cordell hull building

Another washout at the legislative office complex

A ruptured water main forced the closure of the Cordell Hull Building on Aug. 16, 2021.

House Republicans clamoring of a special session may want to make sure their building is dry enough to host the return of lawmakers. Another busted water main has caused the Cordell Hull Building to be closed for the second time in as many weeks.

Legislative staffers have been told to go home for the day as workers try to repair the damage. The burst water line last week flooded parts of the Capitol Hill Press Corps suite and other offices on the ground floor of the building. The previously affected areas appear to have been spared any new sogginess this time around.

Lawmakers moved into the 11-story Cordell Hull Building in late 2017. The facility originally built in 1954 had been renovated to accommodate the General Assembly at a total cost of $126 million,

Leaking like a sieve? Cordell Hull building closed due to water line ruptures

A Senate committee meets on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The legislative office building is closed Tuesday due to flooding from a water line rupture. The complex has been having intermittent plumbing issues for a week. At one point, ceiling panels were removed in the ground-floor press corps suite to access pipes. Reporters are accustomed to be on the receiving end of leaks, but don’t usually expect them to be so literal.

The shutdown at the Cordell Hull comes as the rumor mill is kicking into overdrive about grand jury activity related to federal agents’ January raid on the homes and offices of three state House members and those of current and former staffers. Nothing official has yet to come forth.

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.

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

Legislature, other government offices close following Nashville bombing

The damage caused to telecommunications systems following a bombing in downtown Nashville on Christmas Day has caused legislative leaders to tell staffers not to report to the Cordell Hull Building on Monday.

Other state and local government offices are also affected by outages, including:

  • Adult protective services
  • Animal Diagnostic Laboratory services at Ellington Agricultural Center
  • Telephone services for applying for certain programs for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities
  • TennCare Connect
  • Tennessee child abuse hotline (telephone lines only; web referrals remain operational)
  • Drivers’ license services

Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced his downtown offices would be closed Monday, though various divisions could be reached by email.

The state Supreme Court office building was also closed.

House issues guidance for return to session

The doors of the state Capitol were closed to the public on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

As of late last week, there was still disagreement between the House and Senate about whether to allow visitors onto the legislative floor of the state Capitol. Under a compromise struck on Friday, the House will be able to welcome members of the public into its gallery, but not into the lobby outside the two chambers. The Senate side will remain closed to anyone but its members, staff, and the media. The tunnel connecting the Cordell Hull Building with the Capitol will be closed to the public.

Here’s a memo sent out by Holt Whitt, the interim chief of staff to House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville):

As you are all aware, the House has several days of session planned on the floor next week. Due to protocols put in place to maximize space, legislative assistants in the House will not be permitted to attend session in person. Limited space will be designated for House Research and staff in House leadership offices. Staff walking to session are encouraged to use the steps outside if they are able to do so to allow members priority access to the elevators inside the Cordell Hull Tunnel.

The general public (guests, lobbyists, etc.) will be permitted to attend House session and access will be limited based on the number of seats designated in the house balcony. The general public will not be permitted to use the Cordell Hull Tunnel to access the Capitol. Any general public entering the Capitol must do so on the 1st floor of the building. Accommodations can be made for those that are unable to access the Capitol on the 1st floor.

Policies inside the Cordell Hull Building will remain the same as they were for committees this week.

All House staff is required to wear a mask in the common areas of both buildings.

If you have any questions please let me know. Thank you all for your hard work and have a great weekend.

A look at preparations for Tennessee lawmakers’ return amid the coronavirus pandemic

The state House and Senate are still at odds about the scope of the upcoming return into session, but that’s not stopping them from getting the Cordell Hull Building prepped for lawmakers’ return.

Here’s a look at some of the changes being made to the legislative office complex:

Plexiglass barriers have been installed in the main House committee room on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Signs remind visitors to keep a six-foot distance outside the elevator bank in the Cordell Hull Building on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Taped arrows show the path to the cafeteria in the Cordell Hull Building on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Audience seats are covered and witness and member chairs are separated in the main Senate committee room on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Plexiglass barriers were being installed in the main House committee room on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Plexiglass slides can be pulled back to shield lawmakers when they are sitting in the committee room, as seen on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A bench in the entryway of the Cordell Hull Building is taped off on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Audience seats are covered and witness and member chairs are separated in the main Senate committee room on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A middle urinal is taped off in the Cordell Hull Building in the interest of social distancing on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Legislative office access to be by appointment only

The doors to the Cordell Hull Building are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Cordell Hull Building will reopen to staff and members on Monday, but the legislative office complex will remain largely closed to the public. There will be an exception for guests who have scheduled appointments with lawmakers.

About 23,000 executive branch employees who have been working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic will be doing so for another month. About 18,000 state employees, or 44% of the total full-time workforce, have still been required to come to work during COVID-19.

 

Here are the guidelines put out by the office of legislative administration:

RETURN TO WORK: What to Know

In preparation for our return to operations at the Cordell Hull Building, your health continues to be of primary concerns to us.  Our Speakers receive regular updates from top health officials concerning conditions and will continue to provide you with relevant information.

All staff is scheduled to return to work on Monday, May 4, 2020, at your regular schedule.

The Cordell Hull Building will continue to be closed to the public until further notice with the exception of guests who have a scheduled appointment with a Member.   All guests should be directed to enter through the 5th Avenue Main Entrance and should remain in hallways or common areas until the time of their appointment.  Please notify me one day in advance of any guest scheduled to come into the building for an appointment so that security can be notified for approval to enter the facility.

Following the Centers for Disease Control recommendations, we ask that staff practice these suggestions while at work:

  • Maintain six (6) foot physical distancing.
  • Wear a cloth mask or facial covering while in common areas and around other people in the facility. A simple scarf or bandana to cover your nose and mouth is sufficient.  If you need a mask, please let me know and we will provide one.
  • While in your suite, keep your door shut. Guests should remain in hallways and common areas until the time of scheduled appointments.
  • Avoid gathering in groups.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze using a tissue if possible.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer often.
  • Avoid touching your face.

If you are at home or at work and become ill with symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath, remain at home or leave the facility immediately and remain at home until you are free of fever and other symptoms without using fever-reducing medicine for at least 24 hours.  Notify your Member/Supervisor as soon as possible.

FACILITY OPERATIONS: Cleaning and Disinfecting Regularly

The Facilities Management Office has implemented new procedures for cleaning and disinfecting the building.  The facility is cleaned thoroughly on an on-going basis following the guidelines and products recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.  This includes common areas and office suites and air processing systems.

The Facilities Office staff will deliver to your suite all mail that has been held during our remote work absence.  Mail will be in your suite when you return to work on Monday.

 

Legislative office complex to remain shuttered until May 4

The doors of the state Capitol were closed to the public on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Cordell Hull Building will remain closed to lawmakers, staff, media, and the public until at least May 4. The announcement by building administrators follows Gov. Bill Lee’s decision extend a statewide stay-at-home order for nonessential business until the end of April.

The legislative office complex has been vacated since March 23. The General Assembly the previous week passed an emergency budget and left for what was planned to be a 75-day hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic. The plan has been to return on June 1.

Here is the notice sent out by Connie Ridley, the director of legislative administration, on Monday:

Lieutenant Governor McNally and Speaker Sexton advise that staff should not plan to return to the Cordell Hull Building until Monday, May 4, 2020.  They will continue to monitor the situation and update you as necessary.

Please continue to perform duties remotely per our earlier notice and monitor your email for updates.

Prior approval must be obtained from your Chief of Staff, Chief Clerk, your Director or me to enter the building during this period.

Legislative staffers over 60 told to stay home if they have chronic conditions

The doors to the Cordell Hull Building are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House staffers over the age of 60 who have serious chronic medical conditions won’t be required to report for work while the state Capitol is on limited access because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert reports that an email from House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) told the affected employees they will “receive full pay and benefits during this period of absence.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified the over-60 population as the most vulnerable to the virus. Ebert crunched the numbers to determine that 60 of 132 state lawmakers are at least 60 years old, or 45% of the entire membership.

The House last week ended its internship program in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate did not follow suit at that time. But when the upper chamber’s interns showed up for work on Monday, they were told to go home.

The Cordell Hull Building is operating on a limited-access basis this week, allowing only members, staff, and the press into the facility.