Tennessee lawmakers are considering legislation that would prevent government from favoring certain businesses over others during a health-related state of emergency.
The Business Fairness Act would allow a business, regardless of size, to remain open during health emergencies as long as it follows government-issued safety precautions and guidelines.
“The issue is many small businesses wound up on an unlevel playing field (during the COVID-19 pandemic) due to various executive orders, forcing them to close while larger competitors were to stay open,” the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Bill Powers, R-Clarksville, told the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee this week. “… We believe that all businesses are essential.”
The National Federation of Independent Business, the largest small business association in the U.S., was a driving force behind the legislation, and it is endorsed by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and HospitalityTN, which represents the interests of Tennessee’s lodging, dining and tourism businesses.
“The Tennessee Business Fairness Act is commonsense legislation that will help many small businesses survive another crisis like COVID-19 and keep people working,” NFIB Tennessee State Director Jim Brown said in a statement. “The bill seeks to ensure any government, state or local, stays away from picking winners and losers and ensures small businesses are on a level playing field with their big-box competitors. Hopefully, we’ll never have another situation like we’ve had with the coronavirus, but if we do, we need to make sure small businesses can survive.”
The Business Fairness Act passed the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Tuesday and was referred to the Senate Calendar Committee. The House version, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, cleared the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee on Wednesday.