NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While hundreds were outside the Tennessee House Chamber Monday calling for lawmakers to debate the Second Amendment, the majority of the first day of special session was spent debating the first.
“We did not come up here for this special session to limit speech of the members of this body. We came up here to tackle a problem -– or at least some of us thought we were going to,” said Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville).
On Monday, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed their rules for the special legislative session.
The rules put forward by the chamber’s Republican supermajority state that no member of the House or staff shall/can use an electronic device to record or live stream meetings. No noise amplification devices are allowed and no signs or banners are allowed.
The rules also ban a member from speaking if they go off topic for a day or the rest of the year depending on the number of offenses.
“You are saying with these rules that the folks who want you to know how they think are not being heard; that’s not democracy,” said Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis).
However, members of the House GOP argue the rules allow for organized debate and order within the chamber.
“It is also not completely a free speech arena,” said House Majority Leader Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland). “This is not the public arena. You can’t just shout out anything you like on anything we are debating, otherwise it would devolve into chaos.”
Lamberth and others also added that after expelling two members from the State House, Democrats were calling for rules like this so the body would have a less severe punishment for people speaking out of turn.
“We’ve got to have something that says you can’t, one person, one member of this House of Representatives, stop the proceedings to silence over 7 million Tennesseans, and there will be no repercussions for that whatsoever, other than the two things we had, an expulsion or a censure,” said Rep. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville).
There was also an attempt to end the special session entirely on Monday; it was unsuccessful.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Rules report can be found below.
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