Tennessee Gov. Lee signs law limiting COVID-19 mask, vaccination mandates

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Gov. Bill Lee speaks at the 42nd Annual Chattanooga Area Leadership Prayer Breakfast at the Chattanooga Convention Center on October 26, 2021.

NASHVILLE - A far-reaching effort by Tennessee Republican lawmakers to rein in COVID-19 mask mandates and vaccine requirements is now state law after being signed Friday by Gov. Bill Lee.

The Republican governor had told reporters Wednesday that he intended to sign House Bill 9077/Senate Bill 9014 despite concerns raised by the state's three top business associations, local governments, school boards, disability advocates and others.

The measure drew an immediate legal challenge from eight disabled students across Tennessee saying the ban on mask mandates in schools is unconstitutional and violates federal laws protecting disabled students, The Tennessean reported.

Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who pushed for the special session to address COVID-19 mandates, celebrated Lee's signing of the measure on Twitter.

"A big win 4 upholding the constitutional rights of all citizens! Proud that we protected parental rights & the ability of Tennesseans to make health decisions free of government intrusion & coercion while also drawing a line in the sand against Biden's unconstitutional overreach," Sexton tweeted.