Live from Music Row Monday 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 Tennessee State Representative (R-Jackson), Chris Todd, to the newsmaker line to explain what was passed last weeks special session legislation.
Henry: We are joined on the line right now by Representative Chris Todd of the 73rd District. Thank you so much for joining us this morning Representative.
Todd: Good morning. Glad to be with you.
Henry: Now, let me just ask here on the off chance that some people listening to this program this morning or maybe listening back later on the iHeart App, if they’ve never heard of what’s happening if they don’t know what happened last week if they don’t realize that there was a special session called specifically to deal with these COVID mandates.
If someone were just to walk up to your representative and say, hey, what did you guys do last week? What passed? It’s a very generalized question. But how would you answer that question to them?
Todd: I would say that for the vast majority of Tennesseeans, we passed sweeping protections for them and returned some of their liberties and freedoms that they have guaranteed by the Constitution restored to them.
Henry: Obviously, we’re talking restrictions on masks at schools and restrictions on mass for government buildings. We’re talking vaccine mandates for private companies, unemployment benefits that are being allowed for people that refuse to vaccinate.
Hospitals are allowing patients to come in and have someone with them during care. But you mentioned just a second ago for the vast majority. I know that’s one of the things, these exemptions that were in there.
Would you care to speak about what that means for federal employees, federal contracts, and how those exemptions kind of came about?
Todd: Absolutely. Certainly, most of us went to Nashville last week with the intention of protecting every single person in this state. And one of the frustrations we had toward the middle and end of this was the realization that if we did what we wanted to do within a short period of time, we would be jeopardizing every single hospital and nursing home in the state, every contractor that had any contracts with the federal government, and all of those employees literally canceling contracts and closing hospitals and nursing homes.
Because what we’re dealing with is a lawless unconstitutional federal Biden administration. They’re using every single tool they possibly can to tie to money that’s going to the hospitals and nursing homes and all these federal contractors to force a chemical into people’s bodies that will help some and will hurt some.
And they do it with reckless regard. There is no regard whatsoever for personal freedom, personal choice. It’s you get it, or you’re out. And we’ve never seen anything like this, it’s totally unprecedented in our country’s history that our government, any government, would force something like this on people.
Especially with the survival rate that we have with COVID-19. It makes absolutely no sense. Your listeners, my constituents all know that this doesn’t pass the smell test.
Henry: Yes. I like the way you’ve phrased that too. It doesn’t pass the smell test because there is something just commonsensically that seems off about it.
Let me ask, it seems from my very limited understanding that the Biden administration is trying to promulgate federal regulations through OSHA, but they haven’t done so necessarily yet.
And I also understand at the state level, these federal contractors or hospitals or anybody that receives federal funding was essentially saying, there’s a bit of confusion that’s about to happen here.
We have state law that might end up conflicting with federal law. But the operative term there seems to be might. Representative Todd, do you see anything in this next session coming up that possibly if maybe Attorney General Slattery were to take the Biden administration to court and say, hey, those rules you’re about to promulgate, it’s unconstitutional.
It violates our Constitution. You can’t do it. Maybe there’s a ruling that comes down that says, hey, the way the Biden ministration is trying to get this done, it’s just not going to happen. So there’s no federal threat anymore. Do you see maybe revisiting this, or do you think we’re done with where we are right now?
Todd: Well, I think the protections are in here for every single person in the state if the Biden administration doesn’t promulgate these rules and doesn’t pass down these edicts from the CMS or if General Slattery files an injunction and gets that injunction.
So those protections are actually in here because they are trigger mechanisms. Because once we got to look at what we wanted to do and realize that we could have drastic negative consequences, literally closing hospitals and nursing homes across the state once CMS promulgates what they’re talking about.
They haven’t done it yet. But once those things happen, once they passes some rules, while that’s being dealt with on the court side, then businesses that are affected by that would have to submit to the comptroller of the treasury an application saying here’s why we need to be exempt from this law.
So we have the exemption built in. They’re not automatically exempt. They have to apply for it and then renew it every so often. They have to prove that their contract with the federal government is in jeopardy. Same thing with CMS.
If a hospital or nursing home has this passed down, their participation is dependent upon everyone being vaccinated in their staff then they have to make applications of the state and say, our funding is in jeopardy, and therefore we need to be exempt from this law.
So at the very least, we have bought some time for some folks, at least for some period of time. But this should completely close down those situations where employers and hospitals especially are demanding that their employees be vaccinated because of what they think is coming.
It’s going to have to get here first before they can continue this. We absolutely outlawed any employer from mandating vaccines on their employees unless they get this waiver.
Henry: A few other highlights of those their unemployment benefits are approved for being fired and for the refusal to be vaccinated. Healthcare providers shall not vaccinate its child without written consent from a parent. The Commissioner of Health, not local boards, now has the sole ability to determine quarantine guidelines.
We have updates in monoclonal antibodies where the government will not interfere with the health care providers’ independent professional judgment. No public money or resources at all are going to go to the implementation, regulation, or enforcement of any federal law or executive order that mandates a COVID-19 measure.
But Representative Todd, there was a bit of disagreement from where we started specifically dealing with the masks to where we ended up. And I know that you actually ran an amendment dealing with the mask situation.
You’re also a small business owner and the majority of your Republican people and representatives as well agreed with your stance on this. Could you fill our audience in as to what ended up happening with the mask situation?
Todd: Certainly. We were getting feedback from our small businesses. I was specifically about requiring masks in a workplace for various reasons and some for dust control. But even under COVID-19 concerns I, myself, as I testified on the House floor, have dealt with this during the height of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
I highly recommended that my employees wear masks when they were in the truck together. And we work outside a lot. Most of our time is outside away from each other. But while they’re at least driving to and from a job site, I requested and I could have required that I didn’t want to do that.
It just kind of goes against the grain for me, but in some work situations they absolutely are required to do that, and they have been able to remain open, even though I personally know the data and the studies that show that normal masks that everyday people wear are of no significance whatsoever.
A properly fitted N95 mask is only slightly beneficial and that’s if you’re not pulling on it all day and removing it and putting it back on if you wear it properly. Which most people do not. Masks in general, do not do good very much at all.
So obviously they can arrest some portion of a sneeze or a cough. And that’s probably the best benefit they have. But I did run an amendment that would exclude private businesses from this requirement of mask mandates.
Prevention of mask mandate. So any governmental entity is still required to allow their people, visitors, and their employees to go mask-free. They cannot require that under any circumstances. And I will say there’s a threshold there.
I said in any circumstances, we have not seen any kind of COVID numbers, contagious numbers, and hospitalization numbers that would be required to be reached in order for that to be waived.
We have a pretty high threshold if things got really bad, then certainly the Department of Health could change this, but it’s a really high bar that we’ve set for that. And so I had some folks that were not happy with that.
They certainly wanted no employer or government entity to require a mask. But masks are external. A vaccine is internal. You can’t get it back out, but you can take that mask off at break time or at the end of the day and throw it away.
It’s not part of your body. And so that was the one distinction that I kind of came to because knowing what certain situations are in businesses with their specific employee base, that they needed that protection in there, that allowed them to require masks. Just like any other form of PPE.
Henry: Representative Chriss Todd, we certainly appreciate you joining us this morning and quickly on the way out here. Thank you so much for giving us some of your time time. We appreciate it.
Todd: Good to talk with you today.
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