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Associated Press file photo / Tennessee lawmakers gather for a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to take up incentives for Ford in mid-October. They are in another special session this week to mandate against COVID-19 mandates.

A bill filed in advance of this week's Tennessee General Assembly special session on COVID-19 says government agencies and businesses can require vaccinations for employees — but are barred from requiring any proof.

If that leaves you scratching your head, know that it's time to ask for proof that the water in the state Capitol isn't really just GOP-contaminated Kool-Aid.

Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, and the bill's House of Representatives sponsor, says employers and governments can mandate vaccinations all they want, but if his bill passes they can't require proof of those vaccinations.

Hmm. Let's try this then. Employers likewise can no longer require any of us to have a driver's license and proof of insurance to drive our own cars in our work for them. Or even company vehicles.

And they can't ask us to sign a statement saying we don't smoke in order to pay a reduced premium for health insurance.

And they can't drug test us, either.

Nor can employers require proof of our citizenship, our educational attainment, our military service. You get the point.

But Zachary, another Republican who's read too much disinformation from Facebook, reasons that "nobody asks for a flu vaccination passport, polio, rubella, whatever it may be. So we're saying that holds true for COVID, and no one can require proof of vaccination. You can mandate it if you want, but you can't require proof of vaccination."

Clearly, he's never registered a child for public school.

Perhaps we should require MRIs for every political candidate seeking office to prove they have a brain. Of course, that still wouldn't prove candidates or politicians know what to do with their brains.

Take for instance Zachary's GOP colleague, Mark Pody, in the Tennessee Senate.

Pody, R-Lebanon, was a speaker at a three-day conference last week hosted by Ty and Charlene Bollinger and their group Truth about Cancer — a group that has focused recently on COVID-19 vaccines and has earned a place on the Center for Countering Digital Hate's "Disinformation Dozen" list. Groups or individuals on that list are "responsible for the bulk of antivax content shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter."

And just what did Pody say at this conference?

"There is an evil government in Washington, D.C., that is overstepping its bounds and is trying to replace God with it. They're trying to tell each and every one of us what we can and cannot do."

Actually, Pody's deceitful and dangerous description more closely resembles Nashville than Washington.

Tennessee's Republican supermajority in the General Assembly and governor's office have done just about everything they can to thwart common-sense precautions for the contagious and dangerous COVID-19 that has sickened nearly 1.3 million Tennesseans and killed more than 16,000 in 18 months.

Democrats apparently are drinking only bottled water at the Capitol. Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, says this bill and seven others seeking to dodge federal laws and rules about COVID are bad for the state — both for our health and our businesses.

"We don't need this week's bit of political theater to actually do damage to Tennessee businesses or health providers," Yarbro told the Times Free Press. "These proposals to evade federal law look unworkable, unconstitutional or both ... I'd say the proposals are unwise too, but that horse already left the barn, galloped down the road and is in the next state by now."

"It's a total waste of time," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Vincent Dixie said Monday of Republicans' efforts. "We're using taxpayer money for something that's been solved already, a solution in search of a problem that doesn't exist ... It's going to be more political grandstanding ... We're mandating that there are no mandates in this. So you're going to put more regulations on businesses after I thought Tennessee was a business-friendly state."

And let's talk about taxpayer money.

In August 2020, when Gov. Bill Lee called a special session to push legislation to extend broad immunity to businesses, schools and other entities against COVID-19-related lawsuits, the Nashville Tennessean estimated the cost of a minimal three-day session would be at least $119,000 — just in daily allowances for lawmakers and mileage reimbursements.

Per legislative rules, bills must be considered on the floor for three calendar days before passage. This and any session could last longer than that, and additional days would cost at least $34,500.

And if lawmakers spend more than a week in session, they could receive a second week of mileage reimbursements. Weekly mileage costs total $15,200.

Also, if the House opens proceedings to a limited number from the public — as happened in June 2020 — additional security costs could reach toward $50,000.

Mandating medical imaging for proof that a politician indeed has a brain is looking better every day.

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