NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Less than 24 hours before a historic vote in the Tennessee House of Representatives, two Northeast Tennessee lawmakers said they’re planning to vote to expel three Democratic lawmakers for their role in gun control protests at the State Capitol.
Last Thursday, protesters converged on the legislature, filling the House gallery. At 10:49 a.m. Democratic Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville, and Justin Pearson of Memphis took to the podium. Jones and Pearson led chanting protestors with a bullhorn.
Monday, Republican lawmakers began the process of removing the three from their seats, introducing resolutions to expel Johnson, Jones, and Pearson for “disorderly conduct.”
“This is not WWE, you don’t get to grab a megaphone and scream and yell,” Rep. Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City) told News Channel 11.
He said the lawmakers’ actions violated a number of house rules, including speaking without permission and using props.
“If this were a court, you would be found in contempt of court,” Rep. Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport).
Hulsey is the sponsor of the resolution to oust Jones. He said there should be consequences for disrupting the lawmaking process.
“We were out of pocket there for over an hour before we got to where you could do business again,” Hulsey said. “That’s no little thing.”
Only eight members have been expelled from the Tennessee House since the Civil War.
Expulsions require a two-thirds majority to pass, and historically, most expulsions have received bipartisan support.
That doesn’t appear to be the case going into the vote Thursday morning; with 75 out of the 99 total seats, Republicans won’t need bipartisan support to pass the resolutions.
If the three are expelled, their seats will be vacated immediately. Local party organizations will have the option to appoint an interim representative through the end of the session.
“People may say, “Look, hey, if you expel these three members, that’s over 200,000 Tennesseans combined they represent that won’t have a voice,” Campbell said. “But what about the other 96 of us representing nearly 7 million Tennesseans who can’t just yell and scream? Why can they?”
No rules prevent Johnson, Jones and Pearson from running for reelection if they are removed.