house rules

The bullhorn rule: House creates new disciplinary rules following Tennessee Three debacle

House Republicans are adopting a new set of guidelines to deal with disruptions and unruly conduct following last spring’s ouster of two lawmakers for leading a gun protest from the well of the chamber.

Under new rules adopted for the special session, members deemed to have “caused a material disruption” of official legislative business will be barred from speaking on the floor for three days. A second offense would be punished by a six-day ban, followed by a loss of speaking privileges for the remainder of the session on the third offense. Members could still vote even if they lost their speaking privileges.

An ad-hoc committee made up of the speaker pro tem, the majority and minority leaders, and the two parties’ caucus chairs would make disciplinary recommendations to the speaker for members found to have impugned the reputation of others during committee meetings.

The rules would specifically ban “voice or noise amplification devices” like the bullhorn Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson did to rally the gallery in April. They would also put the kibosh on flags, signs, and banners in the gallery.

The public will also have a harder time entering the Capitol. The tunnel connecting the Cordell Hull to the statehouse will be closed off from 30 minutes before a floor session to a half-hour after it concludes. And much wider cordon has been set around the House and Senate chambers, meaning fewer people will be able to get into the lobby area while sessions are going on.

Dems’ effort to require face coverings punted in House

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

Democrats’ efforts to amend House rules to require masks be worn in committees and on the floor have been put off by the chamber’s Republican supermajority.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) made the motion on Friday, a day after House members had approved their rules for the 112th General Assembly. Speaker Pro Tem Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville), who chairs the Rules Committee, said every member had been given the opportunity to suggest amendments when the panel met earlier in the week. No mask rule was introduced at that time, so Marsh made the motion to send Hardaway’s proposal back to the committee. It’s unclear when the panel will meet again.

At least 10 House members have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. They are:

  • Bill Beck (D-Nashville)
  • David Byrd (R-Waynesboro)
  • Karen Camper (D-Memphis)
  • Kent Calfee (R-Kingston)
  • Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka)
  • Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah)
  • Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby)
  • Torrey Harris (D-Memphis)
  • Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville)
  • Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville)

In the Senate, Mike Bell (R-Riceville), Ed Jackson (R-Jackson), and Page Walley (R-Bolivar) have had COVID-19.

All have recovered except Byrd, who at last report remained on a ventilator at a Nashville hospital.


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