capitol

Could a final decision on Forrest bust removal be near?

A sketch of Nathan Bedford Forrest used for a mural in the lobby of the John Sevier State Office Building in Nashville on Jan. 25,1941. (Image Credit: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

The yearslong fight over removing a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest could soon be coming to an end. The State Building Commission is scheduled to take up the matter on Thursday. If past voting patterns by the panel’s members hold, the monument could soon be headed for the Tennessee State Museum.

The Tennessee Lookout‘s Sam Stockard has taken a look at how it could play out:

The State Capitol Commission is set to request Thursday that the State Building Commission concur with its decision to relocate three busts, including one of Confederate Lt. Gen. Forrest, to the State Museum, moving them out of the State Capitol after years of upheaval.

To some degree, the decision pits Gov. Bill Lee against Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who are likely to be outnumbered if they vote against the relocation. But it also could clear up a year-old legal question on the matter. 

One State Building Commission member who hasn’t participated in the process, Comptroller Jason Mumpower, indicated he is likely to vote for relocation. Three other members of the Building Commission have voted already to move the busts as members of other commissions.

“Based on a motion authored by my predecessor, Comptroller Emeritus Justin P. Wilson, the State Capitol Commission and Tennessee Historical Commission have previously agreed that the historical significance of these busts can be better reflected through display at the State Museum,” Mumpower said in a statement.

Lee, who last year sought removal of the Forrest bust from the State Capitol, has scheduled a press conference for Thursday morning, shortly before the State Building Commission is to meet. Its topic has not been revealed.

Read the rest here.

FBI visit to Tennessee Capitol sparks jitters

Federal agents meet with legislative staffers outside the office of Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

FBI agents visited the first floor of the state Capitol on Tuesday, setting off shockwaves around a statehouse complex still reeling from raids on three lawmakers’ homes and offices on the eve of the legislative session. But authorities were quick to disavow any connection to the probe into Republican Reps. Glen Casada of Franklin, Robin Smith of Hixson, and Todd Warner of Chapel Hill.

“The visit by several of our agents was not related to the raid that occured in January,” FBI spokeswoman Elizabeth Clement-Webb told The Tennessee Journal. “This was solely outreach.”

The agents were spotted flashing badges at troopers manning the gate to the Capitol, and later as they were escorted past security to the floor housing the offices of Gov. Bill Lee, his top advisers, and the state’s constitutional officers.

Lee spokeswoman Laine Arnold said the visit “had nothing to do with the raids.”

WTVF-TV’s Phil Williams has reported that Casada has been telling associates the FBI asked him questions about how he helped pass the governor’s signature school voucher law when he was the House speaker in 2019. Casada was asked about allegations of bribes being offered to help gain support, the people he spoke to told Williams.

Casada has denied offering inducements in exchange for votes when voucher bill was deadlocked on a 49-49 vote. The measure later passed by a single vote.

Gov. Lee’s annual State of the State won’t be held in the state Capitol. But is that legal?

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

In the interest of social distancing, tonight’s State of the State address has been relocated to the War Memorial Auditorium. There’s just one problem: State law requires the annual address to be given inside the state Capitol.

A 1973 newspaper ad.

Governors used to deliver their annual State of the State speeches to the Tennessee Press Association. Lawmakers didn’t like that arrangement, so they changed the law in the 1970s to require the speech to be given before a joint convention of the General Assembly gathered in the House chamber.

It’s not the first time Gov. Bill Lee’s plans for the State of the State have raised questions. Following his 2018 election, Lee announced he’d try to get out of the “bubble of Nashville” by delivering the annual address at various locations around the state.

Those plans were thwarted by the same state law requiring the speech to be given in the state Capitol, the Associated Press reported at the time.

“Bill will give the State of the State speech in the House Chamber each year as mandated by the statute,” a Lee spokeswoman told the AP in 2018. “But he also plans to give addresses outside of Nashville around the State of the State to engage with Tennesseans.”

UPDATE: Lawmakers point to a joint resolution passed by both chambers on voice votes in January that said the House and Senate would meet “in the War Memorial Auditorium for the purpose of hearing the State of the State address by the Honorable Bill Lee, Governor of Tennessee.”

But the state law says the General Assembly “shall” call a joint convention “to convene in the chamber of the House of Representatives.” Whether the statute gives lawmakers the leeway to call a meeting outside of the House chamber is a matter of interpretation.

Tennessee congressional delegation recoils at Capitol incursion

U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Nashville), who called for active duty troops to be activated to quell social unrest during last year’s campaign, is denouncing the breach of the U.S. Capitol by demonstrators supporting President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his electoral loss.

“What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is not peaceful, this is violence,” Hagerty said in a tweet. “I condemn it in the strongest terms. We are a nation of laws and this must stop.”

Fellow Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) soon followed suit:

Other members of the Tennessee delegation have also been tweeting about the events: