Tennessee Democrat Reinstated to House Seat by Nashville Council After Being Expelled

Chase Smith
By Chase Smith
April 10, 2023Politics

Nashville’s Metro Council voted unanimously to reinstate Democrat Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones to the House seat he was expelled from last week on Monday night, April 10.

Rep. Jones was sworn in on the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol shortly after—as Jones and supporters walked there following the Metro council meeting a few blocks away. He was then escorted into the Capitol building, where the House gaveled into session just a half hour earlier.

The short meeting yielded no other nominations from the council to fill the seat aside from Jones. A roar from those in attendance could be heard celebrating the vote after Jones was reinstated.

The nomination came from Councilmember Delishia Porterfield, who said she resided in Jones’s state House district. She gave a short speech before the council voted on whether to reinstate Jones.

“On Aug. 4 [2022], Rep. Justin Jones earned the most votes in our Democratic primary, allowing him to advance and win the general election on Nov. 8,” she said. “The people made a choice, and it was the right choice. On Thursday April 6, we witnessed a miscarriage of justice and an egregious assault on our democracy which resulted in over 70,000 Davidson County voters–our voters–being silenced when our representative was expelled.”

Porterfield went on to speak about the state’s other “attempts to silence the people” of Nashville.

Within an hour of Monday’s meeting starting, she said Metro’s Attorney let them know they were successful in receiving an injunction by a state court to halt the state legislature’s plan to cut the 40-member council in half. The attorney spoke at the beginning of the meeting–promising more details on Tuesday.

Jones spoke prior to the meeting at a rally outside the Metropolitan City Hall alongside supporters.

He said at the rally before the vote: “When they expelled us, they had no idea that this was going to happen. They just thought they’d go along as they always do—that they’d abuse their power and there would be no resistance. That they would do something unconstitutional and we would just have to wait to seek accountability. There comes a time when time itself is ready for itself—and that time has come to Nashville. That time has come to Tennessee.”

Jones added, “Speaker Cameron Sexton, you can either move on over or we’ll move on over you—because we’re moving on.”

Jones Was Expelled Last Thursday

The debate before the vote to expel Jones lasted many hours as three representatives faced separate hearings on April 6. Representatives from each side of the aisle spoke passionately, shouted, yelled, and expressed emotion about the historic move to remove the members.

Jones, in his closing remarks, urged his colleagues to vote against his expulsion by telling them “the world is watching.”

“When I walked up to this well on last Thursday, I was thinking about the thousands of students who were outside demanding that we do something. In fact, many of their signs said ‘do something,’” Jones said in his closing plea. “That was their only ask of us is to respond to their grief, to respond to a traumatized community. But in response to that, the first action of this body is to expel members for calling for common sense gun legislation.”

Jones went on to claim that his Republican colleagues were committing an “assault on democracy” and that this day will “be a dark day for Tennessee because it will signal to the nation that there is no democracy in Tennessee.”

NTD Photo
(L–R) State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson arrive at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., on April 7, 2023. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP)

Resolutions to expel the members were introduced on April 3 after the lawmakers led protesters with a bullhorn in chants calling for tighter restrictions on gun rights while on the House floor. This came after the deadly Covenant School shooting in Nashville the week before.

The move to expel members was particularly rare in Tennessee, where only two other members had been expelled from the chamber since the Civil War. Those votes, however, were largely bipartisan, in stark contrast to the expulsion of two Democrats on party lines.

Jones was expelled on party lines, with all Democrats voting against his expulsion and all present Republicans voting to expel him.

Rep. Justin Pearson can also be reappointed to his seat by local representatives in Memphis. Memphis officials have not yet announced a date to fill the vacant seat—but they have 30 days to fill it. Officials in Memphis have already signaled they also plan to reinstate Pearson to his seat—as Nashville did with Jones Monday night.

Memphis will vote this week on whether to reinstate Pearson to his House seat.

From The Epoch Times

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