Local officials are poised to send expelled Tennessee lawmakers back to state House : NPR
George Walker IV/AP
Upcoming local meetings may pave the way for former Reps. Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis to return to their posts in the Tennessee state legislature, at least temporarily.
The two former Democratic legislators, who were fired by Republican colleagues after protesting on the floor of the House demanding gun law reforms, say they want their seats back.
Jones and Pearson, both black, were voted out of the Tennessee House on Thursday for their actions in response to the deadly school shooting in Nashville.
About 130,000 voters in heavily Black districts are currently without representation in the House. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, who is white and also led the protest, survived expulsion by one vote.
Jones and Pearson expressed their desire to return to their seats as legislators in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
“We will continue to fight for our constituents,” Jones said.
“This attack against us is hurting all the people in our state,” he added. “Even though it’s disproportionately hitting Black and brown communities, it’s hurting poor white people… it’s silencing them.”
Pearson told NPR’s All Things Considered on Saturday that he hoped to return to the legislature. He said he and Jones were removed from their positions because they “decided it was time for the state of Tennessee Republicans to stop listening to the NRA and start listening to the thousands of children and teenagers and grandparents and brothers and sisters who are crying because of the effects of gun violence.”
Republicans said the expelled lawmakers disrupted order and violated procedural rules in the chamber.
Local officers’ meetings this week could appoint the two as interim replacements for the vacant seats
The vacancies of the two expelled legislators may be short-lived.
Nashville Deputy Mayor Jim Shulman called a special meeting of the Metropolitan Council on Monday to discuss filling the vacant House District 52 seat vacated by Jones, according to email tweeted out by council member Bob Mendes.
If the council chooses to do so, it can vote to appoint an interim successor as soon as Monday evening, Shulman told Axios.
A majority of Nashville’s 40-member council has already pledged to reappoint Jones, according to NBC News — with some indicate their intention to give him a chance to preside over the council meeting[mludanqabelsa[ansitrassej[etil-laqg[atal-kunsill
After the council appoints an interim House representative nominee, the county will hold a special election — in which Jones is eligible to run — to serve out the term.
Meanwhile, the board of commissioners for Shelby County, which includes Memphis, plans to consider reinstating Pearson.
Chairman Mickell Lowery announced that he was calling a special meeting on Wednesday afternoon to “consider action to reappoint Mr. Justin Pearson to his elected position to represent the citizens in District 86,” local station News Action 5 reported.
The odds seem to favor Pearson’s return: said Commissioner Erika Sugarmon the Memphis Commercial Appeal that the ex-legislator has enough supporters sitting in the commission, which has a Democratic supermajority, to be successfully reappointed.
The county will then hold a special election to fill the seat.