NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Wednesday, Tennessee Speaker Cameron Sexton and House Republicans issued a letter requesting for Governor Bill Lee to call a special session of the General Assembly to convene and address what the state representatives call, “misdirected and mandated responses to COVID-19 by local entities and officials.”
Sexton’s letter was critical of what he called overreach by the six independent health boards in the state, one of which is the Shelby County Health Department, claiming they are infringing on students’ “freedoms and liberty.”
More than 70 signatures of legislative leaders appear on the request for a special session, including Reps. Mark White and John Gillespie of Memphis. You can read the full letter here.
Earlier this month, Sexton threatened school districts with potential legislative force if they chose to issue a mask mandate or close schools due to the pandemic.
A number of school districts have enacted mask mandates to start the new year in the wake of growing COVID-19 cases. One of those is Shelby County Schools, the state’s largest school district.
On Monday, Lee was asked if he would recommend schools instituting a mask mandate, “I would recommend that school districts listen to their parents,” he responded. “The way our state laws are set up, school districts have the authority to make those decisions. Those school board members are elected locally in those communities and should listen to their parents.”
During an August 6 virtual briefing, the state’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, discussed a rise in pediatric cases in data from last month, nearly doubling over the last few weeks of July.
Children younger than 12 are currently not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, released a statement criticizing Republicans for “playing politics” with public health measures.
“We cannot support a special session where the controlling party is only concerned with punishing private business owners and school districts for exercising medically appropriate precautions to keep people safe,” Akbari said. “This pandemic has claimed the lives of nearly 13,000 Tennesseans and we should all be fighting the virus—not playing politics. The special session our families deserve would focus on affordable healthcare through Medicaid expansion.”
Senator Akbari and Sen.Brian Kelsey will join us on WREG’s ‘Live At 9’ Thursday morning to discuss this and other legislative business.