NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Once again, chaos erupted at the Tennessee State Capitol as the special session on public safety continued.
House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) cleared the gallery and the entire Democratic caucus walked out when Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville), a member of the so-called “Tennessee Three”, was silenced, per stringent rules passed last Monday.
Citizens in the gallery broke out in angry chants in the Capitol rotunda after a procedural move silenced Jones for the day. Republicans claimed he spoke out of turn twice under rules passed last week during the special session.
Following that move, every Democratic lawmaker walked out of session and refused to finish. Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) said on the House floor after the walkout that the Democrats were “abandoning their work and their post.”
Jones called the entire situation a gross misuse of justice.
“It should be troubling to all media that members of this body can be silenced indefinitely because they speak off topic; that’s really what happened. He said that when I brought up mental health professionals in schools, the need for mental health professionals, that I was off topic of the bill when it’s a need of my community. It’s relevant to the legislation that we’re going to be funding SROs, but we can’t fund mental health professionals and counselors, why is it that that was ruled out of order?” Jones asked. “Why is it that I can be permanently silenced for speaking about issues that are germane to germane to the concerns of my district?”
Jones also exchanged words with Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), following the walk-out.
“The Speaker of the House just permanently silenced me for the rest of the today because he said I spoke off topic. Would you do that in the Senate?” Jones asked McNally.
“I’m not in the House anymore. I’ve been out of the House for a while,” McNally replied.
“Do you think that Cameron Sexton’s rules are unconstitutional?” Jones asked again.
“They’re just rules. I abide by them,” McNally replied.
The House did release a statement Monday evening which talked about the passing of a slate of bills strengthening public safety, increasing access to mental health care, and supporting victims of violent crime. However, there was no mention of Jones.
In a statement from Sexton’s office, a spokesperson said the body, meaning the House, has the ability to affirm or deny the Speaker’s decision and the body “affirmed the speaker’s decision.”
Find the latest news from the Tennessee State Capitol as WKRN News 2 brings you coverage of the special session. Click here to read more.