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Associated Press Photo/Mark Humphrey / Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, stands for the Pledge of Allegiance during a special session of the Tennessee Senate last week in Nashville.

The muddle Tennessee legislators created with the omnibus bill they passed in their special session late last week may be worse than the issues they were trying to address.

Time will tell.

The Republican Party-dominated body, which prides itself on keeping government out of the way in most situations, decided instead that state government should be the arbiter of most things COVID-19 mask- and vaccine-related.

But their actions left conundrums such as these:

— It bans many private businesses from making vaccine requirements of their employees but offers a slew of exceptions (which are a boon to employers such as Ford Motor Co., which just agreed to spend billions and employ more than 5,000 people in West Tennessee).

— It allows entities at risk of losing federal funds to issue mask and vaccine mandates, and use public funds for mandates, if they receive approval from the state comptroller's office.

— It says governments and public schools can require 14-day mask mandates if a county has had 1,000 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people for 14 days (which no Tennessee county currently has, or has had over the last two years), but not if the county averaged 999 cases over those 14 days.

— It says the state health commissioner, not the local county health director, will determine quarantine regulations for counties during a pandemic.

— It makes the state health commissioner the final arbiter for the selection of health director of the state's 95 counties. Instead of the choice being made by the county mayor, the health commissioner must request the county mayor send the health commissioner three names within 10 days of the request. The health commissioner may choose one of those names or someone else, but if it is someone else the commissioner must consult the mayor and offer a written explanation why that person was chosen.

— It says public schools cannot require students to wear masks (only 12 districts are currently doing so), but private schools may do so.

— It allows the governor to suspend the entire bill if he so chooses.

To us, many pieces of the legislation — which still requires the governor's signature — seem antithetical to what conservative Republicans have been pushing for in the past. It adds more government involvement in private businesses, sets up classism (with the public schools vs. private schools mask directive) and removes some local controls around schools, health departments and hospitals.

We understand and sympathize with those who strain at mandates that previously have been put in place or are planned to be, such as President Joe Biden's vaccine requirement for businesses with 100 or more employees. We disagree with such a mandate on private businesses, but we also recognize a private business's right to require a vaccine or mask of their employees (just as they would a random drug test, not missing too many unexcused days of work, or not fulfilling the obligations of their job).

We appreciate three tenets of the bill. They include requiring N-95 or similar masks for anyone who needs one (if they're removing mask mandates, they're at least willing to provide the safety equipment for those who want to remain covered); allowing those who quit their job because of vaccine requirements to collect unemployment benefits (though we wonder if this is any better than some of provisions in a federal pandemic bill in the spring that allowed many people to be paid to be unemployed into September); and requiring that hospitals allow visitation by at least one family member to a COVID-19 patient as long as the member has no symptoms or tests negative for the virus (though this removes a hospital's control of its own regulations).

The ink is barely dry on the bill, but opponents already have said they would be taking at least the school masking policy to courts, and we wouldn't be surprised if that's just the beginning. And that's the point we made ahead of the start of the session last week — don't pass anything that can't be supported in court.

And we wouldn't surprised if by the time 2022 — and the next legislative session — rolls around, some of what was passed last week looks a little, shall we say, overwrought, hurriedly passed or passé, and needs a little tinkering.

Most of Hamilton County's legislative delegation — Sens. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and state Reps. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, Greg Vital, R-Ooltewah, and Esther Helton, R-East Ridge — voted in favor of the omnibus measure. State Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, voted no, and state Rep. Yusuf Hakeem did not vote but managed to tell this newspaper's Andy Sher the bill was a Republican "power grab to satisfy part of their base."

The legislation sunsets in July 2023, but we wouldn't be surprised if aspects of it are reconsidered before then.

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