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News & Press: Policy Update

Policy Update: Governor Lee Calls Special Session and More!

Thursday, August 6, 2020  
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Governor Bill Lee Calls Special Session

This week Governor Bill Lee announced an Extraordinary Session of the Tennessee General Assembly to begin on Monday, August 10, 2020.  The purpose of the special session is to address three issues: liability protection related to COVID-19 contraction for the larger business community, expansion of tele-health authorization, and protections for state property.

The special session is expected to last anywhere from three to five days.  Bills addressing the top three issues are being drafted and should be filed by tomorrow making them ready for consideration for first reading on Monday evening. 



General Assembly to Consider Liability Protection


     

LGovernor Bill Lee has struck a deal with the leadership of both the House and Senate to provide liability protection for TICUA members as well as the broader business community.  It is expected that the draft bill will be filed sometime tomorrow which will put it into a position to be considered by the appropriate committees on Tuesday morning.

TICUA met with the Governor’s office yesterday to be briefed on the bill.  The previously failed conference committee report served as the basis for the new legislation.  The lack of consensus on the conference committee report was due largely to the retroactive provision.  Many of TICUA’s concerns, however, were addressed in the final report and continue to be addressed in this new draft.  The Administration is planning on moving forward with little or no changes to the new measure.

TICUA stands in support of the proposed legislation.  Some of the key components important to private higher education include the following protections:

  • Contraction of COVID-19 or any subsequent mutation of the virus as claim against a college or university without substantiated cause.
  • There is no claim of action against a “person or entity” (read college or university) for loss, damage, injury, or death arising from COVID-19 unless the “claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence” that it occurred as a result of “gross negligence or willful misconduct.”
  • Protections extend to health care interns.
  • Claimants must file a verified complaint pleading specific facts with particularity related to the damage or injury.
  • Claimant also must file a certification of good faith from a duly licensed physician that contraction and related damage was caused by the defendant. 
  • The effective date of the bill, once passed, will be “the date the Governor issued the proclamation call for the extraordinary session,” (August 3, 2020). 
  • The protections will expire on July 1, 2022.
TICUA is encouraging all member campuses to express their support of the bill.  If successful, this measure will put significant protections in place as we move forward with the reopening of our campuses.