jeremy faison

House GOP leaders: ‘Trust us’ on secret budget discussions

The state Capitol was closed to visitors on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

After the House Republican supermajority holed up behind closed doors for 75 minutes to discuss the massive overhaul of the state’s budget in response to the coronavirus crisis, Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) spoke to reporters about their justifications for the secret meeting.

Here’s a partial transcript of what was said:

Lamberth: We’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s a transparent process. That includes, from time to time having a caucus meeting that is a closed caucus meeting so they can merely have the information, but no decisions were made.

Q: Just to clarify, a closed caucus meeting is transparent?

Lamberth: Absolutely. It will be prepare us to be able to discuss this later. And everything that was said in that room will be said again on the record. We emphasized that to the members. No decisions were made, no votes were taken whatsoever, and none will be taken in there. What was done was to lay out a schedule for what will happen for the rest of the day, and to lay out the information they have that will be provided to anyone else who wants it.

Q: How will the public know what that schedule is?

Lamberth: What we’re asking is for you to trust us right now. We will continue to get that information out there every single day.

[….]

Q: The Senate rules dictate that when the caucus meets, because they have a majority of the chamber, they must be open. Why have you guys not followed suit, and why should the House supermajority be able to talk behind closed doors?

Faison: Obviously, we don’t follow what the Senate does. We do what we believe is right for our people and our members.

Q: And it’s right to meet behind closed doors when you have a supermajority?

Faison: If we were making a decision, or taking a vote, or whipping a vote or anything like that, I would be vehemently against closing our doors.

[…]

Q: What about the funding for the Education Savings Account law. Was that discussed?

Faison: We discussed what is currently in the budget that deals with ESAs, and the lack of it dealing with ESAs. There’s appropriation in this budget that a lot of people erroneously thought had something to do with implementing ESAs or making ESAs happen. In fact, the money that’s appropriated in this current budget is money that will go to the public schools in Nashville and Memphis.

Q: But that’s for the implementation of the ESA program.

Faison: It does not have anything to do with the implementation of the program. What it has to do with is if a student and their guardian chooses to come out of a public school, the money that follows them goes to the new school they’re going to and we have created a whole separate pot of money that holds that public school harmless. …. We’re in a place right now that we’re not going to get into the politics of what we did with the bills we passed last year.

[…]

Q:  Surely the money could be used to go toward the raises for teachers whose raises are going to be cut?

Faison: We do have a 2% raise for teachers. We’ve dialed back on a lot of stuff.

Q: Why not use the $37 million for the ESA program for teacher raises? If the program isn’t funded, it can’t go forward.

Lamberth: That is absolutely not true. And as my friend, you know that is not true. You are well aware what this money is for. Whatever talking point you got from the Democratic caucus is not accurate. This money in this budget goes to public schools. You know it and I would appreciate it you get that information out there.

Q: As a reminder, 20 Republicans voted against this legislation, so it’s not just Democrats.

Lamberth: That is a Democratic talking point, and you know it. This money goes to public schools. The ESA program can go forward without this money. It is our preference is to backfill any of that money to a public school.. That’s what this money goes to. Period.

A two-week adjournment plan? Lawmakers plot quick end to closed-door session

House Republican leaders are meeting Sunday to discuss their exit plan for the legislative session. The meeting follows a decision on Friday to close off access to the Capitol complex to all but members, staff, and the media.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison tells the Daily Memphian that he’s been inundated with calls from colleagues worried about the spread of the virus and whether they will get a fair hearing on their bills if the legislature adjourns earlier than planned.

Those concerns come as speculation has spread about a potential effort to pass the budget and adjourn by as early as Friday. Faison said that time table would be moving too fast.

“There are a lot of discussions going on right now and looking at it from every angle,” Faison told the Daily Memphian. “I think the most important thing we do is make sure our members are safe and the people of Tennessee are safe. So leadership is meeting tonight, and I think we’ll devise a plan moving forward.”

Senate Speaker Randy McNally said it would likely take two to three weeks to finish up business even in a hurry-up mode.

“I think the House would like to do it in two (weeks). But if we say two, it ends up being three. That’s not too far ahead of our schedule,” he said. “The main thing is getting the governor’s amendment to the appropriations bill.”

McNally said the Senate has been consulting with state Attorney General Herbert Slatery on the legality of closing public access to the General Assembly. The 2001 Mayhew v. Wilder case resulted in a state appeals court decision that said lawmakers can hold secret meetings to discuss budget plans.

 

Lundberg out of 1st District race, Crowe in?

State Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) is the latest sitting lawmaker to bow out of the running for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City).

I have been greatly humbled by the visits, phone calls, texts, messages and words of encouragement to run for congress. …

Posted by Jon Lundberg on Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Lundberg’s decision follows an announcement by state House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison of Cosby that he won’t run for the seat.

Meanwhile, WJHL-TV reports fellow state Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) said he is now considering a bid after receiving several calls encouraging him to run.

“I believe I’ve helped improve the state of Tennessee for 30 years, and would be interested in the opportunity to work on the federal level and represent the district,” Crowe said.

Crowe, 72, wouldn’t have to give up his seat in the state Senate to run because his four-year term isn’t up until 2022. Lundberg wouldn’t have had that same luxury, as his seat is up for reelection this year.

The Tennessean reported last week  that former Kingsport Mayor John Clark has announced he will run. Former state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, former House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower, and former Safety Commissioner David Purkey said they won’t make a bid.

Faison won’t seek vacated congressional seat

Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) speaks to colleagues after being elected House Republican Caucus chair in Nashville on Aug. 22, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Jeremy Faison, the new chairman of the House Republican Caucus, has announced he won’t run for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) this year. Faison will instead run for re-election to the House District 11 seat he has represented since 2010.

Faison won a four-way race for caucus chair after Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) was elected speaker. Faison is known for his outsized persona, his longtime support for legalizing medical marijuana, and his uncanny vote-counting ability.

The Tennessean reported last week that former Kingsport Mayor John Clark has announced he will run. Former state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, former House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower, and former Safety Commissioner David Purkey said they won’t make a bid.

Faison wins 4-way race for House GOP Caucus chair

Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) speaks to colleagues after being elected House Republican Caucus chair in Nashville on Aug. 22, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby has been elected chair of the House Republican Caucus. The position was vacated by the nomination of Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) as House speaker.

Faison defeated Rep. Michael Curcio of Dickson in the final ballot on a 40-31 vote. Rep. Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain was eliminated in the second round and Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station failed to clear the first round.

Faison is known for his bombastic persona and his vocal support for legalizing medical marijuana. He has shown an uncanny ability to count votes within the caucus. His prediction for his caucus chair victory was within one vote, and he was almost as close in his count going into the caucus meeting to declare lost confidence in former Speaker Glen Casada in May.

First House Republicans begin to call for Casada to step down as speaker

House Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) presents school voucher legislation on May 1, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The text messaging scandal surrounding House Speaker Glen Casada is now leading some fellow Republicans to call for him to resign from from his leadership post.

House Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville):

House Majority Whip Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg) told The Tennessean’s Emily West that Casada “needs to step down.”

Here’s Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby):

Rep. David Hawk (R-Greenville):

The Tennessean reports that a caucus conference call with Casada on Wednesday also included some supportive words from members:

Reps. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, offered their support to the speaker.

House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, reminded members of the caucus that “the sky is not falling.”

Lamberth added, “This is one of those type things that we just thoughtfully proceed together in whatever direction we need to.”