NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Session is rapidly barreling toward closing up shop this year as another wild week comes to an end at the Tennessee State Capitol.

Reps. Jones, Pearson renewed

The Metro-Nashville Council and Shelby County Board of Commission reappointed Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) and Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis), respectively.

If you, like me, were at first confused as to how this could happen, let me break it down for you.

When the state expels a lawmaker in our legislature, historically, they haven’t run again. That’s because there are certain rules around running after receiving a criminal conviction, which, to this point, has rarely happened since the 1800s (the lone anomaly was former Rep. Jeremy Durham in 2016, after an Attorney General report accused him of harassing politicians and interns).

Once a lawmaker is expelled, their home county commission is responsible for electing someone in the interim (in this instance, Jones and Pearson). At some point in the near future, a special election must be held (on the taxpayers’ dimes) to either remove that interim tag or elect someone new.

The last few times the legislature has expelled someone, they either can’t run again because of criminal activity (ex: former Sen. Katrina Robinson) or they simply would be a black eye on the state (ex: Durham).

But this time, Jones and Pearson (arguably) didn’t fit into either of those categories, bringing us to now.

They still have to win a special election to officially keep their seats. But, to be frank, it’s going to be a Herculean task for anyone to beat them. When you’re in session in Tennessee, you aren’t allowed to raise money. But once session is over (or you’re expelled) you can.

According to a U.S. Senator, the pair raised over $425,000 in less than 24 hours after they were expelled.

All that to say, if someone is going to run against them, they’ll need a war chest, fast.

Gov. Lee urges gun reform

Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) called on the legislature to enact what he’s calling an ‘order of protection law.’ It’s (not?) a red flag law. But it would give law enforcement an avenue to prevent further purchase of firearms from people deemed by the courts to be threatening.

There seem to be a few schools of thought coming out of Lee’s call. People are either glad he’s pushing for gun reform, annoyed he’s making a call but not doing any sort of discernible action to push it along or mad that he’s calling for gun reform.

Senate Leadership, including Democrats, praised the governor’s push.

“It is a pleasant surprise. I know the governor and Republican leadership has said that they want to do something,” Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said. “But to see them come out so strongly, especially for red flag laws – something our Caucus has been pushing for the past several weeks – is super encouraging.”

House Democrats, on the other hand, fit into the second category of ‘annoyed with calls but no action.’

“Yet again, you’ve got this governor that’s completely failed leadership, yet again punting to someone else to solve the problems,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said.

Finally, gun rights proponents slammed Lee.

“Governor Lee called for the Legislature to react to the emotional response of some citizens after the Covenant murders and more particularly after the expulsion of two Democrat House members who demanded gun control,” Tennessee Firearms Association executive director John Harris wrote in a press release. “Nothing in Bruen authorized knee-jerk emotional responses to murders or the calls of progressive Democrats and their mobs to justify government infringement of a right protected by the Constitution.”

It is interesting that Lee would push for gun reform but not put forward what’s called an ‘administration bill,’ which is a bill that’s written by the governor’s staff and handed to the legislature.

What it tells me is he’s likely for the change but might be too scared of lobbyist groups or his own voter base to actually push it through.

Top Tennessee Republicans have continuously said they’ll discuss the ideas if legislation comes through. We’ll see if that happens.

Leaked audio latest in chasm between Democrats and Republicans

Left-wing advocacy outlet The Tennessee Holler released leaked, edited audio of a Tennessee House Republican Caucus meeting.

I won’t chronicle the entire thing, as there’s a whole lot in there. But if you want to listen to it, you can hear it here.

In the meeting, lawmakers expressed frustration at their failure to expel Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) while successfully expelling Jones and Pearson.

Much of the vitriol was aimed at freshman Rep. Jody Barrett (R-Dickson) who, according to Caucus leadership, switched his vote to expel Johnson from ‘yes’ to ‘no’ at the last second without giving Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton enough notice.

Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) said it brought race into the mix.

“I listened for the last three days to Democrats (Rep.) Sam McKenzie, (Rep. Jesse) Chism, (Rep. Antonio) Parkinson trash us as racists,” Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) can be heard saying in the leak. “I’ve never had anybody call me a racist.”

Parkinson fired back Friday, saying the Black Caucus has never individually singled anyone out as racist. Instead, they say they’ve just pointed out patterns of racist behavior. 

“As one of their favorite rappers, Kanye West, has said, ‘I ain’t calling you a gold digger,’” Parkinson said. “I ain’t calling you a racist. I’m not. But what I’m saying is there is a pattern of behavior that needs to be addressed.”

Zachary did send us a statement, which you can read here.

Session barreling toward close

The state is rapidly approaching the end of session. Next week is reportedly supposed to be the final week – though Republican lawmakers deny they’re in a hurry.

“We’ll stay until we complete the work that the people sent us here to do and to complete that service,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) said.

Democrats are skeptical, though.

“They’re taking on a lot of water, and they want to get out of here as soon as possible,” Clemmons said. “It’s damage of their own making.”

Chris O’Brien is the state Capitol reporter for WKRN. To contact him, send an email to co’ (yes, the apostrophe is supposed to be there).