Cameron Sexton

Sexton names House redistricting committee

Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) presides over a House floor session on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has named the membership of the House Select Committee on Redistricting.

The panel will be led by Deputy Speaker Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville). Speaker Pro Tem Pat Marsh is the vice chair. Rep. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain) will serve as East Tennessee coordinator, while Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville) and Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville) will oversee the East and Middle grand divisions, respectively.

Four of the committee’s 16 members are Democrats.

Here’s the full release from Sexton’s office:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) today announced the first-ever bipartisan House Select Committee on Redistricting. The announcement comes after a prolonged delay by the U.S. Census Bureau in releasing state-level redistricting data.

The bipartisan committee consists of 16 House members, including four Democratic members. Deputy Speaker Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) will chair the committee, and Speaker Pro Tempore Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) is the committee’s vice-chair.

Additional committee members include:

Rep. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain)

Rep. Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville) 

Rep. Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville)

Rep. Karen Camper (D- Memphis)

Rep. John Crawford (R-Bristol/Kingsport)

Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby)

Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville)

Rep. John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton)

Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland)

Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis)

Rep. Lowell Russell (R-Vonore)

Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin)

Rep. Ryan Williams (R- Cookeville)

Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston)

“As we continue reviewing the long-awaited statewide data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, I am excited to announce the first-ever bipartisan House Select Committee on Redistricting,” said Speaker Sexton. “The makeup of this panel is representative of the distinctive voices of Tennesseans from across all three grand divisions of our state. I appreciate both my Republican and Democratic colleagues for their work as part of this panel, which will play a critical role in a transparent, public process that will produce both fair and constitutional redistricting plans representative of all Tennesseans.”

House Ethics Counsel Doug Himes will serve as counsel for the committee. The date of the first meeting of the bipartisan House Select Committee on Redistricting has not yet been determined.

For additional information on the redistricting process in the Tennessee House of Representatives, please click here

Cameron Sexton is the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives. A former Republican Caucus Chairman, Majority Whip, and House Health Committee Chairman, Sexton resides in Crossville. He is in his sixth term serving House District 25, including Cumberland, Putnam, and Van Buren Counties.

Sexton hires Arnold as chief of staff

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

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has hired Sammie Arnold, an assistant commissioner at the Department of Economic and Community Development, as his chief of staff.

Arnold’s wife, Laine, is Gov. Bill Lee’s communications director. His first day in Sexton’s office is Sept. 1.

The chief of staff position has been open since Scott Gilmer left in January 2020. Holt Whitt served as interim chief until he was questioned by FBI agents in connection with a raid on 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 in July after obtaining a letter from prosecutors saying he was considered a witness.

Here’s the full release from Sexton’s office.

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) today announced Sammie Arnold as his new Chief of Staff in the Tennessee House of Representatives.  

“I am excited to announce Sammie Arnold as my new Chief of Staff,” said Speaker Sexton. “I’ve known Sammie and his family for several years and have worked with him extensively throughout his time as a staffer with former Gov. Bill Haslam, as well as in his roles with our Department of Economic and Community Development. Sammie’s extensive knowledge of our Tennessee communities, experience in public policy, and working with the General Assembly over the years not only makes him a great choice for the position but will ensure a smooth transition without missing a beat.”  

A native of Dyersburg, Arnold most recently served as Assistant Commissioner of Community and Rural Development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD). In this role at TNECD, Arnold was tasked with overseeing the department’s efforts to boost investment and development in the state’s rural communities, emphasizing Tennessee’s distressed and at-risk counties.  

“It is an incredible honor to join Speaker Sexton and his team as Chief of Staff in the Tennessee House of Representatives,” said Arnold. “I have known and admired Speaker Sexton since he was first elected to the General Assembly, and no one is better equipped than he is to lead this body during this moment of unprecedented opportunity for our state. I look forward to working with him to ensure he and all of our members continue to serve their constituents with the utmost success.”  

Before joining TNECD, Arnold served as legislative liaison for former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. He was also a staffer on former Gov. Haslam’s successful gubernatorial campaign. Arnold earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Vanderbilt University and his Juris Doctor from the University of Tennessee College of Law. He lives in Nashville with his wife Laine and daughter Magnolia.  

His first day as Chief of Staff is Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.  

Cameron Sexton is the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives. A former Republican Caucus Chairman, Majority Whip, and House Health Committee Chairman, Sexton resides in Crossville. He is in his sixth term serving House District 25, which includes Cumberland, Putnam, and Van Buren Counties.  

New edition alert: Sexton brings pressure for special session. Now can he deliver?

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

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

— Sexton pressures Lee to call session to halt COVID-19 mandates. But getting signatures for a letter is one thing, finding consensus is another.

— Lee already ranks third for special sessions and new one would make him No. 2 among all Tennessee governors.

— Opt-out provision to mask mandates posited as a way to take down the temperature.

— Census numbers start trickling in as lawmakers nervously ponder the future shape of their districts.

Also: Easley dismisses conspiracy theories about quarantine camps, WPLN -FM hires a new political reporter, the Titans launch a new PAC, and GOP lawmakers confirm they consider it their duty to tell locals what to do.

Access the your TNJ copy here or subscribe here.

Southern Legislative Conference kicks off in Nashville on Saturday

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)

The Southern Legislative Conference is holding its annual meeting in Nashville this weekend. The group is chaired this year by Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).

Here’s a release detailing proceedings:

Nashville, Tennessee – Approximately 1,500 Southern state legislators, legislative staff, and government officials convene today in Nashville for the 75th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC).

Guided by SLC chair Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (Crossville), the SLC Annual Meeting provides state lawmakers the opportunity to engage with experts on pressing policy issues and collaborate on state government solutions.

“I am excited to welcome state lawmakers from across the region to Tennessee,” said Speaker Sexton. “The exchange and discussion of ideas with other lawmakers on the many accomplishments and successful policies we all championed the last couple of years is something that we all look forward to. This meeting is about learning from one another to improve our home states and the lives of our constituents. As the Southern states have led us through these difficult times to positive recovery, I can’t think of a more critical time than now for all of us to come together, to learn from each other, and celebrate our successes.”

Tennessee’s leadership role within the SLC is a long-established one. Tennessee has had the distinction of hosting the inaugural meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference in 1947; adopting the SLC’s organizational rules at its ninth Annual Meeting in Gatlinburg in 1955; serving as host to the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting in 1996 and, most recently, the 65th Annual Meeting in 2011 in Memphis.

The conference agenda features several notable guest speakers, including:

— Former Governor Bill Haslam

— Maneet Chauhan, Chef, Restauranter, Author, and Television Personality

— Rick Barnes, Head Coach, Tennessee Volunteers, University of Tennessee, and

— Colonel Littleton, Designer, and Proprietor, The Great American Leather Company.

Site visits highlighting Arrington Vineyards, Lipman Brothers Distillery, and Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology Smyrna Campus and Nissan Training Center will offer participants the chance to experience local innovations first-hand.

Attendees also will give back to the community during their stay, packaging 50,000 meals for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee at the annual Campaign Against Hunger event.

Speakers form study committee on refugee issues

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Senate Speaker Randy McNally are assembling joint study committee on refugee issues.

“The Tennessee General Assembly filed suit against the federal government five years ago on refugee settlement,” said McNally (omitting that the lawsuit failed in federal district and appeals courts). “With this study committee, we reaffirm that there is a clear and compelling state interest in a sane immigration policy.”

“We must have transparency to address the concerns raised by both members of the General Assembly and Tennesseans,” said Sexton. “I am in agreement with Gov. Lee not to accept any unaccompanied migrant children.”

The panel is entirely Republican: Reps. Dan Howell of Cleveland, Bruce Griffey of Paris, Ryan Williams of Cookeville, Scotty Campbell of Mountain City, and Chris Todd of Jackson, along with Sens. Dawn White of Murfreesboro, Bo Watson of Hixson, Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, Richard Briggs of Knoxville, and Ed Jackson of Jackson.

Here’s the letter the speakers sent to House and Senate clerks:

Dear Ms. Clerk and Mr. Clerk,

As Speakers of the Senate and House of Representatives of the 112th General Assembly, we hereby create a Study Committee on Refugee Issues to evaluate the number of migrant children being permanently relocated to Tennessee by the federal government, the number of migrant children being flown into Tennessee and then relocated to other states by the federal government, how to increase transparency from the federal government regarding its relocation of unaccompanied migrant children to and through Tennessee, and the impact, financial and beyond, on Tennesseans, as it relates to the federal government’s migrant relocation program. 

House members appointed to the committee are: Representative Howell (Chair), Representative Griffey, Representative Williams, Representative Campbell, and Representative Todd.

Senate members appointed to the committee are:  Senator White (Chair), Senator Watson, Senator Gardenhire, Senator Briggs, Senator Jackson.

/Signed/

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton

State Rep. Mike Carter passes away

Rep Mike Carter is sworn in to the 111th General Assembly in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Mike Carter, whose refusal to sign what he called a “predetermined” ethics report helped hasten Rep. Glen Casada’s departure as House speaker, has died of pancreatic cancer.

Carter, an Ooltewah Republican, made his own bid for speaker after Casada announced he would step down in 2019, but the contest was won by Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).

Carter’s cancer was discovered after he was hit by a heavy bout of COVID-19 last year. He missed most of the recently-completed legislative session while undergoing treatment.

Democrat Potts won’t run for state House again next year

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Jason Potts (D-Nashville) won’t seek another term in the General Assembly next year, The Tennesseans Natalie Allison reports. Potts missed 21 of 34 legislative days this session, telling the paper the job doesn’t pay enough, that he wants to spend more time with his young family, and that he was “discriminated against” by the Republican supermajority.

Potts is the second lawmaker to say he won’t be returning next year. Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey of Paris has said he wants to run for a judicial seat or district attorney general in 2022. Several other lawmakers are expected to step aside with redistricting looming.

“I’m not going to run again when I’m discriminated against every day,” Potts told the paper about his inability to get legislation passed.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) rejected Potts’ assertion as “utter nonsense.”

“In order to pass legislation, you should be in the General Assembly to actually run a bill,” Sexton said.

Gov. Lee declares victory in legislative session

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Lawmakers wrapped up their business for the year last night, and Gov. Bill Lee is lauding fellow Republicans who run the General Assembly for their accomplishments.

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee marked the close of the 2021 legislative session, which includes the passage of his $42.6 billion budget and full agenda as outlined during his State of the State address in February.

“Lieutenant Governor McNally, Speaker Sexton and the members of the General Assembly have been key partners in reducing crime, supporting strong families and strengthening our economy, especially in rural Tennessee,” said Gov. Lee. “I commend the legislature for their work this session to pass measures that will benefit Tennesseans and continue our reputation for conservative fiscal management.”

“We were presented with many challenges this session and we met each and every one,” said Lt. Gov. McNally (R-Oak Ridge). “We invested in education and kept taxes and debt low. Most importantly, we ensured our state pension system remains fully funded for years to come. This protects our fiscal stability and our state credit rating. I am thankful to Gov. Lee, Speaker Sexton and every member of the General Assembly for their tremendous work on behalf of the people of Tennessee this session.”

“I greatly appreciate Gov. Lee, his administration, Lt. Gov. McNally, the House and the Senate for their continued partnership, which has led to a smooth and incredibly successful legislative session,” said Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). “Solutions to improve childhood literacy, our debt-free balanced budget, permitless handgun carry, criminal justice and truth in sentencing reform and preserving our election integrity will continue to move this state forward in a conservative direction. I am proud of these and other achievements that will allow Tennessee to maintain its status as a national leader for all others to follow.”

Gov. Lee’s slate of budget and legislative priorities included initiatives to address criminal justice reform, invest in rural communities, enhance public safety, support families and build on the successes of the special session on education.

Highlights from Gov. Lee’s agenda include the following:

Investing in Rural Tennessee
• Investing a historic $100 million to provide underserved areas across the state with high-speed broadband, which is part of a public-private partnership to incentivize broadband providers to match public dollars
• Dedicating $100 million for local infrastructure grants

Strengthening Tennessee Families
• Providing higher education supports for youth aging out of the foster care system
• Extending coverage for adopted youth to retain TennCare eligibility up to age 18
• Expanding postpartum care for the TennCare population from 60 days to a full year
• Reforming the TANF program to promote economic mobility and improve outcomes for recipients

Supporting Tennessee Students
• Increasing transparency for any foreign investment activity on college campuses
• Expanding access and improving quality of apprenticeship programs
• Investing $250 million in the Mental Health Trust Fund
• Increasing the teacher salary component of the BEP by 4%

Enhancing Public Safety
• Protecting the Second Amendment by extending law-abiding Tennesseans’ constitutional right to carry a handgun
• Stiffening penalties for criminals who steal or illegally possess firearms

Prioritizing Conservative Criminal Justice Reform
• Improving outcomes for formerly incarcerated individuals by increasing transparency in the parole process
• Enhancing practices that support success post-release
• Expanding treatment services and community-based supervision for offenders as alternatives to incarceration

UPDATED: What consistency? Seven who opposed Bible bill override vote for latest version

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

When then-Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a 2016 bill to make the Bible the official state book, 15 Republicans who still remain in the chamber today voted against an override. On Monday night, seven of those representatives switched their positions to support the latest version that passed by just five votes more than the minimum needed to clear the chamber.

The GOP members who essentially voted to sustain Haslam’s veto five years ago while approving the renewed measure were Majority Leader William Lamberth of Portland, Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison of Cosby, Andrew Farmer of Sevierville, Curtis Johnson of Clarksville, John Ragan of Oak Ridge, Mark White of Memphis, and Ryan Williams of Cookeville.

While 55 members approved of the bill on Monday, 28 voted against. Another nine didn’t vote, including Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).

The measure now heads to the Senate, where Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) has spoken out in opposition.

Speaker Sexton strips Griffey of committee assignments

Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) attends a meeting at the legislative office building in Nashville on Dec. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has stripped Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) of his committee assignments. The move comes after Griffey’s unsuccessful attempt earlier this week to pull an e-verify bill that had earlier been defeated in a subcommittee straight to floor.

Griffey had engaged in a testy exchange with Sexton and House parliamentarian Daniel Hicks on Monday about whether he should be allowed to deliver remarks in favor of his bill while making the motion on the floor. After cutting the lawmaker off, Sexton determined Griffey’s motion didn’t have a second and declared it defeated.

Griffey, who is considering a bid for a judgeship next year, was removed as a member of the Civil Justice, Criminal Justice, and Education Instruction committees.

UPDATE: A statement from Sexton:

There are certain expectations that must be met by members of the Tennessee House of Representatives. These include maintaining decorum and professionalism, as well as respect for others, and perhaps most importantly — respect for our longstanding committee process. If any or all of these expectations become an issue, appropriate actions will be taken — including removing a member from his or her committee assignments.”