Nashville Council reinstates exiled Tennessee lawmaker

Nashville Council reinstates exiled Tennessee lawmaker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ousted Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones is headed back to the state house after the Nashville Metro Council unanimously voted to rename the Democrat to his former seat.

Jones, 27, was kicked out of the state Legislature last week by a Republican supermajority for participating in a gun reform protest on the House floor, a violation of decorum rules. The GOP also removed Rep. Justin Pearson, another millennial Black Democrat, for the same violations. Yet Republicans didn’t summon enough votes to remove a third member, Rep. Gloria Johnson, a white lawmaker who also called for changes to gun laws by briefly taking over the legislative chamber.

The “Tennessee Three” have risen to national prominence as the political firestorm surrounding the starkly partisan vote has drawn national attention to the deep red state. The series of events has also reignited the debate around gun safety in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in Nashville last month..

State lawmakers occasionally remove their fellow colleagues, but it’s often for cases involving criminal misconduct or major ethical lapses. Last week’s vote in Tennessee was exceedingly rare for its speed and partisanship. Nearly all of the Republican supermajority voted to oust Jones and Pearson, and the effort to remove Johnson fell short by a single vote.

GOP House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who likened their protest to an “insurrection,” led trial-like proceedings last week as Republicans admonished the group and urged them to repent for their outburst.

Despite Republicans’ attempt to keep him away, Jones likely won’t miss a day of work. The Nashville-area Democrat is expected to lead a march to the Capitol immediately following his reinstatement, returning to the statehouse just in time for the first full session since his removal.

Hundreds of supporters gathered in downtown Nashville at a park near the Capitol ahead of the council vote. Under state law, local legislative bodies hold the power to reinstate ousted lawmakers — a process that typically takes several weeks — but Nashville council members voted to expedite it. A special election will be held to permanently fill Jones’ seat, a race that he’s expected to join and will likely take place later this summer.

Pearson, who represents parts of Memphis, is also anticipated to run for reelection. He’s expected to be reinstated by Memphis council members on Wednesday and return to the General Assembly the following day.


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