Tennessee Gov. Lee Signs Sweeping COVID Law Barring Vax Mandates, Passports

The omnibus bill ensures government entities cannot force private businesses to initiate Covid-19 mandates.

  • Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed the state’s Covid-19 omnibus bill on Friday, Just the News reports.
  • The bill ensures government entities cannot force private businesses to institute coronavirus-related mandates.
  • It also makes it so that private businesses cannot take action against unvaccinated employees.
  • Businesses also cannot compel an employee or visitor to show proof of vaccination.
  • The bill prevents government entities from requiring masks.
  • The 21-page bill also provides an opt-out for music venues to allow for proof of vaccination instead of a negative Covid-19 test for admission.

The Tennessean compiled the following list of provisions found in the bill:

  • Ban government entities and public schools from requiring masks, unless severe conditions arise 
  • Ban government entities, public schools and many private businesses from vaccine requirements, but with exceptions 
  • Require schools to provide N-95 masks or similar masks to those in demand
  • Allows for 14-day mask mandates for governments and public schools, subject for renewal, during severe conditions — at least 1,000 cases for every 100,000 residents in the past 14 days — which no county currently reaches
  • Requires licensing boards to develop a set of rules, subject to state Government Operations Committee’s approval, if they wish to discipline medical professionals for COVID-19 treatments
  • Allows those who quit their job because of COVID-19 vaccine requirements to collect unemployment benefits
  • Allow health care professionals to use independent judgement to prescribe monoclonal antibody treatments
  • Allow the health commissioner exclusive power to design quarantine guidelines
  • Ban use of public funds for COVID-19 mandates
  • Requires hospitals to allow visitation by at least one family member of a COVID-19 patient as long as the family member tests negative for the disease and remains asymptomatic
  • Allow those at risk of losing federal funds to issue mask and vaccine mandates, and use public funds for mandates, if they receive approval from the comptroller’s office
  • Allow the governor to suspend the entire bill if he desires

The bill also allows those who leave a job because of a COVID-19 vaccination mandate to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

“The greatest concern we have, and the reason this came about, is the federal mandate for requiring businesses to vaccinate their employees,” Lee said Wednesday. “That created the General Assembly’s response.”

Lee said he objected to one portion of the omnibus bill on hospitals and visitations, saying the language needed to be adjusted during regular legislative session in January. House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally acknowledged discussions on that portion of the bill and said action would be possible during regular session if it is deemed necessary.

Along with the omnibus bill, Lee also signed Senate Bill 9007, which pays for any bills signed into law out of the Legislature’s COVID-19-related special session.

Lee also signed Senate Bill 9008, which allows the attorney general to petition for a district attorney replacement in cases where a local district attorney refuses to prosecute all instances of any offense. During discussion of the bill, Metro Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk was mentioned after he made public comments stating he would not prosecute charges of simple possession of marijuana.

Lee did not sign House Bill 9076, which would have allowed the governor to issue orders and directives regarding county health departments during a pandemic. It also allows county mayors the authority to issue health and safety orders for county residents related to public health.

Jon Fleetwood is Managing Editor for American Faith and author of “An American Revival: Why American Christianity Is Failing & How to Fix It.“