as you said.

But the problem is when you look at the spirit of the law, how it’s constructed, limited in scope, limited in duration, and we’ve breached that standard.

And so again, where is the General Assembly? I sent out my proclamation calling on the General Assembly to do their job. One, reign in the powers of this governor. And it’s not just this governor.

I’m not attacking him personally. But the standard that’s been set in Tennessee has to be corrected not only for this governor, but then any governor that comes hereafter. We’ve talked about this before.

Precedent matters. When Clinton was impeached, they went back 100 years to figure out how to do it. How the emergency powers are used today will have an impact 20, 30, 100 years from now. So we’ve got to fix this.

Leahy: There’s got to be somebody out there who’s a smart attorney who knows the state law and state constitution who can help unravel this mystery for me. So I’m going back. The governor declared a state of emergency in Tennessee for one year and five months, and here we go.

I’m trying to figure out what is the standard by which he can declare a state of emergency. I can’t see it. Dan in Nashville actually wants to weigh in and has a question for us about the punishment for students if they were to opt-out. Dan in Nashville, welcome to The Tennessee Report. Good morning.

Caller Dan: Good morning, sir. I actually live in Robertson County, but I work in Davidson County. In Robertson County, there’s no mask mandate, but saying that there is a mask mandate and the parents opt-out because of Bill Lee’s executive order and then my child doesn’t want to wear a mask.

Can the school pose a punishment? And if they do what are the steps the parents need to take?

Leahy: Well, Dan, that’s an interesting question. This is why I think, Andy, you would say there ought to be a more comprehensive General Assembly special session to address all these issues.

Ogles: I hate to be hypercritical but I would say this emergency executive order was whipped together quite quickly in reaction to the school board meeting in Wilson County and in reaction to my proclamation.

So it’s unclear, for example, does this only apply to public schools, or does this also apply to private schools? It’s vaguely written. If I’m a parent in a private school, I’m going to use this to say I’m going to opt my child out.

It doesn’t specify whether or not you’ve decided to opt your children out. It doesn’t prevent the school from putting my child into a separate classroom or isolating them or putting them into a closet.

This is why the General Assembly should have been convened and addressed more comprehensively. Period. And what you see is another half measure by this governor doing just enough so he can campaign on it. Then he is really about doing something substantive.

Leahy: Dan, stick with us, because I’m going to read this recent executive order from yesterday, and then we’ll see what the second-order effects of your question would be. Basically, he says, I do hereby order that student’s parents or guardians shall have the right to opt-out of any order or requirement for a student in K-12 to wear a face-covering at school on a bus or at school functions by affirmatively notifying in writing the local education agency or personnel to student school.

So what you’re saying, Dan, is the parent, writes a note. I want to opt-out. This executive order does not prohibit any punishment by the school against the student. Is that how you read it?

Caller Dan: Yes. That’s exactly how I read it.

Ogles: Furthermore, if there was any school district that was questioning whether or not they had the authority to issue a mask mandate this executive order by creating the opt-out provision, then codifies, every school district in the state to have the ability to do it!

So, again, it’s so poorly thought out. And at the end of the day, the school board should not have the power to do this. But there again, this governor has, rather than calling the General Assembly and facing the consequences of the last 18 months, is hiding behind his executive orders.

Leahy: So Dan, if in your school system they had a mask mandate and then you were to opt-out for your child and then the principal would, I don’t know, put your child in the corner with a dunce hat on or something like that, what would be your recourse at that time?

Caller Dan: We’d home school again. (Laughter)

Ogles: There you go.

Caller Dan: I don’t play around when it comes to my kids, man, and they’re not going to single my child out because my child can’t wear a mask. He can’t wear a mask for medical reasons.

I work in the safety field, man. I’ve been saying since day one, I’m not going to put a cloth mask on somebody that’s safe cutting concrete.  And that’s something I can see.

Leahy: Yeah, exactly. Hey, Dan, thanks so much for your call. I really appreciate it. Andy, I want to follow up on this. This looks to me like it is fraught with difficulties. If I’m a lefty lunatic on the school board at Davidson County or Williamson County and you see this executive.

Somebody comes in and says, what does Jason Golden who is a hotshot attorney by the way and director of schools for Williamson County when he gets this letter from a parent saying I want to opt-out. What does he do?

Ogles: This executive order doesn’t restrict him from punishing this child or the family, quite frankly. And so this child could be isolated, could be put on a different schedule.

Leahy: Quarantined.

Ogles: That’s right.

Leahy: All sorts of things. We’ll have to ask Jason Golden what he’s going to do.

Ogles: Tested for COVID.

Leahy: Yeah. I mean, there are all sorts of things that could happen

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.















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