Commentary: The State and Local Leaders Who Aren’t Ready to Give Up Pandemic Power

Gavin Newsom, Laura Kelly and Roy Cooper

While many government leaders sound the all clear message on COVID-19, dropping vaccine restrictions and mask mandates, some states and municipalities are clinging to the emergency powers that allowed them to govern people’s behavior in unprecedented ways.

Citing the need to direct emergency funding and oversee hospitals, they have held on to their emergency orders even as many restaurants, shopping centers, and sports arenas are once again packed and lingering pandemic concerns have faded into the background of a more normal life.

Emergency orders at the state level are usually issued in response to temporary threats, especially weather disasters, and are wrapped up in a few days or weeks. Soon after the new coronavirus exploded in March 2020, most governors issued broad executive orders. Under these powers, governors banned crowds, closed businesses, and imposed mask and vaccination mandates. They have also deferred to unelected public health officials in imposing restrictions.

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Special Session Legislation Increases Safeguards Related to COVID-19, but Some Legislators Say Concessions for Big Business and the Federal Government Leave Tennesseans Unequally Protected

The legislation that emerged in Saturday’s early morning hours from the three days of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly’s Third Extraordinary Session provided a number of safeguards against COVID-19 mandates, but some legislators say concessions to accommodate big business and funding from the federal government also resulted in unequal protection for some Tennesseans against COVID mandates.

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Tennessee General Assembly Amends Bill to Maintain Health Commissioner, County Health Officers’ Emergency Rule, Quarantine and Closure Power

The General Assembly struck provisions removing exclusive health emergency-related powers from the health commissioner and county health officials. The bill originally proposed to create a commission to make decisions on whether or not to exercise those powers. The new commission would’ve included the governor, the speakers of the State House and Senate, each constitutional officer, and the commissioner of health – or, any designees selected by those officials.

Those provisions were dropped without explanation from either the House or Senate floor as to why. The Tennessee Star inquired with the sponsors what happened. The House sponsor, State Representative Glen Casada, (R-Franklin) divulged that the House Health Committee opposed it. He didn’t go into further detail in his statement to The Star.

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Commentary: Movement to End COVID Emergency Orders Grows as Governors, Lawmakers, and Citizens Fight Back

The governors of Texas and Mississippi both announced this week they would be lifting their states’ mask mandates and rolling back many of their Covid-19 health mandates. This is part of a growing movement across the country from lawmakers, governors, and citizens to curtail emergency orders that have robbed Americans of individual liberties and freedoms for nearly a year.

In New York state, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced the legislature is passing legislation repealing emergency powers granted to Gov. Cuomo last year at the start of the pandemic. Lawmakers say the legislation will allow current directives pertaining to preserving public health to continue.

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