Cameron Sexton

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.”

Bill to ban lawmakers from selling services to the state wouldn’t extend to executive branch

A Lee Company truck is parked outside the fire-damaged John Sevier State Office Building on Nov. 24, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Current law makes it illegal for public officials to enter into sales or purchase contracts with the state. A bill moving in the House would also make it a crime for lawmakers to secure service contracts with the state, with the main aim being to curb the practice of members’ political consulting firms getting paid with taxpayer funds to design and send constituent correspondence on behalf of their colleagues.

The bill sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) initially would have applied to any government official, but as amended it is limited to “any member of the General Assembly.”

When Bill Lee was running for governor, he appeared to have been caught off guard by questions about what would happened to government contracts held by his family plumbing and air conditioning company if he were elected governor.

“I would guess we would be required to do that. I haven’t actually looked into that. I basically went into this thing and said, am I willing to give up state contracts to do this, yes,” Lee said in 2017. “Will we be required to? I don’t know. If we aren’t required to, I won’t.”

Lee later clarified his position and announced he would cancel all contracts if he was elected. Lee Co. trucks have sporadically been spotted around the Capitol complex since the governor took office, but officials say the company has no active contracts.

Smith wants to cast wider net on banning lawmakers from doing business with state

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

A bill introduced by House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) is aimed at ending the practice of having lawmakers’ political consulting firms be paid with taxpayer dollars to send out constituent mailers for their colleagues. The measure would apply to two GOP lawmakers who recently had their homes and offices raided by the FBI, Reps. Glen Casada of Franklin and Robin Smith of Hixson.

Smith’s Rivers Edge Alliance last year billed the General Assembly nearly $11,000 for work on behalf of three colleagues. Casada’s Right Way Consulting billed $12,500 to six GOP lawmakers’ accounts. Smith and Casada have also refused to say whether they have a stake in a secretive vendor Phoenix Solutions that sprung into prominence last year.

Smith tells Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Andy Sher she wants to amend Sexton’s legislation to make it “even better” by expanding it to also include legislators’ “consultant or agent.”

Smith didn’t tell Sher whom she was seeking to target with her amendment, but her attorney has been blaming Sexton adviser Chip Saltsman for the FBI probe into his client, calling the matter a “turf war between political consultants.”

Saltsman and Smith are both former political consultants to the House Republican Caucus. They have been at odds since a 2010 congressional race in which Saltsman client Chuck Fleischmann defeated Smith in the Republican primary.

Sexton is cool to the idea of Smith amending his bill.

“Her amendment and what she wanted to do would not fit the caption of my bill,” Sexton told the Times Free Press. “Nor has she come to me about adding an amendment to my bill. What she’s wanting to do would not fit the caption, therefore you can’t do it even if I gave her the approval, I would accept the amendment — which I have not.”

Tennessee legislature shuts down for rest of week

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Heavy winter weather is leading to the closure of the Tennessee General Assembly for the rest of the week.

The House announced it will extend its bill filing deadline until the close of business on Feb. 24. It had previously been set for Wednesday.

The Senate bill filing deadline was Feb. 11.

Winter storm closes Legislature until at least Wednesday

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The heavy blanket of ice and snow depositing itself across the state has caused legislative leaders to cancel meetings until at least Wednesday.

State government was already closed Monday due to Presidents’ Day, but Senate Speaker Randy McNally announced the Cordell Hull Building would also be closed on Tuesday.

Legislative leaders will monitor further developments before making a decision about whether to return Wednesday.

Upstairs, Downstairs: A guide to new House office assignments

Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) sits at her desk moved into a hallway in the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville on Jan 28, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has issued new office assignments to 37 of the chamber’s 99 members. We’ve pieced together who went where by comparing this year’s directory with the last.

The House occupies three floors in the Cordell Hull Building, with the sixth floor being considered prime real estate because that’s where the speaker’s suite is located.

Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) received media attention this week when it turned out the outspoken lawmaker had been assigned a small converted conference room, while her assistant was placed in a former closet across the hall. Johnson moved her desk out into the hallway in protest.

New lawmakers in italics, former ones in parentheses:

RepresentativePartyPreviousNewLast tennant
Alexander, RebeccaR516Hazlewood, Patsy
Campbell, ScottyR582Hall, Mark
Carr, DaleR568560Williams, Ryan
Carringer, MicheleR510Cepicky, Scott
Cepicky, ScottR510678Travis, Ron
Darby, TandyR676Marsh, Pat
Dixie, VincentD550662Stewart, Mike
Doggett, ClayR580672Sexton, Jerry
Garrett, JohnnyR508636Johnson, Curtis
Gillespie, JohnR590(DeBerry, John)
Grills, RustyR400650Moody, Debra
Halford, CurtisR426526(Daniel, Martin)
Hall, MarkR582550Dixie, Vincent
Harris, TorreyD420Thompson, D.
Hawk, DavidR406648Vaughan, Kevin
Hazlewood, PatsyR516622Lynn, Susan
Hicks, GaryR640642(Holt, Andy)
Hicks, TimR518(Tillis, Rick)
Hodges, JasonD414508Garrett, Johnny
Holsclaw, John R534652(Coley, Jim)
Johnson, CurtisR636612(Dunn, Bill)
Johnson, GloriaD442427[new office]
Lynn, SusanR622426Halford, Curtis
Mannis, EddieR568Carr, Dale
Marsh, PatR676610(Hill, Matthew)
McKenzie, SamD512(Staples, Rick)
Miller, Larry J.D432580Doggett, Clay
Mitchell, BoD440400Grills, Rusty
Moody, DebraR650680(Hill, Timothy)
Parkinson, AntonioD422419(new office)
Sexton, JerryR672430(Van Huss, Micah)
Stewart, MikeD662422Parkinson, Antonio
Thompson, DwayneD420406Hawk, David
Travis, RonR678534Holsclaw, John
Vaughan, KevinR648519[new office]
Warner, ToddR414Garrett, Johnny
Williams, RyanR560640Hicks, Gary

Here are Sexton’s House committee assignments

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

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) announced his committee appointments on Wednesday before the General Assembly adjourned its organizational session. Here they are:

AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE

  • Chair – Curtis Halford
  • Vice Chair – Rusty Grills
  • Mark Cochran
  • Barbra Cooper
  • Tandy Darby
  • Clay Doggett
  • GA Hardaway
  • Bud Hulsey
  • Chris Hurt
  • Jason Potts
  • Jay Reedy
  • Iris Rudder
  • Johnny Shaw
  • Chris Todd
  • Ron Travis
  • Dave Wright

Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee

  • Chair – Chris Todd
  • Mark Cochran
  • Tandy Darby
  • Curtis Halford
  • Bud Hulsey
  • Chris Hurt
  • Jason Potts
  • Jay Reedy
  • Johnny Shaw

CIVIL JUSTICE COMMITTEE

  • Chair – Mike Carter
  • Vice Chair – Darren Jernigan
  • Rush Bricken
  • John Ray Clemmons
  • Michael Curcio
  • Rick Eldridge
  • Andrew Farmer
  • Johnny Garrett
  • John Gillespie
  • Bruce Griffey
  • Torrey Harris
  • Mary Littleton
  • Brandon Ogles
  • Antonio Parkinson
  • Bob Ramsey
  • Robin Smith
  • Mike Stewart

Civil Justice Subcommittee        

  • Chair – Andrew Farmer
  • Mike Carter       
  • John Ray Clemmons       
  • Michael Curcio 
  • Johnny Garrett 
  • Bruce Griffey    
  • Brandon Ogles  
  • Antonio Parkinson

Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee         

  • Chair – Mary Littleton   
  • Rush Bricken     
  • Mike Carter       
  • Rick Eldridge     
  • John Gillespie   
  • Torrey Harris     
  • Mike Stewart
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Senate names new chairs, House juggles committees

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) presides over a floor session on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) has named Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) as chair of the Education Committee and Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) to head the State and Local Government Committee. The positions were vacated by the retirements of Dolores Gresham and electoral defeat of Steve Dickerson, respectively.

Committee assignments have yet to be made in the House, but draft rules signal a change in the overall makeup of standing committees. Speaker Cameron Sexton will once again split apart the Judiciary Committee into two standing panels: Civil Justice and Criminal Justice. He is also turning the single Education panel into separate Education Administration and Education Instruction committees. The Consumer and Human Resources Committee will be no longer.

The changes will leave the House with 14 standing committees, up from 13 last session. Sexton is also expected to significantly retool the subcommittee system.

Here are your special House committees

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)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton has appointed special committees to handle each of three subjects being taken up in the special session. The Senate, meanwhile, is sticking with its regular standing committees.

Here are the House panels for the special session:

COVID Related Liability Committee

  • Chair-Curcio, R
  • Vice Chair-Howell, R
  • Boyd, R
  • Bricken, R
  • Byrd, R
  • Camper, D
  • Carr, R
  • Cochran, R
  • DeBerry, D
  • Freeman, D
  • Gant, R
  • Grills, R
  • Halford, R
  • Keisling, R
  • Lamberth R
  • Love, D
  • Marsh, R
  • Potts, D
  • Rudder, R
  • Sherrell, R
  • Thompson, D
  • Tilis, R
  • Travis , R
  • Whitson, R
  • Windle, D

Electronic Delivery of Healthcare Committee

  • Chair- Terry, R
  • Vice Chair- Baum, R
  • Carter, R
  • Casada, R
  • Chism, D
  • Clemmons, D
  • Dixie, D
  • Dunn, R
  • Faison, R
  • Hardaway, D
  • Hawk, R
  • Hill, Timothy, R
  • Johnson, Gloria, D
  • Kumar, R
  • Leatherwood, R
  • Mitchell, D
  • Moon, R
  • Parkinson, D
  • Ragan, R
  • Ramsey, R
  • Smith, R
  • Sparks, R
  • Vaughan, R
  • White, R
  • Williams, R

Public Safety Committee

  • Chair- Farmer, R
  • Vice Chair- Hurt, R
  • Beck, D
  • Calfee, R
  • Cepicky, R
  • Cooper, D
  • Crawford, R
  • Griffey, R
  • Garrett, R
  • Hakeem, D
  • Hodges, D
  • Hulsey, R
  • Lafferty, R
  • Littleton, R
  • Miller, D
  • Moody, R
  • Ogles, R
  • Reedy, R
  • Rudd, R
  • Russell, R
  • Staples, D
  • Todd, R
  • Van Huss, R
  • Weaver, R

Finance Committee

  • Chair- Lynn, R
  • Vice Chair- Hicks, R
  • Camper, D
  • Coley, R
  • Daniel, R
  • Doggett, R
  • Eldridge, R
  • Hall, R
  • Haston, R
  • Hazlewood, R
  • Helton, R
  • Hill, Matthew, R
  • Holsclaw, R
  • Holt, R
  • Jernigan, D
  • Johnson, Curtis, R
  • Lamar, D
  • Lamberth, R
  • Powell, D
  • Powers, R
  • Sexton, Jerry, R
  • Shaw, D
  • Stewart, D
  • Towns, D
  • Wright, R
  • Zachary, R

(Additions to the Finance panel compared with the regular session are Daniel, Eldridge, Hall, Haston, Helton, Holsclaw, Jernigan, Johnson, Lamar, Powell, Powers, Sexton, Stewart, Towns, and Wright. Subtractions are Republicans Baum, Crawford, Faison, Gant, Hawk, Ogles, Reedy, Tillis, Todd, Whitson, and Williams, along with Democrats DeBerry, Miller, Staples, and Windle.)