Tennessee lawmakers are considering ways to claw back pandemic-related powers from the executive branch ahead of their return to legislative session in January.
A joint committee of House and Senate members tasked with reviewing the governor’s emergency powers met again Tuesday to offer their recommendations for new laws.
Though House committee chair Rep. Jason Zachary said fellow Republican Gov. Bill Lee has “provided measured and steady leadership” during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the group plans to move in the new year to place limits on Lee’s authority to manage health emergencies. House and Senate members differ slightly on specifics, but both groups suggested a limit on the length of a health-related state of emergency.
Under a House proposal, a health-related state of emergency would expire after 60 days without a joint resolution of the legislature extending it. In the Senate proposal, the limit would be 100 days before legislative approval would be required for an extension. Both chambers also call for advance notice for lawmakers of health-related executive actions taken by the governor.
The limits would not apply to states of emergency declared by the governor in instances of natural disaster or a security threat. Leaders in both chambers also said they did not intend for the limits to apply to the ongoing crisis: They would become effective only after this state of emergency ends and/or after Lee’s current term ends in 2023.
Those proposals won’t be the only pandemic-related bills considered in the upcoming legislative session. Lawmakers have already filed proposals to weaken immunization requirements, and additional bills are expected to be filed, too.