Bill Lee

TN Photo Services

Governor Bill Lee has announced that he will chair the “Yes on 1” committee, which has a goal of putting Tennessee’s right-to-work law into the state constitution. He’ll work to convince Tennesseans to pass Amendment 1 on the 2022 ballot in November.

Legislators voted to put it on the ballot in April.

The act won’t do much to change current practices, but Jim Brown with the National Federation of Independent Business says it’ll prevent a simple removal of the law in the future. 

“It deserves the extra protection because it’s under attack from the federal level with the PRO Act that was passed twice in the House of Representatives,” Brown said, referring to the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would give protections to workers who choose to unionize. “Gov. [Ralph] Northam in Virginia, you saw in Virginia they talked about getting rid of their right to work law from 1947.”

Blaise Gainey | WPLN News

A Shelby County family is asking a federal judge to rescind Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order on masking in schools. The order lets parents opt out of masking, with no need to give a reason. The outcome may have national ramifications.

The Schwaigert family of Collierville argues that Lee’s order puts their teenager at risk. Their child suffers from tuberous sclerosis and is at high risk for severe complications if they were to contract COVID-19, so they say Lee’s order violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That’s also the premise of a federal probe by the U.S. Department of Education. They’re looking at the masking policies in Tennessee, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah. In the letter, education officials point out that Florida’s masking policy was struck down last week.

TN Photo Services

Tennessee’s governor is urging school districts to drop their mask requirements, even though most children remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Many school districts in Middle Tennessee are starting to reconsider their mask requirements — or at least they feel pressure from parents. Gov. Bill Lee says each district makes its own policies, but he’s hopeful they remove the requirement for face coverings.

“Science shows that children have very low risk for contracting COVID and for actually being sick as a result of it,” Lee told reporters on Monday, “so I’m hopeful that schools will make the decision not to require masks for their districts.”

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday he is signing two executive orders that repeal all COVID-19-related restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes in 89 counties across the state, and he’s encouraging the remaining six large counties not covered by those orders to do the same.

But, Lee also said he is extending the state of emergency through October. He said that has given the state the flexibility to respond faster to the pandemic.

“I think we have taken one of the most targeted approaches to the pandemic — eliminated the need of prolonged business closures or prolonged school closures,” Lee told reporters.

 

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

For the second time, Gov. Bill Lee has changed his position on whether the state should release information regarding cases of COVID-19 in schools.

At a press conference Tuesday, Lee told reporters the state is erring on the side of privacy.

“It’s a balance,” Lee said. “It’s really important that people in a school district can’t figure out which children individually have a case.”

During the press conference, Lee and Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey initially cited federal health privacy laws — known as HIPAA — as a reason for not sharing data on school districts experiencing outbreaks or positive cases.

Gov. Bill Lee/Facebook

Gov. Bill Lee has asked the Tennessee General Assembly to meet in a special session next week to pass some COVID-19 related bills that previously failed during the regular session.

The legislature will also debate measures that address the protestors at the Tennessee Capitol and its grounds. The session is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 10.

“As COVID-19 continues to present unique challenges, we feel it is in the best interest of the state to convene a special session to address liability protections and telehealth,” Lee said in a news release Monday afternoon.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Gov. Bill Lee is defending his decision to declare Oct. 10 a "day of prayer, humility and fasting."

The announcement of the declaration has been received with mixed emotions, and some groups are pushing back on it.

Lee says the idea of a day of prayer is to create unity across the state. 

 


Shatlina Chatlani/ WPLN

Following the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, Gov. Bill Lee said his administration will weigh legislation that would address the issue of gun violence.

But he's not ready to offer specific solutions without first taking a "deeper look" at the issue.

 

“I am a person who looks at options and considers the landscape that we are living in, and what it is that I believe would be the most effective way to protect citizens’ rights but protect our citizens at the same time," Lee told reporters Monday.

Tennessee's Republican governor, Bill Lee, is facing public backlash after he declared Saturday "Nathan Bedford Forrest Day," continuing a decades-old tradition honoring the Confederate general, slave trader and onetime leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

SHALINA CHATLANI / WPLN

Proposals that would target criminal justice, health care and education took center stage at Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s first State of the State address Monday night.

The governor also presented his first budget, which consists of $38.5 billion.

That budget includes $25 million for a school voucher program called  Tennessee Education Savings Accounts. The pilot program is meant to target low-income students in school districts with schools in the bottom 10 percent. These school districts are Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Jackson-Madison and Shelby. It also includes the Achievement School District, which oversees schools taken over by the state.

STEPHEN JERKINS / WPLN

Gov. Bill Haslam wraps up eight years in office at the end of this week. His tenure has been marked by some nationally recognized successes — like boosting college enrollment — and one big defeat: the failure of his Medicaid expansion plan, Insure Tennessee.

But in his final days, Haslam told WPLN senior editor Chas Sisk he wants Tennesseans to remember him for one main idea: his pragmatism.