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Pair of Tennessee bills impacting running for 2 offices, reappointments advance

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(The Center Square) – A pair of bills that could impact three Tennessee representatives who were the subject of expulsion hearings last year continue to advance through the Tennessee Legislature.

A bill that would prevent anyone from running for more than one office in the state or holding two positions passed the full Senate 17-15 on Thursday. Another bill to prevent a person who is expelled from a legislative body from being reappointed to the same spot also advanced in House committee and will reach the full House on Monday.

Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, said that currently someone could theoretically hold five elected positions in the state. Senate Bill 1968 could prevent Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, from running for the U.S. Senate against Marsha Blackburn and for her house seat.

Sen. Adam Lowe, R-Calhoun, said the bill would prevent voters from being disenfranchised when a person is elected to multiple spots and chooses the better one, leaving the post to be filled by someone who was not elected.

Briggs said Knox County special elections can cost between $300,000 and $400,000.

The bill was not only opposed by Democrat senators but also several Republicans.

“At the end of the day, the voters are the check on the system,” said Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. “Let the voters decide.”

House Bill 2716 passed the House State Government Committee on Wednesday. It prevents a local legislative body from electing a member who was expelled for disorderly behavior.

Both Reps. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, were reappointed last year after being expelled from the House.

The bill was questioned as unconstitutional and Tennessee Legislative Attorney Matthew Mundy clarified.

“It seems to me clear that the framers of the constitution anticipated an expelled member coming back and serving in the body because they specifically put, right after their expulsion authority, the language ‘You can’t expel them twice for the same offense’” Mundy said. “That provision and language isn’t qualified.”

Garrett clarified he believes there is a difference between a representative being reappointed by a local legislative body and being re-elected by the public.

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