Nashville, Tennessee. Even though his office warned that the bill would violate federal disability law and put the state at risk of losing federal funds, the governor stood by his decision to sign the bill.
The bill on balance is good, according to Republican Gov. Bill Lee, in his first public comments since The Associated Press revealed his legislative counsel's email warning to lawmakers. He promised a broad review of the new law, which he acknowledged includes some issues we need to work through. He wouldn't say if he thinks the law's accommodations for people with disabilities need to be changed.
He said that before the next legislative session in January, they need to determine what really needs to be changed.
The state has to defend the law in court.
Gov. Lee said he would sign COVID legislation.
The caption will look like this.
The sweeping COVID legislation was passed by state lawmakers in a special session and Gov. Bill Lee plans to sign it this week.
Attorneys representing children with disabilities argued Monday that the email was in conflict with the official position of the state. They want to use it as evidence in their case.
The bill signed by the president bars governments and businesses from requiring proof of vaccinations, and only allows schools and other public entities to require masks in rare, dire public health situations. The state health commissioner has sole authority over the quarantining of COVID-19.
When the bill passed, Lee's legislative counsel warned Senate Republican leaders they were in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The email was sent at 12:44 a.m. and noted an earlier attempt by the governor's office to flag the same issue. The email was obtained by the Associated Press.
Lee's legislative counsel, Liz Alvey, wrote in an email that the proposed ADA accommodation in the bill was a violation of the ADA and would put us at risk of losing federal funding.
Lee said Monday that there was debate within the governor's office and the Legislature about some provisions. The law was effective immediately after his signature.
Lee said that they would go through the process of each piece of the bill to make sure that the Legislature and their office agree on whether or not the provisions are appropriate. We will clean up what needs to be cleaned up after we look at all of them.
The federal protections are at the center of a lawsuit by families of children with disabilities, who have succeeded in getting a federal judge to block the law's tight limits on COVID-19 requirements in schools.
The Tennessee Disability Coalition's executive director said after the email became public that a blatant disregard of the Americans with Disabilities Act is a real punch in the gut.
The lawsuit claims that the state law restricts the ability of school districts to develop their own COVID-19 safety rules, which could result in them losing funding from the American Recovery Plan.
At the hearing on Friday, the counsel for the plaintiffs moved to read the email from the governor's office out loud in court. The state objected, citing the source of the legal analysis, to which Judge Waverly Crenshaw responded: "From a source who likely knows what she's talking about."
In their motion Monday, the attorneys wrote that the email cuts through any double-speak about the bill's impact on future funding.
The final measure of the three-day session was praised by Republican legislative leaders despite objections from business interests.
The law allows families to request accommodations for children with disabilities if they are within six feet of each other and wearing a face covering.
The law was passed after three federal judges ruled against the governor's parental mask option for students. The opt-out order expired when Lee signed the new law.
If groups can show that they would lose federal funding if they comply with the state law, then exemptions are allowed.