Tennessee State House Votes to 'Silence' Rep. Justin Jones, 1 of 2 Democrats Expelled Earlier This Year

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee voted to silence a Democratic representative during an arduous House floor session after determining that he was in violation of a newly enacted rule on “decorum” which disciplines members who are disruptive.

via: CNN

Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville was twice ruled out of order during debate Monday by Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, automatically triggering a vote to silence Jones for the remainder of the day. The vote passed along party lines, 70-20, and Democrats walked out in protest.

“What is happening is not democratic. It is authoritarianism,” Jones said in a video shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, accusing Sexton of silencing him because the Democrat had earlier proposed a vote of no confidence against the speaker.

Jones told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “The Source” Tuesday night that he would again call for a vote of no confidence against Sexton when the state’s next legislative session begins in January.

“I voiced the concerns of my district – (state House) District 52 in Tennessee: what will make us feel safe, what will help in this time of crisis because of the continual occurrence of mass shootings and gun violence in our state and in our nation,” he told Collins of Monday’s debate.

The lawmaker was expelled in April after he and two other Democrats called for gun reform during a protest on the floor of the state House after the March 27 shooting at the Covenant School, which left three 9-year-olds and three adults dead.

Republicans spared Rep. Gloria Johnson but voted to expel Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson – both Black – only for their constituents to send them back to finish the regular session on an interim basis. They each won a special election for their seats earlier this month, making their returns to the chamber permanent, just in time for the special session called by Gov. Bill Lee.

The governor, a Republican, had urged the legislature to pass an order of protection law after the shooting at the Covenant School. But lawmakers adjourned the regular session without doing so, and Lee called them back to the capital for the special session, which convened August 21.

After more than a week, there’s been little in the way of legislative accomplishments, according to The Tennessean, which has reported a stalemate between both chambers, despite the fact they’re held by the same party. While the House takes up legislation, the Senate has indicated it’s set on passing very little, and only one bill has been passed in both chambers, the newspaper reported.

Any significant gun-related legislation has been largely ignored, upsetting gun control advocates. Lee on Monday asked Senate leadership to take up 12 bills related to mental health and school security, among others, The Tennessean reported.

Jones was first ruled out of order Monday for his sharp rebuke of proposals that would allow private schools to adopt their own handgun carry policies, calling the proposals “reprehensible,” “asinine” and “insulting.”

Later, Jones was ruled off topic during a discussion over a bill to allow a local police or sheriff’s office to assign an officer to a school that doesn’t already have one.

“What our schools need are mental health professionals. We need funding for mental health, for counselors. We need to pay our teachers better. We don’t need more police in our schools,” Jones said.

That triggered the vote to silence Jones, infuriating Democrats and gun control advocates in the gallery, who yelled in protest. Sexton ordered the gallery cleared “for disorderly behavior.”

“Every single Democrat appears to have left the chamber,” said Majority Leader William Lamberth, accusing them of “abandoning their work and their posts.”

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