Governor, Legislature Announce Next Steps Amid Coronavirus Concerns

The Tennessee State Capitol Building at sunset.

During a press conference Monday afternoon, Governor Lee announced he will release an amended budget on Wednesday for the upcoming fiscal year, working with both Speakers in an effort to pass the Constitutionally-required measure before members go into recess at the end of the week. The announcement came following the release of a statement urging school districts to close as soon as possible due to COVID-19, with the expectation that schools close by Friday, March 20.

Governor Lee, Speaker Sexton, and Lt. Governor McNally released a joint statement regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and steps the Tennessee legislature will be taking:

“Over the last week, we have remained in close contact with the state’s health leaders, and we have continued to carefully monitor the complex and aggressive COVID-19 virus in Tennessee. The latest guidance from both the CDC and Department of Health requires us to take unprecedented action. In the best interests of public health, we have jointly decided to limit all remaining legislative business to fulfilling our constitutional requirement of passing a balanced budget, and any associated actions that will ensure Tennessee can keep its doors open. This is a serious time for our state and country, and we all must make adjustments in response to this threat. Our approach will take into account the unique public health challenges this complex virus presents, as well as the economic disruption likely to occur as a result of its spread. Passing an amended budget now and recessing will allow the General Assembly to focus on an immediate plan of action, while still determining needs down the road. This pathway forward should only be reserved for extraordinary circumstances. We will continue operating out of an abundance of caution and take additional action if it becomes necessary.”

The Senate Education Committee met briefly Monday afternoon for the purpose of passing the Tennessee Department of Education’s budget to the Senate Finance Committee and did not take up any of the more than 100 bills on the calendar prior to adjourning.

In Washington, the CDC announced their recommendation to halt events exceeding 50 persons for the next eight weeks. President Donald Trump held a press conference advising Americans to avoid crowded public places such as bars and restaurants, wash hands frequently, and practice social distancing.

The University of Tennessee has announced it will continue courses online for the remainder of the Spring semester, and in light of the CDC guidance, the cancellation of in-person commencement ceremonies. More information about UT’s response to COVID-19 can be found on its website.

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