Tennessee Senate Pulls Back on Bill Removing Local Health Authority Powers, Rendering Them Advisory Bodies During Health Emergencies

A bill which proposed removing local health authorities’ powers during health emergencies was re-referred to the Senate Calendar Committee on Thursday. State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) requested this action without explanation during the bill’s third and final hearing.

If passed, the bill would specify that county mayors have the authority to establish and implement health policies during county-wide health emergencies – not local health officials or bodies. Instead, all county health directors, health officers, and boards of health could only serve in an advisory capacity to the mayor.

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Tennessee Senate Committee Approves Amended Bill Making County Health Boards Advisory Only, Prohibiting Vaccine Passports

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee approved a bill to make county health boards as advisory bodies only, and to prohibit mandatory vaccine passports. The bill was introduced by State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), and also sponsored by State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma).

Currently, the components limiting county health boards’ powers and prohibiting vaccine passport mandates aren’t listed as part of the bill. They were introduced as an amendment in the House on Tuesday. Additionally, the bill would relegate local health authority to the state and limit county health officers’ quarantine-mandating powers – individuals and places that aren’t known to have contributed to the spread of a disease may not be quarantined.

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