NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. and other manufacturers are raising concerns about attempts by Republican lawmakers to undercut or block COVID-19 protective measures, a spokesperson for Gov. Bill Lee confirmed Friday.
“We have heard from a number of businesses, including Ford and other (manufacturers), regarding concerns with proposals and encouraged them to reach out to legislators directly,” Laine Arnold said in a statement. Ford did not immediately respond to requests for comment over email and phone.
Ford announced last month that it will create a $5.6 billion campus to build electric F-Series pickup trucks about 50 miles east of Memphis, near the small town of Stanton in rural Haywood County.
The plan was quickly hailed by Lee and other top state leaders as one of the biggest investments in Tennessee history. Within days of the announcement, the Republican governor called a special legislative session so the General Assembly could approve a nearly $900 million incentive package to secure the deal.
However, nearly a week after signing off on the economic incentives, Republican lawmakers have now set their sights on prohibiting a wide range of COVID-19 restrictions, particularly mask mandates and vaccine requirements. Lawmakers called themselves back to the Capitol to take up the issues after Lee declined to do so.
In just three days, the General Assembly’s actions have sparked alarm among the business community, with the National Federation of Independent Business warning that their proposals could hinder the “very survival” of vulnerable businesses.
Most notably, GOP members have said they want to block President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for private employers even though those regulations have yet to be issued. Last month, Ford CEO Jim Farley told CNBC that he was “really excited about the mandate.”