by Jon Styf


Along with the seven bills that passed Tennessee’s Legislature during its recent COVID-19 related special session, a joint resolution also passed both chambers of the legislature and sits on Gov. Bill Lee’s desk.

While the bills become law if Lee signs them, “resolutions differ from bills in that they do not become law but simply serve to express the views of the majority of one or both houses of the Legislature.”

The resolution, SJR 9005, serves to say that Tennessee’s leadership has the right to “enact such legislation as it deems necessary to nullify actions taken by the federal government regarding COVID-19 when those actions violate the United States Constitution.”

By nullification, it refers to not following federal laws and instead following state guidance.

The resolution passed the House 64-17 with three representatives abstaining while it passed the Senate 24-6.

In discussion of the resolution, sponsor John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, spoke about both COVID-19 vaccinations and South Carolina’s history of nullification. Ragan explained that the main purpose is to fight any federal mandates to force vaccines on citizens.

“A vaccine that does not reliably give all of its recipients’ immunity, does not prevent the spread of disease, is not something that should be forced on anyone,” Ragan said. “Nonetheless, the non-critically thinking automatons thoughtlessly accept whatever factually vacant, woke virtual signaling is fashionable among those who feel rather than think.”

State Rep. Sabi “Doc” Kumar, R-Springfield, said that he agreed that citizens should be able to choose for themselves but wanted to clarify facts about the vaccine.

“There is an impression being created that vaccines do not prevent COVID,” Kumar said. “While they don’t prevent it 100%, but they do prevent to the tune of 80% against symptomatic or asymptomatic infection and they prevent up to 90% of hospitalizations and up to 95 or 96% against death. They do have a preventive role, no doubt.”

While introducing the resolution, Ragan spoke of South Carolina’s attempt at nullification.

“We are here today creating history,” Ragan said. “The nullification theory was first broached in 1832 when Tennessee’s own Andrew Jackson was president. The state of South Carolina began it. Jackson threatened to invade with federal troops to settle the issue.

“However, the federal government ultimately backed down and the crisis was averted. That theory is still alive and well.”

Rep. Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, disputed Ragan’s take on South Carolina and did not vote on the measure when the vote was called.

“I want to make sure this is clear, the federal government did not back down. South Carolina quit,” Curcio said. “And, unfortunately, South Carolina never really recovered from that wound. They couldn’t get any other southern states to join them in nullification and ultimately rescinded their nullification ordinance on March 15, 1833, but they continued in their behavior until, unfortunately, Fort Sumter was fired on, creating a tragedy for this country. I just want to remind everybody of that, that emulating such behavior is very, very serious and I think we need to be careful about that.”

Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, said that as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, he had to abstain from voting on the measure.

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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Styf is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “Bill Lee” by Bill Lee.