Adam Friedman, Tennessee Lookout
The Metro Nashville Council voted unanimously to send former Rep. Justin Jones back to the Tennessee House, moments before he was sworn in Monday among a huge crowd on the steps of the State Capitol and returned to the House floor by about 5:30.
“I want to welcome the people back to the people’s house. I want to welcome democracy back to the people’s house,” Jones said after being recognized to speak.
Jones said the “abuse” of the House of Representatives would not be accepted with silence and thanked members for “awakening the young people” of Tennessee.
The council met in a special called meeting four days after House Republicans expelled Jones, D-Nashville and Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, for violating its rules on floor decorum.
By law, the Metro Council chooses whom to appoint to Jones’ empty seat until a special election later this year. Nothing stopped the council from putting Jones back in the District 52 seat, and he can’t be expelled for the same thing twice.
Monday’s reinstating of Jones comes after a three dramatic weeks that began in tragedy. A mass shooting killed six — including three children — at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 26.
Jones, Pearson and Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Nashville, took over the House floor speaking podium on March 29 to protest a lack of action on gun regulations by Republican lawmakers. Thousands of protesters were at the State Capitol on the same day.
The trio brought a megaphone to the House podium, leading chants among the packed gallery and pausing the chamber for 40 minutes. House Republicans then drew up expulsion papers on April 3 and held a hearing to remove all three on April 6.
The expulsion hearings drew nationwide attention, with Vice-President Kamala Harris visiting Nashville to support the three. Jones, Pearson and Johnson have also appeared on various national news programs this past weekend.
Jones planned to attend Monday’s 5 p.m. House floor session after his appointment.
House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and House Caucus chair Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said in a joint statement they would welcome Pearson and Jones back.
“Tennessee’s constitution provides a pathway back for expulsion,” said Lamberth and Fasion. “Should any expelled member be reappointed, we will welcome them. Like everyone else, they are expected to follow the rules of the House as well as state law.
“Our state endured a horrific tragedy on March 27 that will never be forgotten. We continue to mourn the six lives lost as we pray for healing.’
The Shelby County Commission will meet Wednesday to decide who they will appoint to Pearson’s open seat.
Several Shelby County Commissioners have voiced support for Pearson, but there is some concern Memphis could lose out on funding for upgrades to their NBA and college football stadiums if he’s reappointed. House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, released a statement saying that he was still in support of the stadium funding.
Both men must run in special elections later this year to retain their seats.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Senior Reporter Sam Stockard contributed to this article.
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