NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – State lawmakers sparred once again today about a governor’s emergency powers as they try to put together bills that would give them more say on the issue.
At times Tuesday, pent up frustration with the pandemic played into the debate during an ad hoc committee looking into those emergency powers.
Nashville Democrat Rep. Bob Freeman asked if current Governor Bill Lee had “overreached” his authority on using emergency powers this past year.
“So no overreach?” Freeman asked Republican committee co-chair Rep. Jason Zachary. “As I just said and I will say it real clear. I believe the governor has provided steady and measured leadership during this pandemic,” replied Zachary.
There was no shortage of far-reaching rhetoric in the ad hoc committee where the governor’s executive orders this year with his emergency powers let to schools closing classroom instruction and some businesses shuttered.
“If this state of emergency we are in right now were a pregnancy, we would be diapering the baby, so the question is how long is it an emergency?” Republican Rep. John Ragan asked the committee.
“I don’t know how the General Assembly is going to micromanage any pandemic,” wondered West Tennessee Democrat Rep. Johnny Shaw.
Whatever they do, lawmakers want a say on how a governor’s emergency powers are used and how long executive orders might stay in effect–whether it be a health emergency like COVID-19 or a natural disaster such as a flood, but any such change might not be immediate.
“We recommend that any law passed goes into effect when the current administration leaves,” added Republican committee co-chair Sen. Ferrell Haile.
Even though bills have not been filed yet, a governor’s emergency powers could become one of the major issues for next year’s session that begins in January.