TN House Expels Two House Members…Critics Cry Racism
Thursday evening in the Tennessee State House, members voted to expel two of the three lawmakers for protesting at the house podium on Thursday, March 30. The three led protesters in the gallery when they took over the podium and the two lawmakers that were expelled used a bullhorn to communicate with those in the house gallery. Ousted were Justin Pearson of Memphis and Justin Jones of Nashville. Narrowly avoiding ouster was 60 year old Gloria Johnson of Knoxville. 66 votes were needed for expulsion and Johnson garnered 65, allowing her to keep her seat by one vote.
Jones received 72 votes for expulsion and Pearson received 69. So, Memphis and Nashville now have an empty seat in the house for that particular district. County commissioners in those districts can appoint a lawmaker to fill those seats until a special election can be held sometime this summer. Both Jones and Pearson can run in that special election and have a chance to regain their seats.
Charges of racism are already flying by critics of the expulsions, as both Jones and Pearson are black, while Gloria Johnson is white. Tennessee house GOP leaders reject those claims. House speaker Cameron Sexton says according to house rules, lawmakers had two options, censure or expulsion. Chairman of the House Republican Caucus, Rep. Jeremy Faison says the house republican caucus voted for expulsion of the three democrat lawmakers instead of just a censure.