Live from Music Row Friday 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 to the newsmaker line to explain why he’s taking a stand to protect the rights of Tennessee healthcare workers against the federal government.
Leahy: We are joined now on our newsmaker line by our good friend, the mayor of Maury County, Andy Ogles. Andy, you made some news yesterday. You declared a state of emergency in your county to protect healthcare workers’ rights. Tell us what you did yesterday, why you did it, and what happens next.
Ogles: Dr. Piercey on Tuesday testified before the committee that what we all know really is that there’s an impending healthcare crisis in the state of Tennessee due to a lack of health care workers and made worse by the CMS mandates where you have nurses and doctors losing their jobs.
And so in order to mitigate that, I declared a state of emergency and honored religious exemptions so that these nurses and doctors can continue to work and continue to serve the community and then ultimately protect freedom and liberty. Title seven federal code we have mirroring state legislation protects your right to religious exemptions.
Leahy: Tell us why you, as a county mayor, have the legal authority in the state of Tennessee to declare a state of emergency.
Ogles: Yes, it’s something your states of emergency should be limited in scope and duration and really used judiciously. And so any time you’re doing something like this, it’s an incredibly big decision.
But Article Seven, Section One of the Constitution, my power is derived from the General Assembly period. Not from the governor, not from the attorney general but from the General Assembly. So then you go to state law. The Emergency Powers Act 107 is the one that the governor uses to enact his powers.
But then 58-2-110 speaks to the subdivisions or the county mayors. Interestingly, during this special session, the legislature amended how county boards of health were run and that’s Code 68-2. And in there they asserted another provision giving county mayors the authority to do things such as this.
Leahy: In terms of the health care worker crisis we have, November 4, the Biden maladministration passes this rule through the center for Medicaid and Medicare Services that says, in essence, all healthcare workers have to be vaccinated by January 6, or they’re going to be fired.
And then the Tennessee Commissioner of Health Dr. Lisa Piercey testified on Tuesday before members of the General Assembly and said, this is going to create a health care crisis in the state.
Tell us about what that crisis looks like because of, in part, the Biden maladministration rule from earlier this month. What does that crisis look like in Maury County?
Ogles: Well across the state of Tennessee, especially in rural hospitals staffing is tight. But we have a regional hospital in Maury County. We serve six primary counties, three secondary counties. So we’re a nine-county region.
Also, our health department is a regional health department. So we have a lot of whether it’s TB or AIDS, some of those higher-risk type diseases get treated through our health department. We’re the center of healthcare for Southern Middle Tennessee. And so we can’t afford to allow our hospital to close.
And look, there’s a contract between the states and the federal government. There are certain powers enumerated to the federal government. There are certain powers retained by the state.
And we should all recoil at the idea that the federal government could issue a rule and basically bypass that contract between the federal government and the state and in doing so, take away our freedom and liberty. I’ve had enough of this. I’m sick of it. The 10th Amendment is there for a reason, and we must push back.
Leahy: If this rule goes into effect, what will happen to the provision of health care in Maury County?
Ogles: I spoke to Congressman Green, and I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but in essence, it’s unconstitutional for them to withhold funding. So I think this is a lot of scare tactics from the federal government, and quite frankly, that’s why they keep stretching out these dates.
They’re phasing them in, so to speak, because they’re letting the hospitals do their dirty work for them because they know they don’t have legal standing. And again, I would encourage that these health systems across the state stand up and tell them to pound sand for that matter.
And I want to give credit to Representative Cepicky. There’s a letter that circulated in the General Assembly these past couple of weeks.
We’ve been working together, and the majority of the members of the General Assembly in the state of Tennessee sent a letter to all the healthcare systems of the Tennessee Hospital Association telling them that they should be honoring religious exemptions.
Leahy: Are you the only county mayor in the state of Tennessee that is taking this kind of action? Or do you think that other county mayors around the state will follow your lead and declare states of emergency because of this rule?
Ogles: Yes. This is one of those things. Again, at the press conference yesterday, I had members of the General Assembly. There were county mayors. We had a virtual session where they could join us via Webex. During the special session, they should have done this.
The General Assembly should have addressed this. They should have protected healthcare workers. They failed to do so. They plan to address this in January, so they want to fix this.
And going back to your earlier comment, the county mayors, we have this authority, and they needed a county mayor who is willing to stand up, be a voice and basically step into traffic and say I’ve had enough.
And obviously, they picked me because that’s my personality. I’ve just had enough of this. Yes, at times I could be combative. But there’s a time in history where you stand up to your government and you tell them enough is enough. And that time is now.
Leahy: My guess is that other rural county mayors will probably follow your lead. That’d be my guess not. Now you saying that. That’s me saying that. What do you think the federal government will do?
What do you think Attorney General Herb Slatery will do? What will Governor Bill Lee do in response to your declaration of a state of emergency in Maury County over this healthcare rule mandated by the federal government that every health care worker gets vaccinated?
Ogles: The Tennessee code is clear. I do have this authority. We followed the letter of the law to make sure we did it properly. The TCA code is TCA code. If they don’t like it, they need to change it. It’s that simple. But what my hope is, the governor’s good man.
Obviously, I’ve been very vocal. It’s time to end the executive orders. But if there was ever a case where the governor should use his executive powers and protect the rights and liberties of people in Tennessee, it would be this moment to protect our health care workers.
I would call on our governor. And hopefully, this is a catalyst of that conversation. There’s the Montana Bill out there, which protects healthcare workers and protects everyone in the state of Montana.
Obviously, that will be adjudicated in the courts. I do believe it will prevail. I think you can look to see something similar to that passing in Tennessee.
But we’ve got to buy these healthcare workers about two months of time and protect their jobs until the General Assembly or the governor can do what they need to be doing.
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