Last week, the Senate passed Governor Lee’s proposed budget. The $39.4 billion plan: eliminates raises previously approved for teachers and some other public employees, adds $50 million to fund state-worker buyouts and $200 million to ease the pandemic burden on county and city governments, and allows the administration to raid certain funds within the State.
Gov. Lee proposed raiding the reserve funds of regulatory boards within the Department of Commerce and Insurance as well as the education and recovery account of TREC and the Auctioneer Commission. The Senate added an amendment that removed this provision. We are working with the House to make sure they adopt the same amendment, as the monies in those funds were put in by licensees. The House is set to take up the budget in House Finance Sub this week.
The Senate also passed Safe Harbor legislation, which says businesses, government entities, nonprofits, healthcare entities, educational institutions, and religious organizations will not be liable for any damages, injury, or death that result from a health emergency claim if the covered entity (1) did not act with gross negligence or willful misconduct, and (2) substantially complied with applicable public-health guidance.
A “health emergency claim” includes any cause of action that is related to the following circumstances:
- The actual, alleged, or possible exposure to, or contraction of, Coronavirus from a covered entity or arising from a covered entity’s operations, products, or services; or
- The covered entity’s efforts to prevent or delay the spread of Coronavirus.
As covered entities have been faced with interpreting a complex framework of local, state, and federal guidelines, the Tennessee Recovery and Safe Harbor Act adopts a comprehensive definition of “public health guidance,” which includes all forms of governmental guidance and direction released throughout the progression of the pandemic. The House has passed the Act through Committee and will consider it on the House floor this week.