Four months ago, the passage of the COVID Omnibus Bill seemed like a states’ rights coup over the Biden Administration's mealymouthed encroachment on individual freedoms. Yet, for anyone scrutinizing the law, much seemed amiss almost immediately. Tennessee may have effectively acted as a fly in the ointment for corporations like Chase, Kroger, and Carhartt who were apoplectic that their vaccine requirements would have to carve out exceptions for employees in the Volunteer State.
But, beyond the bill putting the kibosh on mandatory vaccinations for employees (which would be moot had SCOTUS not smacked down Biden’s OSHA workaround), not much has changed. Posturing venues from Bridgestone Arena to the Five Spot and the Nashville Symphony held the proof-of-vaxx line until diminished attendance and the threat of irrelevance forced them to reverse course, alienating consumers whose vaccine concerns are now largely vindicated and leading to further anxiety for the COVID-obsessed quislings any gathering would be better off without. While the General Assembly seemed largely ready to move beyond the pandemic, officials like Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) have remained dedicated both to definitively ending the state’s COVID hysteria and calling attention to the Omnibus Bill’s numerous shortcomings.
Last Tuesday, the Weaver-sponsored HB2452 passed in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on its way to the full committee later this week. Like its companion bill (SB2151 by Senator Joey Hensley [R-Hohenwald]), the legislation makes it illegal for any public entity, private business, or public-facing institution to deny employment or service to an individual based on their vaccine or immunity status. As Weaver told her colleagues at the hearing, other states such as Montana have succeeded in explicitly barring vaccine passports. In contrast, Tennessee’s law remains mired in exceptions and loopholes that ultimately provide even more protection to entities most vocal about excluding the unvaccinated.
The bill received resounding endorsements from committee members such as Bruce Griffey (R-Paris), but that didn’t stop resident buzzkill John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) from yet again manifesting the hallmarks of the clueless public service-succubi that classic movies from Dirty Harry to Ghostbusters and Die Hard have lampooned for decades. Zhuzhing his suit as he prepped for his primetime moment, Clemmons asked Weaver how the vaccination policies she opposed were any different from indoor smoking rules in what he clearly thought was a moment of Matlock-esque gotcha glory. As his colleagues tried to stifle laughs and eyerolls, a nonplussed Weaver responded with, “Apples and Oranges,” before moving on to more substantial people.
Though Clemmons cemented his status as this session’s perpetual buffoon during the meeting, Weaver takes the bill very seriously even as she gears up to push her Parent Bill of Rights (HB2451) that forces curriculum and health policy transparency in Tennessee schools and has led to much gnashing of teeth from the establishment hipster press. Discussing how COVID influenced both pieces of legislation with her Smith County constituents at a monthly coffee event last Friday, Weaver made clear that her primary goal is to defend against the government intrusions and institutional subversion COVID spawned, especially since what little protection the Omnibus law does offer expires next year. Though acknowledging that she would have liked the bill to also address lingering private-sector and school mask policies that now seem more self-righteous statement than safety measure, Weaver said that she felt it was more important to draft legislation that was capable of passing and working in increments than to risk failure with a bill that would correct all ills, especially with Fauci and Co. warning about yet another variant or future pandemic. “The bill doesn’t mention COVID because the next time, it won’t be COVID,” Weaver said.