Randy McNally

An Easter adjournment? McNally hopes to make it so

Legislative leaders kick off the joint convention to inaugurate Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. From left at podium are House Majority Leader William Lamberth, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, and then-House Speaker Glen Casada. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally tells colleagues he wants to get the legislative session wrapped up by the week of Easter, which falls on April 12 this year.

The Oak Ridge Republican acknowledged that sessions tend to last at least a week longer than targeted adjournment dates, but committees will be shutting down with an eye toward getting incumbents out on the campaign trail — and raising money (which is banned while the General Assembly is in session).

Last year’s adjournment fell on May 2, while lawmakers in 2018 got out of town on April 25.

“We set these dates and usually we get pretty close, but usually it runs over a week,” he said. “We’ll try to get all the bills on notice, the governor presents his budget on Feb. 1, and we should be ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”

McNally statement on execution of Lee Hall

Senate Speaker Randy McNally’s comment on the execution of Lee Hall on Thursday evening:

After nearly three decades, the moment of justice has finally arrived for the family of Traci Crozier. She was set on fire and left for dead by an individual who proclaimed to love her. After 36 hours of unfathomable pain and suffering, she died. Today a sentence of death was carried out against the individual responsible. In the state of Tennessee, we reserve the ultimate and irrevocable penalty of death for crimes such as these. While there is little pleasure in it, there is no doubt justice was served tonight. I can only hope the family of the victim can now have some measure of peace.

Here’s what Gov. Bill Lee has to say in declining to intervene in the case.

The justice system has extensively reviewed Lee Hall’s case over the course of almost 30 years, including additional review and rulings by the Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday and today. The judgment and sentence stand based on these rulings, and I will not intervene in this case.

McNally says renaming Cordell Hull Building shouldn’t be done ‘without considerable forethought and study’

Former Gov. Winfield Dunn awaits the start of the of the inauguration of Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) doesn’t appear quite as eager to push through a new name for the legislative office complex as some of his House counterparts. Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) announced last week he plans to introduce legislation to name the building after former Gov. Winfield Dunn. The facility constructed in the 1950s is named after Cordell Hull, the country’s longest-serving Secretary of State.

“This is not something that should be done without considerable forethought and study,” McNally told The Tennessean.

McNally got his start in politics working for Dunn’s 1970 campaign for governor, calling him “a great man (and an) outstanding governor. But he also praised Hull, who was a state representative before serving in the U.S. House and Senate.

Tennessee’s No. 2 Republican says Casada should step down

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally says House Speaker Glen Casada should step down over the text messaging scandal that has enveloped his office.

Here is the Oak Ridge Republican’s full statement:

It has been my goal over the past few days to allow the House of Representatives to address the issues they are facing without distraction. I am very aware that any comments from the other chamber can be counterproductive to their ongoing process. Questions of resignation or removal remain up to Speaker Casada and the House alone. I would expect any removal process to include due process. When asked my personal opinion on the matter, I can only answer honestly. I believe it would be in the best interest of the legislature and the state of Tennessee for Speaker Casada to vacate his office at this time.

Lee and McNally weigh in on Casada text message scandal

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), center, attends an economic development announcement in Nashville. At left is Gov. Bill Lee and on the far right is House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal).

Republican Gov. Bill Lee and Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) have issued statements on the text message scandal surrounding House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin).

Here’s what Lee had to say:

When we choose to enter public service, we have an obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard and cultivate an environment of professionalism and respect. We owe it to Tennesseans to ensure they know that all of us in elected office hold ourselves to that high standard. Recent revelations have shaken that faith, and we need to ensure that confidence is fully restored.

And here’s McNally:

Senate leadership and I are greatly disappointed by the inappropriate actions and attitudes revealed in recent news reports. Every person who interacts with the state legislature should be treated with the utmost respect. It is deeply troubling that some have fallen short of this standard. Tennesseans expect and deserve better from those who serve the public trust. Senate leadership is united in our commitment that members and staff continue to uphold the standard Tennesseans demand of their public officials.

That’s a wrap! Lawmakers go home for the year

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) speaks to reporters in the House chamber in Nashville on April 17, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Tennessee General Assembly has concluded its business for the year. Here’s a roundup of some of the last-minute festivities:

Pody wants to recall ‘Heartbeat Bill’ to Senate floor

State Sen. Mark Pody wants the Senate to overrule a decision by its Judiciary Committee to send an anti-abortion bill to be studied after the session has adjourned for the year. The Lebanon Republican wants the full chamber to vote on the measure seeking to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Pody has filed paperwork with the Senate clerk to hold a recall vote as soon as the next floor session on Wednesday. It would take 17 votes for the measure to get a floor vote as early as next week.

UPDATE: Pody didn’t make the motion during Wednesday’s floor session, but could do so at any time.

The House passed the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” earlier this session. But the Senate agreed with Tennessee Right to Life’s assessment that the measure was likely to lose in a court challenge and that a better approach would be to set a ban of most abortions in Tennessee that would “trigger” in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns all or part of Roe v. Wade.

A House subcommittee killed the trigger bill, while the heartbeat bill languished in the Senate. The impasse created the very real possibility that both bills might be defeated for the year. But the House reconsidered when Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) last week made the motion to revive the trigger measure by pulling it directly to the full Health Committee. That recall required a majority of all eligible voting members in the committee (including the House speaker). In the case of the Health Health panel, the minimum threshold was 11 votes. The recall received 12, so it will be on this week’s calendar.

Pody’s version of the heartbeat bill was sent to summer study on a 5-3 vote, with Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) voicing strong support for the move.

‘Heartbeat bill’ sent to summer study

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), center, attends an economic development announcement in Nashville. At left is Gov. Bill Lee and on the right is House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal).

The Senate Judiciary Committee has decided to punt on a bill seeking to ban abortions in Tennessee once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The House passed the measure in a floor vote, but the Senate decided not to proceed over concerns about a successful legal challenge.

Here’s what Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) had to say after the committee action on Wednesday:

I fully support the deliberative approach the Judiciary Committee is taking on the Heartbeat Bill. As someone who believes life begins at conception, I support the bill philosophically. But constitutionally, as Tennessee Right to Life points out, the bill is flawed in its current form. Amendment One put the abortion industry on the ropes in Tennessee. We have done all we can to defund Planned Parenthood. We have put in place reasonable restrictions to help prevent abortion. Passing a constitutionally suspect bill now would give the courts an opportunity to erase the progress we have made. And a losing court fight would likely result in awarding taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood. Protection of the unborn is too important to risk taking a step backward. I appreciate the sponsor bringing this legislation. It deserves the best possible chance for success. But that chance can only be achieved by careful study.

Here’s your Bill Lee inauguration gallery

Bill Lee delivers his inaugural address in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Bill Lee delivers his inaugural address in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee, bottom left, looks on as his Cabinet takes the oath of office in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig Tennessee Journal)

Continue reading

Johnson elected Senate majority leader, Yager wins caucus chairmanship

Senate Republicans have elected Jack Johnson of Franklin as majority leader and Ken Yager of Kingston as Republican caucus chairman. Sen. Randy McNally was unopposed for another term as speaker.

Johnson defeated Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, while Yager won on the first ballot against Sens. Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville and Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

The majority leader position was vacated by former Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville, who has become a federal judge in Memphis. The caucus chairmanship was open because former Sen. Bill Ketron was elected Rutherford County mayor.

The next scramble will be over who replaces Johnson as chairman of the Commerce Committee and Yager as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee.

Here’s a statement from Speaker McNally:

Jack Johnson will be an outstanding Senate Majority Leader. He has the experience, temperament and policy expertise to lead our caucus and the Senate to new heights. Jack has been intimately involved in the progress we have made as a state. Beginning with his transformation of the Government Operations Committee to his strong leadership on the Commerce Committee, Jack has put conservative ideas into action on behalf of the people of Tennessee. As we embark on a new era in Tennessee state government, Jack’s leadership will be critical. Congratulations, Leader Johnson.

Ken Yager has the depth of skill and breadth of experience to excel as chairman of our Senate Republican Caucus. As a county executive and chairman of the Senate State and Local Committee, he has demonstrated an ability to lead under pressure. Our caucus has achieved much success both in policy and in politics. I expect that success to continue under Ken Yager’s leadership. Congratulations, Chairman Yager.

The Senate is fortunate to have a membership full of capable and talented leaders. I am confident the team we have elected today will work together with Governor Lee and the state House to keep Tennessee the best state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family.