NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis) returned to the Tennessee legislature Thursday morning.
“Just one week ago we sat in the state House on the well of democracy and were persecuted, were called out of our names,” Pearson said emphatically to his supporters and a media contingency prior to walking back into the House.
The Tennessee House expelled Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) last Thursday.
WKRN News 2’s Chris O’Brien asked the two renewed legislators if they had a message for House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).
“Resign,” Jones said.
Pearson’s answer was a little longer.
“Yes, he needs to resign, and he needs to stop all this anti-democratic behavior that led to the expulsion of myself and Representative Jones,” he said. “The systems of injustice in this state are being led by Cameron Sexton and by the Republican supermajority in this state, and we are all worse off of it. White folks, Black folks, rich folks, poor folks.”
O’Brien also asked Sexton if he had a response.
“Yeah,” he said. “No.”
House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) expanded a little bit on Sexton’s behalf.
“So, let me respond to that,” he said. “I want y’all to be aware that while we were honoring the heroes who stopped further casualties at Covenant School, they chose to hang outside and honor themselves.”
Faison is referring to the fact that session began at 9:00 a.m. Thursday with an honoring of the Metro-Nashville Police Department’s heroic work in taking down the Covenant shooter.
While that honoring was happening, Pearson was in the process of being re-sworn in.
Regardless, the House is now back at full strength, and the state is rapidly approaching the end of session – 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.
With session winding down, it begs the question: Will any gun reform pass, especially since the origin is the base of how these expulsion proceedings began in the first place?
“I mean, it has a chance,” Sexton said. “You’ve got to have the conversations, they’ve been ongoing for a couple weeks, trying to get to a right spot and look for solutions, and that’s kind of where we’re at.”
Democrats weren’t as optimistic.
“We’re fighting for that right now. I mean, we’re fighting. They’re wanting to rush and end session,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons said. “I think they’ve obviously created an atmosphere up here that’s unhealthy for democracy, so they want to get home as soon as possible. However, our job is not done.”
The Senate is scheduled for session every day next week and possibly one next Saturday with the intention of closing the calendar for the year next week.