MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee will deliver his third State of the State address Monday night before a joint session of the legislature from War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville.
The governor will present a state budget, outline his legislative priorities, and share his vision for a post-COVID-19 world.
When he delivered his State of the State address last year, Lee laid out an ambitious plan, which included major investments in education, teacher pay, and mental health.
But a few weeks later, those plans were put on ice when the pandemic hit.
COVID-19 has killed more than 10,000 Tennesseans and uprooted the livelihoods of many others.
“We grieve with those families, mourn for them. It’s why we are working so hard right now,” Lee said.
The Lee Administration is working to get Tennesseans vaccinated and all schools to reopen for in-person learning.
So far, Shelby County Schools is the only district that has resisted.
SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray said the decision to hold off on reopening for in-person learning was based on local concerns over health and safety.
This week, a bill that would give the governor the power to force the district to reopen for in-person learning is expected to be introduced in the general assembly.
State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, is the author of the bill.
“It’s time for Shelby County Schools to offer that option to parents,” said Kelsey. “I understand some parents don’t want to come back. That’s fine. But those that do, that desperately want their kids to have a chance to learn in person, they should be given that opportunity.”
During his State of the State address, the governor may tout the bills he signed into law in the special legislative session on education. The bills address learning loss and teacher pay.
In a rebuttal to the governor’s State of the State address, Tennessee Democrats said the governor’s handling of the pandemic has fallen far short.
“Oftentimes, the governor’s intervention started too late, ended too early, and did too little,” said State Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis. " Our calls for aggressive science-based mitigation strategies have been met with excuses, ideology, and denial.”
WMC political analyst Michael Nelson said he expects the governor to spend some time talking about his vision for a post-COVID world.
“I suspect he is going to be very serious about the crises we’re in, but also try to strike a tone of optimism about Tennessee’s future after we get through this pandemic,” Nelson said.
The governor’s State of the State address begins Monday at 6 p.m.
WMC Action News 5 will carry the stream live online and on the station’s Facebook page.