NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – A special legislative session focusing on COVID-19 mandates will begin on Wednesday. Some Tennessee lawmakers have filed a slew of bills talking about vaccinations, masks, and protecting people from being fired. It comes on the heels of President Biden’s proposal to require companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly.
"There's no greater importance for us as a legislator to protect our citizens' choices and that can't wait until January and that's got to be now,” State Rep. Johnny Garrett, (R) Goodlettsville said.
"It is a gross misuse of power. It is political grandstanding at its best,” State Rep. Vincent Dixie, (D) Nashville said.
State lawmakers from different sides of the aisle at odds over a special session about COVID-19 mandates. One of the many bills they'll take up talks about businesses requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees. It says if you have a side effect, then you could apply for workers compensation under the bill.
"At least you have some relief to pay you back for your medical bills that you may incur as a result of an adverse reaction to COVID-19 vaccination because right now, nobody is responsible and that's a problem,” State Rep. Garrett said.
Another bill says public schools cannot require students, teachers, or employees to wear a mask. For those who do want to wear one, schools would have to make accommodations. If a school district does put in place a mask mandate, state money to that district could be at risk.
"Where are our priorities for this state? Are we going to take care of our future and our children?,” State Rep. Dixie said.
The latest special session won't come without a cost. The last one centering around Ford Motor Company had a price tag of more than $100,000, according to the Office of Legislative Administration. That’s to pay for travel expenses to the capitol for state lawmakers.
It's a cost some say is worth it. Others don't see it that way.
"This is the least we can do is have a special session for folks to make sure we protect their individual liberties and their individual choices,” State Rep. Garrett said.
"You can't justify that number because we're here not to solve any problems. The problem has been solved. We can follow the CDC guidelines and be fine,” State Rep. Dixie said. As of Tuesday night, more than six dozen bills on the House side had been filed.