Vote expected on returning second expelled lawmaker to the Tennessee House
The second of two Democratic lawmakers expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives could soon return to the chamber, as officials in Memphis on Wednesday weigh whether to appoint him as an interim representative.
Here are key things to know about what is expected to happen today:
Today’s vote: Shelby County commissioners are set to vote Wednesday on appointing Justin J. Pearson to the House District 86 seat, which the 28-year-old vacated last week when he was forced out in a two-thirds majority vote by the GOP-dominated body after he and two Democratic colleagues participated in a demonstration calling for gun reform on the chamber floor.
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners will meet at 1:30 p.m. local time to take up the matter of Pearson’s vacant seat.
How the process works: If Pearson’s nomination passes with a simple majority, the council will need a two-thirds vote to suspend a rule that requires a cooling off period before a final confirmation vote.
If that vote passes, Pearson could return to the House as soon as Thursday, when he and a certified copy of the minutes from the council meeting are expected to arrive in Nashville, where lawmakers will be in session at 9 a.m. local time.
A rally will happen nearby: A rally in support of Pearson will be unfolding about a mile away at the National Civil Rights Museum, starting at noon local time.
The events that led us here: Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones, who are both Black, were expelled, though Jones was reinstated as an interim member and returned to the state House victorious Monday, following a unanimous vote by the Nashville Metropolitan Council. Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is White and participated in the demonstration on the floor of the House, survived the vote last week and kept her seat.
Tennessee law allows local legislative bodies to appoint interim House members to fill the seats of expelled lawmakers until an election is held, and the vote to appoint Pearson is expected to follow a similar process to Jones’ earlier this week.
The lawmakers’ expulsions came as the long-simmering debate over guns in America boiled over in Tennessee following a mass shooting last month at a Nashville Christian school that left six people dead, including three 9-year-old children.
Tennessee GOP governor calls for tougher gun restrictions: Meanwhile, Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday urged the state’s legislature to pass additional gun control measures.
“I’m asking the General Assembly to bring forward an order of protection law. A new strong order of protection law will provide the broader population cover, safety, from those who are a danger to themselves or the population,” Lee said at a news conference, adding that he would like to pass the legislation within the current legislative session, which ends in a few weeks.
The governor said specifics for the order of protection plan had yet to be determined but encouraged lawmakers from both parties to work together on the matter.
CNN’s Shawna Mizelle contributed reporting to this post.