Expulsion of Tennessee lawmakers

April 7, 2023

We’ll see you on Monday.

Rep. Justin Jones (D) after being expelled from the Tennessee House; he is one of two lawmakers expelled for protesting on the House floor.

Quick Overview:

  • March 27, 2023: A school shooting occurred in Nashville, Tennessee. 6 people died, including 3 children.
  • March 30, 2023: Protests for stricter gun laws occurred at the Tennessee state Capitol in Nashville; 3 lawmakers (Reps. Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Rep. Gloria Johnson referred to by some as “The Tennessee Three”) supported these efforts in the “well” of the chamber (the space often in front of a legislative body, where a key speaker presents). Here’s how a local paper describes what happened:

    “… the three House Democrats approached the podium between bills without being recognized to speak, a breach of chamber rules. With a bullhorn, Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis led protestors in the galleries in several chants calling for gun reform. … The expulsion resolutions claim the three ‘did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.'”
  • April 6, 2023: “Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the state House, have said the group had violated the chamber’s rules and engaged in disorderly behavior” (Axios). Two of the lawmakers Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled; the female lawmaker, Rep. Johnson, was not.

What Happens Next: The seats of these lawmakers will be filled temporarily – a special election will be held in their districts. They can run again for their vacated seats, and if elected they cannot be expelled for the same offense.

However, based on the process in Nashville (Rep. Jones’ district), he could be back in his seat by MONDAY evening. READ HOW

Accusations of racism:

The two male lawmakers are black men; the female lawmaker is white. The female lawmaker escaped expulsion by 1 vote.

Context from Associated Press:

“Banishment is a move the chamber has used only a handful times since the Civil War. Most state legislatures have the power to expel members, but it is generally reserved as a punishment for lawmakers accused of serious misconduct, not used as a weapon against political opponents.”

Interesting Read:

How Tennessee GOP expelling 2 Democrats could have ripple effect in other states

by Jenna Lee,