text message scandal

Lee sets special session for Aug. 23

Gov. Bill Lee has scheduled the special session to replace House Speaker Glen Casada for Aug. 23.

The House Republican Caucus is scheduled to meet on July 24 to nominate the next speaker.

House GOP to nominate new speaker July 24

Republican members vote during a House GOP caucus meeting in Nashville on Nov. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Let the countdown begin. The House Republican Caucus plans to meet on July 24 to nominate a new speaker to succeed Rep. Glen Casada, who is stepping down following a loss-of-confidence vote.

(This post has been updated with the morning of July 24 being the scheduled date, not the afternoon of the 23rd, as earlier reported.)

The move comes as lawmakers await word from Gov. Bill Lee about the timing of a special session to hold a formal vote on replacing the speaker. The governor has said he plans to summon lawmakers back to Nashville in mid to late August, but had not settled on a specific date as of Tuesday, according to The Tennessean.

The declared Republican candidates for speaker so far include Reps. Mike Carter of Ooltewah, Cutis Johnson of Clarksville, Matthew Hill of Jonesborough, and Jay Reedy of Erin. House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville has recused himself from scheduling and logistics decisions surrounding the speaker vote because he is strongly considering a bid of his own. Others mulling bids include Reps. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station and Ryan Williams of Cookeville.

 

Several House Republicans want earlier Casada exit

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

Several House Republicans are calling for embattled House Speaker Glen Casada to step aside sooner than his planned Aug. 2 exit date.

“I definitely think he needs to go sooner. He can resign. We have a speaker pro tem who can step in until we could have an election at whatever time is appropriate,” Rep. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain) told Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) is the speaker pro tem.

“I definitely think (Casada) doesn’t have the confidence of the legislature, that’s clear,” Hazlewood added. “I think he doesn’t have the confidence of the governor and other people across the state.”

Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) said he’s worried about extending Casada’s power to make key appointments to boards and commissions, including the panel tasked with overseeing the state’s new online sports gaming law.

“If he’d given me some reason, that might have helped me to try and understand it,” said Carter, a candidate to succeed Casada. “But now with all these appointments and things coming, I’m just concerned about it. The bleeding continues.”

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Casada retains appointment power until resignation

Among the panels up for new appointments is the nine-member Lottery Corporation Sports Wagering Advisory Council, which was created under a law passed this session and allowed to go into force without Gov. Bill Lee’s signature. The governor and the House and Senate speakers each get three appointments to the panel.

Among the potential Republican candidate to succeed Casada, three voted for sports gambling bill (Reps. Curtis Johnson, Cameron Sexton, and Robin Smith), while four voted against (Reps. Mike Carter, Bill Dunn, Matthew Hill, and Jerry Sexton.)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally also voted against the sports gambling bill.

Another panel is the reconstituted 16-member Board of Judicial Conduct. Casada gets four appointments on the panel, one of whom must be an an attorney and three others who cannot be an attorney or a current or former judge.

“I find it just shocking that the disgraced House speaker gets to name anybody to a sports gambling commission and a judicial oversight panel,” said former Knoxville mayor Victor Ashe, a former Republican state senator and onetime U.S. ambassador to Poland.  “I would think the Republican majority would want to prevent that from happening.”

Scott Gilmer, who took over as chief of staff to the speaker following the resignation of Cade Cothren as Casada’s chief aide, told the paper the appointments need to made soon.

“Members of the gaming commission need to undergo a background check and that would take some work there,” he said.

Other boards, commissions, and councils with upcoming vacancies include the TennCare Pharmacy Advisory Committee, Advisory Council on State Procurement, the State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, the Commission on Aging and Disability, and Energy Efficient Schools Council. The House speaker has the power to fill two positions on each panel.

“My guess is I don’t think the speaker will fill most of these,” Gilmer said. “Probably most of these we’ll leave to the next person. But if there’s some more pressing ones like the Board of Judicial Conduct and the gaming commission, I think he could appoint those. But we haven’t yet.”

Carter raises concerns about Casada becoming ‘shadow speaker’

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) speaks to Republican colleagues in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) is raising concerns that Glen Casada is trying to influence the outcome of the race to succeed him so he can act as the “shadow speaker” even after he’s no longer in charge of the chamber.

According to a report from Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Casada targeted Carter in an email to Republican colleagues for “using his position on the House Ethics Committee as a platform to run for Speaker, much in the same way he wrongfully accused me of trying to predetermine an outcome from the committee to remain as speaker.”

Carter issued a statement to the paper saying the email from Casada confirmed his concerns that the speaker’s efforts to remain in power until Aug. 2 “would be destructive” to the House.

Casada “is intent on using his position and his substantial PAC funding to punish those who dared to challenge him and to use his position to pick his successor so that he will, in effect, be the shadow speaker,” Carter said in the statement.

Casada’s email attacking Carter drew a rebuke from Rep. David Hawk.

“So, is this what our Republican House Caucus can expect from you over the next two months, as you intend to hang on as speaker?!” Hawk wrote to colleagues.

“Do you and your remaining supporters in the House continually intend to attack those of us who have rightfully called for your resignation? You, trying to assign blame to others for your downfall is wrong on multiple levels. Stop!”

Freshman Smith sees ‘opportunity’ to succeed Casada

Freshman Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) attends a House floor session in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Freshman Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) sees an “opportunity” to succeed House Speaker Glen Casada, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

Casada (R-Franklin) announced plans to resign following a 45-24 vote by the House Republican Caucus to approve a resolution declaring lost confidence in the speaker over a text message scandal and his heavy-handed leadership style. Smith had argued against the resolution during the closed-door caucus meeting.

Smith cited her strong relationship with her 19 fellow freshman in the 73-member caucus.

“We’re the ones bringing ethics reform to the table when others have not,” Smith told the paper. “I think there’s an opportunity for us to stick together as a class. But I’m not going to make that presumption, I’m not going to speak on their behalf.”

“I’m not going to take anyone’s vote for granted regardless of their tenure,” she said.

Smith is a former state Republican Party chairwoman, who took a hard line in stripping former Speaker Kent Williams of Elizabethton of his ability to seek re-election as a Republican because he had been elected to lead the chamber by Democrats.

Smith worked as a campaign consultant for the House GOP during the 2018 campaign cycle, earning $37,000 for her efforts. She lost out her effort to land the same role in 2016 to Chip Saltsman, another former state GOP chairman, who is now supporting Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) for speaker.

Saltsman also managed U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s successful GOP primary campaign against Smith in 2010.

Reps. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) are the only formally declared candidates so far, but several others are actively seeking support for bids.

Casada’s former right-hand man is running to succeed him

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) attends a meeting on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Matthew Hill, a Jonesborough Republican who served as embattled House Speaker Glen Casada’s right-hand man, says he is running to succeed him.

WJHL-TV reports Hill announced his plans at a Johnson City Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday morning.

Upon his election as speaker in January, Casada named Hill his deputy speaker and chairman of the House Ethics Committee. In that role, Hill pushed through controversial changes to House rules aimed at eliminating statements and announcements by members on the floor, imposed what Hill called a “biblical standard” of two members to file ethics complaints, and drafted an advisory opinion that one member charged was aimed at trying to “rig and predetermine” a favorable outcome for Casada.

It remains to be seen how much support Hill will garner among members who just voted this week that they had lost confidence in Casada over a text message scandal and his heavy-handed leadership style.

So who voted against the Casada no-confidence resolution?

House Speaker Glen Casada’s inner circle dines together after the Franklin Republican won the GOP nomination to lead the chamber in November 2018.

We know the final tally of the vote to declare the House Republican Caucus had lost confidence in Speaker Glen Casada was 45-24. But in the aftermath of the secret ballot, it’s been exceedingly difficult to find members who admit to have remained supportive of the embattled speaker.

“Forty-five of us stood for what was right and just,” said Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), the first lawmaker to publicly call for Casada’s resignation. “And now, evidently, there were 68.”

We know Rep. Andy Holt made an impassioned — but unsuccessful — plea to table the resolution during the closed-door caucus meeting. But the Dresden Republican has been uncharacteristically quiet since the vote. Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) wrote an op-ed supporting Casada on the eve of the meeting, and Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) spoke in his favor during the gathering.

Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) told the Daily News Journal he voted against the resolution. And presumably Casada himself voted against. So that’s five of 24.

Everyone else seems to be rushing to the winning side of the vote, including Casada’s erstwhile allies from northeast Tennessee, Matthew and Timothy Hill and Micah Van Huss, according to WJHL-TV.

Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), who was seen as working in close concert with Casada after he was appointed judiciary chairman, raised eyebrows among colleagues for issuing a statement after the vote claiming to have been on the winning side.

Casada to resign upon return from trip abroad

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) checks his phone as he awaits the joint convention to hear Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Glen Casada plans to resign upon his return from a trip to Europe.

“When I return to town on June 3rd, I will meet with Caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as Speaker so that I can help facilitate a smooth transition,” Casada (R-Franklin) said in a statement.

Casada’s long-planned vacation is scheduled to begin Friday. The decision to resign from the chamber’s top leadership post follows an overwhelming vote of no confidence from the House Republican Caucus on Monday. Gov. Bill Lee had said he would call a special legislative session if Casada did not resign.

“Speaker Casada has made the right decision, and I look forward to working with the legislature to get back to conducting the people’s business and focusing on the issues that matter most to our state,” Lee said in a statement.

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) also lauded the decision.

“Speaker Casada announcing his intent to resign is the right decision for the legislature, the Republican Party and the statem,” McNally said. “I commend him for it. Now we move forward. I am committed to working with leadership in the House to help restore the trust that has been lost in any way I can.”

Gov. Bill Lee to call special session if Casada doesn’t resign

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters on March 19, 2019, about his proposal to introduce an education savings account program in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee said Monday eventing that House Republicans had sent a “clear message” in their 45-24 vote to declare they had lost confidence in the leadership of Speaker Glen Casada. “I’m prepared to call a special session if the Speaker doesn’t resign,” the govenror said in a statement.

Lee had said before a special House Republican Caucus meeting that he would await the outcome of the no-confidence vote to see whether it would serve a “signal” to whether the body wanted a special session. Apparently it did.

Casada told the caucus after the vote that he planned to spend the coming months trying to regain the confidence.

UPDATE:

House Republican leaders issued a statement calling on Casada to resign and applauding Lee’s willingness to call a special session. The statement was signed by:

  • Rep. Cameron Sexton (Caucus Chairman)
  • Rep. Ron Gant (Assistant Majority Leader)
  • Rep. Matthew Hill (Deputy Speaker)
  • Rep. Chris Todd (Freshman Leader)
  • Rep. Rick Tillis (Majority Whip)
  • Rep. Paul Sherrell (Majority Floor Leader)
  • Rep. Clay Doggett (Majority Secretary)
  • Rep. Mark Cochran (Majority Treasurer)

[House Majority Leader William Lamberth had issued a statement earlier calling for the special session.]