david byrd

House Speaker Sexton won’t pursue Byrd ouster following AG opinion (UPDATED)

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) and Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) attend a committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton says he won’t move to oust a Republican state lawmaker following an attorney general’s opinion advising against it.

“After consulting with House leadership and our committee chairmen, we will heed Attorney General Slatery’s advice and not move forward,” Sexton said in a release.

State lawmakers may have the power to oust Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) for allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage basketball players before he was elected to office, but “historical practice, sound policy considerations, and constitutional restraints counsel against” such a move, Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a legal opinion released Wednesday.

The state constitution provides for each chamber of the General Assembly to “determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.”

That language has been unchanged since the adoption of the 1796 constitution, but Slatery notes that state courts “yet to construe the meaning of ‘disorderly behavior’ or the scope of the expulsion clause more generally.”

Much of the opinion appears to hinge on whether lawmakers need to find their colleagues guilty of disorderly behavior in order to expel them. Others have argued that the provisions dealing with punishment for disorderly conduct and expelling members are not linked, and that the House and Senate can oust any of their members for any reason the choose so long as they can get a two-thirds vote.

Slatery concludes:

  1. There is no federal or Tennessee historical precedent of expelling a member other than for conduct that occurred while the member was in office. Historically, the power of expulsion has been used very sparingly and then only to punish a member for “disorderly conduct” that occurred during the member’s current term in office.
  2. Sound policy considerations counsel that the power of expulsion should rarely if ever be exercised when the misconduct complained of occurred before the member’s election and was generally known to the public at the time of the member’s election. Because expulsion under those circumstances essentially negates the choice of the electorate, the House must weigh its interests in safeguarding the public trust in its institutional integrity against the deference and respect owed to the choice of the electorate before it expels the member. That is, in light of the particular facts and circumstances of each case “the [House] must balance its interest in ‘assur[ing] the integrity of its legislative performance and its institutional acceptability to the people at large as a serious and responsible instrument of government,’
    with a respect for the electoral decisions of the voting public and deference traditionally paid to the popular will and choice of the people.” Expulsion of Members of Congress, CRS Report 7-5700 at 13 (quoting Powell v. McCormack, 395 F.2d 577, 607 (D.C. Cir. 1968)  (McGowan, J., concurring)).
  3. In any event, since even the broadest legislative power is subject to state and federal constitutional restraints, the expulsion power may be exercised only to the extent consistent with the voters’ constitutional right to choose their representatives and with the member’s state and federal constitutional rights, such as the right to due process and equal protection.

Wake me up when September ends? Byrd still mum on re-election plans

Embattled Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Education Committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) tried to defuze efforts to oust him from the General Assembly during a special session in August by telling GOP colleagues behind closed doors that he wouldn’t run for re-election next year. When confronted by The Tennessean afterward, Byrd declined to confirm anything, saying only he would have a statement about his plans in September.

Well, September has come and gone. And Byrd, who has never publicly addressed sexual misconduct allegations dating back to when he was a girls high school basketball coach, still hasn’t made any public pronouncements. The lawmaker didn’t respond to several efforts by The Tennessean to reach him for comment.

Sexton elected speaker, Byrd ouster deferred

Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) makes a motion to oust Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) for sexual misconduct during a special session in Nashville on Aug. 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) was elected House Speaker on Friday and the chamber turned back Democrats’ attempts to oust Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) over sexual misconduct allegations.

Sexton was elected on a 94-0 vote, a rare moment of unity in a House rocked by the scandal-plagued speakership of Glen Casada (R-Franklin), who did not attend the special session.

Efforts to oust Byrd were sent back to the Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Cameron Sexton presides over his first session as House speaker on Aug. 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal) 

AG asked to opine on power to oust Byrd from House

Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) speaks to the House Republican Caucus after winning their nomination for speaker on July 24, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Cameron Sexton, the Republican nominee to be elected speaker during Friday’s special session, is asking state Attorney General Herbert Slatery about whether the chamber has the power to oust Rep. David Byrd over allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage basketball players when he was their coach in the 1980s.

UPDATEThe Tennessean’s Joel Ebert reports that the AG’s office does not anticipate being able to answer in time for the special session.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

Dear General Slatery:

Article 11, Section 12 of the Tennessee Constitution provides:

  • Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same offence; and shall have all other powers necessary for a branch of the Legislature of a free State.

The Tennessee House of Representatives has used the power to expel only twice since 1866. In both instances, the member was expelled for conduct that occurred during the time of the member’s service. I am writing to request an opinion as to the following question:

  • May the House of Representatives expel a member for conduct which occurred more than twenty-five years prior to the member’s initial election to the House of Representatives and that is publicly known at the time of the member’s most recent re-election to the House of Representatives?

As always, I appreciate the work that you and your staff provide to the General Assembly and to the citizens of Tennessee. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Respectfully submitted,

/signed/
Representative Cameron Sexton
25th Representative District

Resolution to oust Byrd won’t be on calendar. But is one even needed?

Embattled Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Education Committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison reports that a resolution seeking to oust state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) over sexual misconduct allegations dating back to when he was a girls’ high school basketball coach in the 1980s won’t be placed on the House calendar for this week’s special session.

If Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) wants her resolution to be taken up, it would require a two-thirds majority to suspend the rules — the same margin required to oust a sitting member.

But there’s a fairly obvious workaround, if past experience with the ouster of then-Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) is any guide. During the 2016 special session to undo a drunken driving bill that threatened $60 million in highway funds for running afoul of federal guidelines, Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) stood to announce a motion to oust Durham over the sexual misconduct allegations laid out in a state attorney general’s report.

There was no accompanying resolution for the successful effort to remove Durham, which rankled the former lawmaker’s few supporters in the chamber. They included then-Rep. Rick Womick (R-Murfreesboro), who likened the House to a “banana republic” if any member could just stand and make a motion to oust another.

But Joe McCord, the House clerk at the time, cited the following provision in the Tennessee Constitution outlining the power to remove members:

Section 12. Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same offense; and shall have all other powers necessary for a branch of the Legislature of a free state.

While the General Assembly is required to stay within the governor’s call for the special session, which are to pass updates to court rules that didn’t get taken up during this spring’s regular session, internal housekeeping matters like leadership elections are also allowed.

Byrd, who was recorded by one of the now-adult women apologizing for unspecified sins in the past, has been urged by Lee not to seek re-election next year.

Byrd removed from subcommittee chairmanship following anti-voucher vote

Embattled Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Education Committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Embattled state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) has been removed as chairman of House education subcommittee a day after voting against Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher proposal.

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) announced the move Thursday, The Tennessean reports.

“Following discussions with members of the House and after careful consideration, I have formally asked Representative Byrd to step down from his position as chairman of the House Education Administration Subcommittee,” Casada said a statement.

Byrd’s chairmanship has been the subject of regular protests at the legislative office complex over allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage basketball players when he was their high school coach in the 1980s. Byrd was overwhelmingly re-elected in November despite revelations that he apologized to one of the women in a recorded phone call.

“Representative Byrd agrees that this is the best path forward in ensuring the House of Representatives can focus on the issues that truly matter to all Tennesseans. This decision is based on input from members and to continue the orderly operations of the House,”  Casada said in the statement.

Byrd has long been a target of school choice proponents for his steadfast opposition to voucher legislation. This year’s voucher bill cleared the House Education Committee on Wednesday on a 14-9 vote. Byrd was among four Republicans who voted against the measure.

Casada supported Byrd during his re-election campaign, and had defended appointing him to his subcommittee chairmanship until Thursday.

UPDATE: Casada’s chief of staff, Cade Cothren, told reporters it would be an “absolute lie” to suggest Byrd’s removal as chairman was linked to his voucher vote.

GOP colleagues split over Byrd chairmanship

A Tennessean survey of House Republicans has found the caucus is split over whether Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) should remain chairman of an education subcommittee given allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage basketball players when he was their high school coach in the 1980s.

Byrd has not specifically denied the allegations made by a woman who recorded a phone call with the lawmaker in which he apologized for unspecified past transgressions.

House Republican leadership tried to keep members from answering questions from the newspaper’s reporters, urging them to direct questions to caucus spokespeople. Eleven members declined to answer questions, while others spoke on condition of anonymity.

Read the full report here.

Casada’s office orders removal of women protesting Rep. Byrd

House Speaker Glen Casada’s office ordered troopers to remove six women holding signs protesting Rep. David Byrd’s chairmanship from a committee meeting.

The Associated Press reports the women sitting in the audience held signs at face-level reading “Enough is enough,” “Take a stand,” and “Protect constituents.” Three women have accused Bryd of sexual misconduct when they were teenage basketball players and he was their their 28-year-old high school basketball coach.

One of the women, Christi Rice, has since recorded a call to Byrd in which the lawmaker apologizes for unspecified transgressions. He has denied anything happened with other students.

“I wish I had a do-over because I promise you I would have corrected that and that would’ve never happened,” Byrd said in the recorded call. “But I hope you believe me when I say that it’s one of those things that I think about it all the time, and I always ask forgiveness for it and I hope you forgive me.”

Casada’s predecessor, Beth Harwell, had demanded Byrd’s resignation after the allegations were first aired by WSMV-TV last year. But Casada has deemed the allegations to be “fake news” and appointed Byrd chairman of an education subcommittee after he was overwhelmingly re-elected in November.

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Lee says he didn’t authorize mailer for Rep. David Byrd

Republican gubernatorial candidate appears in a state GOP mailer supporting controversial Rep. David Byrd of Waynesboro. Only problem is that Lee says he didn’t authorize it.

Lee was asked about the mailer in Williamson County on Tuesday, and said he did not know whether the photo was taken before or after sexual misconduct allegations were made public about Byrd. Two women said Byrd touched them inappropriately when he was their 28-year-old basketball coach, and a third said he tried to.

“I haven’t seen that picture, so I don’t know, and we didn’t authorize the use of that,” Lee said.

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) called for Byrd’s resignation, but he is seeking re-election this year.

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Casada’s PAC running ad defending Rep. Byrd as victim of ‘fake news’

State Rep. Glen Casada is running digital ads in support of Rep. David Byrd’s re-election campaign, likening him to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump and saying the lawmaker is the victim of “lies & fake news” spread by liberals.

Stand with Coach DAVID BYRD for State House!

What does Representative DAVID BYRD have in common with President Trump & Judge Brett Kavanaugh? They’re all being attacked by unhinged liberals & FAKE NEWS with false accusations because they’re fighting for our conservative agenda! Don't buy their desperate lies…

Posted by Keep Tennessee Republican on Thursday, September 27, 2018

Three women alleged in March report by WSMV-TV that Byrd (R-Waynesboro) had inappropriately touched and kissed them as teenagers while he was their 28-year-old high school basketball coach. One of the women secretly recorded a telephone call to Byrd in which he apologized and told her how “hard it has been for me” to live with his actions with the woman who was a 15-year-old student at the time.

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) promptly called for Byrd’s resignation. Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) soon followed suit. Byrd issued a statement after the story broke, stating that he has done nothing wrong over his two terms as a state representative and expressing disappointment that Harwell “so quickly turned her back on me.”

Byrd’s image wasn’t helped by revelations that he served as a character witness in 2013 for a family friend who as a 23-year-old teacher pleaded guilty to statutory rape of a 16-year-old student. WSMV reported that Byrd, then the principal of Wayne County High School, told the court that he believed the defendant had learned his lesson and that he would “hire him in a minute” if he were able to teach again.

The AP reports that a national political action committee aimed at preventing politicians accused of sexual misconduct from being re-elected is now targeting Byrd.