Cameron Sexton

New TNJ edition alert: Party executive panels could face cuts, Lee readies roads push

Chairs are set out for Gov. Bill Lee’s second inauguration on Jan. 19, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Not just for Nashville? Parties’ executive panels could face cuts, too.

— After being sworn in Saturday, Lee to make big push for roads proposal.

— Legislative roundup: Sexton wants cash-pay arrangements with health providers to count against insurance deductibles.

— Election matters: Registry says warnings enough for not following new reporting rules,

Also: The state’s official rifle goes Down Under, Jeremy Durham gets his trial date punted, Mike Bell recovering after heart surgery, and Memphis has a high-tech method for finding potholes.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

[Note to subscribers: The weekly email containing the Tennessee Journal is being sent from a new address. Please check your spam filter if you don’t see your copy in your inbox.)

Find your local House member’s committee assignments

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) presides first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here are House Speaker Cameron Sexton’s committee assignments for the 113th General Assembly:

Alexander, Rebecca (R-Jonesborough)

  • Business and Utilities Sub of Commerce
  • Cities Sub of Local Government
  • Commerce
  • Local Government
  • Public Service Sub of State Government
  • State Government

Barrett, Jody (R-Dickson)

  • Appropriations Sub of Finance
  • Banking and Consumer Affairs Sub of Commerce
  • Commerce
  • Finance

Baum, Charlie (R-Murfreesboro)

  • Appropriations Sub of Finance
  • Education Administration
  • Finance Sub
  • Finance, Vice Chair
  • Higher Education Sub of Education Admin

Beck, Bill (D-Nashville)

  • Civil Justice
  • Civil Justice Sub
  • Departments and Agencies Sub of State Government
  • Ethics
  • Ethics Sub
  • State Government
  • Transportation

Boyd, Clark (R-Lebanon)

  • Appropriations Sub of Finance
  • Business and Utilities Sub of Commerce, Chair
  • Commerce
  • Finance
  • Health

Bricken, Rush (R-Tullahoma)

  • Banking and Consumer Affairs Sub of Commerce
  • Children and Family Affairs Sub of Civil Justice
  • Civil Justice
  • Commerce, Vice Chair
  • Departments and Agencies Sub of State Government
  • State Government

Bulso, Gino (R-Franklin)

  • Civil Justice
  • Civil Justice Sub
  • Education Administration
  • Government Operations
  • K-12 Sub of Education Admin
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Sexton, McNally re-elected speakers

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) presides first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) have been re-elected as the heads of their respective chambers.

All 75 House Republicans voted for Sexton, plus Democrat Antonio Parkinson of Memphis. The remaining 22 members of the minority party voted for Democratic Caucus Chair John Ray Clemmons of Nashville.

In the Senate, 27 Republicans backed another two years with McNally in charge, while all six Democrats abstained.

Here are some more photos of the action on Tuesday.

Senators applaud Sen. Randy McNally’s election as speaker on the first day of session. From front are Sens. Page Walley (R-Savannah), Shane Reeves (R-Murfreesboro), and Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains).
Sen. Bill Powers (R-Clarksville) arrives in the House chamber to inform members the Senate is ready to conduct businesses first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson, center, applauds Sen. Randy McNally’s election as speaker on the first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Freshman Rep. Brock Martin (R-Huntingdon) attends the first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) attends first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Rep. Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon) applauds for House Speaker Cameron Sexton on the first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Rep. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill) applauds during the first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Johnson named new chief of staff for House speaker

Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton confer in the House chamber on Feb. 3, 2020. Walking past the podium at center is Kevin Johnson, Sexton’s new chief of staff. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton has named Kevin Johnson as his new chief of staff. Johnson, who previously worked as general counsel and senior adviser, succeeds Sammie Arnold.

Sexton (R-Crossville) also named Rosie Anderson, his executive assistant and scheduler, as director of operations.

Here’s the release from the speaker’s office:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) today named Kevin Johnson as chief of staff and promoted Rosie Anderson to director of operations. 

“I am excited to announce Kevin Johnson as my new chief of staff and Rosie Anderson as my new director of operations,“ said Speaker Sexton. “Both are dedicated and hardworking professionals who have played a prominent role in serving our members and contributing to the House’s sustained success during the 112th General Assembly.”

A Christian Brothers University graduate, Johnson has served as general counsel and senior advisor to the speaker since 2019. He has previously served as counsel, campaign manager, and field representative for Congressman David Kustoff. Johnson earned his J.D. from Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in Memphis; as chief of staff, he will be responsible for managing daily operations within the House, overseeing strategic projects, and he will continue serving as chief legal counsel to Speaker Sexton.

Rosie Anderson has been promoted to the role of director of operations within the speaker’s office. The University of Tennessee Knoxville graduate holds bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and political science with a concentration in law and courts. A product of the General Assembly’s internship program, the third-year student at Nashville School of Law previously served as the speaker’s executive assistant and scheduler. She will oversee the operations within the speaker’s office —including scheduling, and special projects — and have a role in Speaker Sexton’s legislative initiatives. 

Sexton today also announced the hiring of two new staff members.

Mississippi native and former Bill Lee Campaign team member Chad Bobo joins Speaker Sexton’s Office. The University of Mississippi graduate, husband, and father of two has served as a volunteer with several community organizations — including Community Service Development of Nashville, which works with at-risk children. An experienced community engagement leader who holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration, Bobo will be responsible for constituent and member relations services.    

James Harris joins Speaker Sexton’s Office as executive assistant to the speaker. A native of Nashville and a graduate of Glencliff High School, Harris has previously participated in the legislature’s internship program. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in pre-law from Middle Tennessee State University. In his role as Executive Assistant, Harris will serve as a primary point of contact for all external communications received and manage the speaker’s daily workflow. 

“Chad and James are incredibly talented individuals, and I am grateful they have decided to join my staff. They are strong additions to the Tennessee House of Representatives, and their unique experiences will help them be successful in service to our members, citizens, and our state,” Sexton concluded.

The 113th General Assembly officially convenes on Jan. 10, 2023.

Sexton’s chief of staff leaving for private sector

Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) speaks to colleagues on the House floor in Nashville on Oct. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State House Speaker Cameron Sexton’s chief of staff, Sammie Arnold, is informing colleagues and lawmakers he is leaving for the private sector.

Sexton (R-Crossville) hired Arnold, then an assistant commissioner at the Department of Economic and Community Development, in September 2021. The chief of staff position had been open since Scott Gilmer left in January 2020. Holt Whitt had served as interim chief until he was questioned by FBI agents in connection with a raid on the homes of three lawmakers’ homes and offices in January 2021. Whitt was placed on leave while the investigation was underway. He was hired as a senior adviser in the state Department of Human Resources the following July after obtaining a letter from prosecutors saying he was considered a witness in the Phoenix Solutions case that led to the guilty plea and resignation of Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) and indictment of former Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin).

Arnold is a Dyersburg native who previously worked as a legislative liaison in Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration and on the Republican’s 2010 campaign. Arnold is married to Gov. Bill Lee’s former communications director Laine Arnold.

House GOP re-elects top leadership team

House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) attend a floor session in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Republicans have voted to retain their top leadership team of Speaker Cameron Sexton of Crossville, Majority Leader William Lamberth of Portland, Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison of Cosby, and Majority Whip Johnny Garrett of Goodlettsville. Pat Marsh of Shelbyville was renominated for speaker pr tem. All were unopposed.

Further down the ticket, Mark Cochran of Englewood was elected assistant majority leader. He succeeds Ron Gant of Rossville, who was seriously injured in a head-on crash of two SUVs last month. Cochran had announced his challenge before the wreck and some members had expected Gant to bow out of the race so he could focus on his recovery. But Gant, who did not attend the caucus meeting at Paris Landing State Park, decided to remain on the ballot.

Sexton was one of six candidate for speaker after Glen Casada (R-Franklin) resigned the post amid scandal in the summer of 2019. Faison was elected to succeed Sexton as caucus chair. Lamberth was first elected majority leader in 2017.

Here’s the release from House Republicans:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee House Republicans today selected Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, by unanimous vote to lead the House of Representatives for a third term.
The Republican House Caucus held its biennial organizational meeting to elect leadership positions following a historic election in which the House GOP gained two seats, securing a 75-24 supermajority. The caucus election was held at Paris Landing State Park in Paris, Tenn.

“I greatly appreciate the overwhelming support and the trust my colleagues have placed in me to continue serving as speaker,” said Sexton. “Tennessee leads because Republicans continue standing strong to preserve the freedoms, liberties, and conservative values that are important to the citizens of our state. Together, we will continue to effectively partner to prioritize solutions that build upon the General Assembly’s successes so Tennessee remains the best place to live, work, raise a family, and retire.”

Members voted unanimously to reelect for a third term State Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, as majority leader, State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, as caucus chairman, and State Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, as majority whip. State Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, was unanimously chosen to serve his second term as Speaker Pro Tempore.

Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, was elected to his first term as Assistant Majority Leader.

“Tennessee voters spoke loud and clear this year when they overwhelmingly elected Republicans to represent them at every level,” Lamberth said. “I am so proud of all this caucus has accomplished. Together, with the leadership of Speaker Sexton, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Gov. Bill Lee, we will continue to deliver on our promise to uphold common sense conservative values and seek the best possible quality of life for all Tennesseans.”

“Republicans in the legislature have been extremely successful over the last decade at building a stronger, safer, and more prosperous Tennessee,” Faison said. “The House Republican Caucus for the 113th General Assembly is made up of 75 talented, hardworking Tennesseans from every corner of this state who have a great desire to build on that tradition. I’m proud to have their support as we work to move Tennessee forward.”

Others elected to caucus leadership positions include State Rep. Paul Sherrell, R-Sparta as floor leader; State Rep. Scotty Campbell, R-Mountain City, as caucus vice chair; State Rep. Michelle Carringer, R-Knoxville as Secretary; State Rep. Rebecca Alexander, R-Jonesborough, as Treasurer.

Freshman State Rep. Jody Barrett, R-Dickson, was elected Assistant Floor Leader.

The 113th General Assembly is scheduled to convene on Jan. 10, 2023.

McNally, Sexton name task force to study crime, punishment

Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton await Gov. Bill Lee’s arrival for his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

After a spate of high profile slayings in Memphis, Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and his House counterpart, Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), are assembling a special committee to review the adequacy of criminal sentencing in Tennessee.

Here’s the letter from the speakers to Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey and House Clerk Tammy Letzler:

Dear Ms. Clerk and Mr. Clerk:

As Speaker of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 112th General Assembly, we hereby create the Joint Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Adequacy of the Supervision, Investigation, and Release of Criminal Defendants. The Committee is authorized and directed to undertake a review of all information relevant to the supervision, investigation, and release of individuals who commit crimes in this state. The Committee is directed to recommend whether there is a need for legislative action to provide additional safeguards to protect the public from those who repeatedly violate criminal laws.

The Committee may consult with the District Attorneys General Conference to ensure that any pending criminal prosecutions will not be jeopardized by any actions taken by the Committee. The Committee may also consult with groups that represent the interests of victims of crime.

To the extent that the Committee is authorized to review any records that are confidential under existing law, the Committee is directed to take appropriate action to maintain the confidentiality of such records.

The Office of Legal Services shall provide legal services to the Committee, and the Attorney General and Reporter, the Department of Correction, and the District Attorneys General Conference shall assist the Committee and the Office of Legal Services upon request.

Senate members appointed to the Committee are: Senator Ed Jackson (co-chair), Senator Richard Briggs, Senator Todd Gardenhire, Senator Bill Powers, and Senator Jeff Yarbro.

House members appointed to the Committee are: Representative Bud Hulsey (co-chair), Representative Clay Doggett, Representative Andrew Farmer, Representative William Lamberth, Representative Antonio Parkinson, and Representative Lowell Russell.

Sincerely,

/signed/

Lt. Governor Randy McNally

Speaker Cameron Sexton

Casada indictment drops on 3rd anniversary of successor Sexton’s election as House speaker

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

Three years to the day that Rep. Cameron Sexton took over as speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, federal prosecutors indicted his predecessor, Glen Casada, on bribery and kickback charges.

Here’s what Sexton had to say about Tuesday’s charges against Casada and his onetime chief of staff, Cade Cothren:

In Tennessee, we will not tolerate public corruption, defrauding our state, or bribery at any level. I commend the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its hard work, diligence, and dedication that resulted in this morning’s arrests.

As I have previously stated on several occasions, shortly after becoming speaker in 2019, I began assisting the federal authorities during and throughout their investigation — including leading up to today’s indictments, and I will continue to do so if a trial is needed.

Together, our legislative body has stood strong over the past two years to take significant actions during this investigation by passing laws to strengthen campaign finance regulations and new ethics laws for elected officials and staff.

Today is a good day for Tennesseans because we did not turn a blind eye on these criminal activities.

And here is House Democratic leader Karen Camper’s reaction:

When something like this happens, it reflects poorly on the entire Legislature. We are elected to serve the public and when that trust is broken, it’s very disheartening and erodes the confidence that our constituents have in government. This does however, highlight how badly campaign finance reform continues to be needed and that bi-partisan legislation already passed needs to go much farther.

This from House Republican leader William Lamberth and House Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison:

The illegal behavior outlined in today’s indictments is extremely serious, and disappointing to our entire caucus. We appreciate Speaker Sexton’s leadership on this situation, as well as the efforts of our House leadership team in bringing these crimes to light. We also stand with federal law enforcement and are grateful for their efforts to hold those responsible for these crimes accountable. Now, we can all move forward and continue focusing on meeting the needs of citizens across Tennessee.

And here is Gov. Bill Lee’s spokeswoman Casey Sellers:

We trust the legal process and continue to hold Tennessee’s public servants to high standards of accountability. The Governor commends Speaker Sexton for running the House with integrity and setting the expectation that elected leaders must serve Tennesseans in good faith.

New TNJ edition alert: The Cameron Sexton interview

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), left, and Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) await the begin of the State of the State address on Jan 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— TNJ Interview: House Speaker Cameron Sexton reflects on recovering from ‘trauma’ of scandals in House, building trust with Senate, and his expectations about future relations with Gov. Bill Lee.

— No cakewalk for Joe Carr in Rutherford County?

— Federal judge shoots down Starbuck’s effort to be restored to GOP ballot in 5th District.

— AG’s office confirms 5th District ballots could be changed until next month, raising questions about why redistricting fixes couldn’t have been made in time.

Also: Speculation about attorney general successor kicks into overdrive, Brian Kelsey gets another delay for his federal campaign finance case, and Memphis’ Democratic mayor backs “truth in sentencing” law.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Lee declines signature on ‘truth in sentencing’ bill

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters in Gainsboro on July 8. 2021. (Image credit: State of Tennessee)

Gov. Bill Lee has declined to sign a “truth in sentencing” bill championed by legislative Republicans to require people convicted of violent crimes to serve all of their sentences behind bars, The Tennessee Journal has learned.

Under the final version of the bill sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and his Senate counterpart, Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), 100% of sentences would have to be served for nine categories of crimes, including murder, vehicular homicide, and carjacking. Seventeen other violent offenses — such as aggravated assault, reckless homicide, or possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony — would allow prisoners to qualify for release after serving 85% of their sentences.

“Data does not support the basic premise of the legislation,” Lee wrote to the speakers. “Similar legislation has been enacted before and resulted in significant operational and financial strain, with no reduction in crime. Widespread evidence suggests that this policy will result in more victims, higher recidivism, increased crime, and prison overcrowding, all with an increased cost to taxpayers. For these reasons, I have chosen not to sign the bill.”

The bill passed the House on a vote of 86-9 and 20-7 in the Senate. It will become law without Lee’s signature.

Here’s a statement from Sexton in response:

You can protect criminals or you can protect victims.  I stand with victims, as do members of law enforcement, our district attorneys, and criminal judges across Tennessee. In 2020, the U.S. Sentencing Commission published a study stating stronger sentencing has a statistically significant deterrent effect by reducing crime and lowering recidivism. That’s why Tennessee’s law enforcement community stood behind us and supported this legislation.

Sometimes we need to use common-sense approaches; more violent criminals in jail for longer periods means less crime and fewer victims. Softer sentences mean more crime and more victims.

Our job is to keep our communities safe, protect our families, and support law enforcement.  If we need to build more prisons, we can. Either we value life or we don’t; this legislation was about the most violent crimes committed in our state.  It’s hard to stand with victims and law enforcement by going easy on criminals.

McNally dials it back a bit:

Truth in Sentencing is vital legislation that not only offers justice and transparency to victims but also acts as a critical deterrent against violent offenders. The costs associated with the legislation are well worth the peace of mind offered to victims and the overall boost to public safety. While I disagree with Governor Lee’s critique of the bill, I appreciate his willingness to work with Speaker Sexton and I to get the bill in a posture to avoid a veto. I am grateful this bill is now the law of the land in Tennessee.”

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