NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Chaos erupted in the state house once again Monday afternoon, with citizens removed from the House galleries, a Democratic lawmaker silenced for the day and the rest of the Democratic Caucus walking out of session.
During debate on a bill from Rep. Scott Cepicky (R—Culleoka) that allows law enforcement agencies to assign officers to schools over their wishes, citizens in the gallery of the House were ordered removed by House Speaker Cameron Sexton after becoming angry at a procedural move that silenced Rep. Justin Jones (D—Nashville) for the rest of the day.
Jones was ruled out of order twice, which according to House rules immediately triggers a vote that would prevent him from speaking for the rest of the legislative day. Jones was attempting to make a point on how Nashville did not need more police in schools but rather more mental health funding when Sexton ruled him out of order.
The rule is non-debatable, per the House rules adopted this session.
Jones was ruled out of order by the body thus prevented from being recognized for the rest of the legislative day, preventing him from calling for a vote of no confidence in Sexton, as he planned to do during the Unfinished Business portion of the day.
After the vote, the gallery erupted with chants of “Fascists!”
Sexton then ordered the Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers stationed inside to clear the gallery while the House attempted to continue business. It took several minutes for the gallery to be cleared, with angry citizens shouting “Vote them out!” and “Fascists!” at lawmakers.
Things further devolved when the entire Democratic Caucus walked out of the chamber, which was pointed out by Republican Leader William Lamberth.
“Thank you Mr. Speaker and members. Thank you for remaining in the chamber,” he said after the Democrats walked out. “Obviously, every single Democrat appears to have left the chamber. There are still issues on the calendar today, including the next one that they have left behind, since abandoning their work and their post. I can’t explain to you why they left.”
Democratic Leader Karen Camper said Jones’ silencing was an “unfair application of the rules,” as a Republican lawmaker, Rep. Gino Bulso, was also ruled out of order twice by the Speaker but did not face the same vote as Jones. That was why the Democrats walked off the House floor, she told News 2.
“We had another member, Rep. Bulso, who got preferable treatment over the Democrat,” she said. “It’s an unfair application of the rules. We had to walk out. We had to walk out to show support for our member.”