Special called General Assembly session marred by partisan rancor

Aug 26, 2019

Crossville Republican Cameron Sexton is sworn in as the new Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Friday, Aug. 23, 2019.
Credit capitol.tn.gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE) -- Emotions ran high Friday as House minority Democrats tried to introduce new measures during a special called session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee called the session to elect a new House speaker, following the resignation earlier this month of embattled Williamson County Rep. Glen Casada. Crossville Republican Cameron Sexton won the speaker's seat with near unanimous support from both Republicans and Democrats.

But the session's bi-partisan tone quickly evaporated when Democrats tried to introduce new business. Rep. John Ray Clemmons introduced a resolution condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacy. The Nashville Democrat continued to press the matter in spite of a ruling by the House Clerk that his motion was out of order.

A visibly angry Republican House Caucus Leader William Lamberth noted broadly worded hate legislation passed the House earlier this year.

“We all stood against all hate groups. We didn’t just pick some and say we stand against them and say we’re OK with all the rest as you have in your resolution sir. So whenever you want to join this body and stand against all hate groups feel free.” 

The Lamberth resolution was offered in the wake of a mass shooting in an El Paso Walmart that left 22, mostly Latino, shoppers dead. That shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.

The Democratic minoirty also introduced a motion to expel embattled GOP lawmaker David Byrd. Byrd has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct 30 years ago when he was their high school coach. House Republicans rejected that move as well.

 

Before debate on the issue ended, Rep. Clemmons did manage to extract a promise from Dickson Republican Michael Curcio that the matter would be considered soon.

 

“CLEMMONS: So is it your intention, or the Judiciary Chairman or whoever that may be’s intention to take this up in due haste.”  “CURCIO: I want to tell you and anyone else who’s listening it is absolutely my intention to take this up.”

Rep. Byrd has since announced that he does not intend to seek reelection in 2022.