The Tennessee legislature stalled on legislation prohibiting mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for K-12 students. The bill was removed from the Health Committee calendar last month. In the Senate, it was last referred back to the Calendar Committee after making it to the floor on Monday.
State Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) and State Representative Rusty Grills (R-Newbern) were the sponsors on the bill. Hensley’s legislative assistant Allison Wilson clarified with The Tennessee Star that the Senate won’t be hearing the bill this year.
Even if the state adopts a bill prohibiting mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for K-12 students, it would only last two years. That is, according to the latest amendment to HB 1421. The amendment rendered the current status of the bill into a proposed sunset law during Tuesday’s House Health Committee hearing.
The committee member behind the amendment, State Representative Robin Smith (R-Hixon), asserted that it would give the FDA enough time to approve the vaccine for regular use – not just emergency use.
Final voting on a bill addressing government control over worship services during public emergencies, already heavily altered, will be delayed by one week for further potential changes. The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Rusty Grills (R-Newbern), indicated Monday that he would review the bill further to consider the concerns of Democratic State Representatives London Lamar (D-Memphis) and Harold Love, Jr. (D-Nashville). Lamar and Love raised concerns that governments couldn’t do enough to curb church activity during pandemics under the bill; Lamar argued that religious institutions would be fine if they were ordered to meet virtually.
The adopted amendment has already altered the bill entirely. The original provisions prohibited closures and limitations of churches or religious organizations, including their religious services or activities. In the amended version, the bill would only prohibit state and local governments and agencies from closing churches or religious organizations. It wouldn’t protect houses of worship from any governmental restrictions or limitations.
In Tennessee, houses of worship may never have to worry about blanket policies shutting them down during a state of emergency. Specifically, a proposed bill would limit state, political subdivisions, or public officials from imposing restrictions or outright prohibiting churches or religious organizations from operating.
The bill would also limit the authority of county health officers to mandate quarantines. It wouldn’t extend its protections to those places of worship where an outbreak has occurred.
Tuesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Rep. Rusty Grills of District 77 to the newsmakers line to discuss his background and legislating from the farm.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Tuesday, January 14 marked the first day of the second session of the 111th Tennessee General Assembly and included a House Republican caucus meeting, a new Speaker at the House dais, the swearing in of the newest member to the House of Representatives and the passage of a religious freedom bill by the Senate.