Tennessee Special Session is Already a Circus

The special legislative session convened by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee kicked off on Monday afternoon, with most of the day’s activity in the House chamber limited to coming up with the procedural rules that will be used over the course of the session. The state Senate, meanwhile, briefly met for about 20 minutes before calling it a day.

The session didn’t generate any real surprises in its opening hours, at least for those predicting that the high-profile setting would turn the session into a circus. Democrats have been objecting to virtually every move made by the majority, including the rules adopted for debate.

The Senate adjourned about 20 minutes after it began.
Meanwhile, House members almost immediately began debating proposed new rules to govern the special session proceedings, which would bar members from being called on to speak if they cause “a material disruption of legislative business,” fail to stay on topic, or “impugn the reputation” of another member.
Members would also be prohibited from using “voice or noise amplification devices,” wearing or possessing a microphone or using any electronic device that impairs decorum.
House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and House Majority Caucus WHIP Johnny Garret, R-Goodlettsville, proposed the changes to ensure that every member’s voice is heard. During the debate, objecting democrats repeatedly ran out of time and were cut off.
“There was an article written called, ‘Is Tennessee a Democracy?’ I think we’re getting a very clear answer today that it is not,” said Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis. He argued that the proposed rules would limit free speech.

Either Pearson is an absolute moron who has no concept of parliamentary procedure, a cynic playing on the ignorance of the electorate, many of whom are blissfully unaware of the rules that govern debate during any legislative session, or a combination of the two. No lawmaker’s First Amendment rights are going to be violated by not being able to use a bullhorn on the House floor or by having their comments limited in both time and subject matter, but Pearson and other Democrats are intent on portraying the GOP majority as blowhards who’ll trample all over the First Amendment in order to do the gun lobby’s bidding.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said Monday that he hopes the special session results in “common sense gun violence legislation.
“After the tragic murders at The Covenant School, now is the moment for state lawmakers to turn statements of sympathy and prayers into action and leadership,” Cooper said in a press release. He urged legislators to listen to the residents of “this great state.”
Sensible reforms can prevent senseless killings, Cooper said, noting that he believes that while the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens should be preserved, legislators must also take action to keep communities safe.
“Gun violence does not have partisan boundaries so political party affiliation should not dictate how we approach gun law reforms,” he said.

I have the same question for Cooper that I have for every politician who trots out the tired “I support the Second Amendment, but…” trope: give me an example of a gun control measure that you believe would violate the Second Amendment rights of Tennessee residents. If Cooper really believes that the rights of law-abiding citizens should be preserved then surely there’s some gun control measure that goes too far for his taste, but I’ve never heard him or anyone else who utters that phrase come up with any proposal that they believe is an affront to our right to keep and bear arms.

Lee attempted to limit the scope of the special session to exclude most of the anti-gun policies favored by Cooper, Pearson, and other Tennessee Democrats, but that won’t stop them from using the session as a stage to bash Republicans for inaction or for supposedly loving guns more than school kids. Even if the GOP majority comes up with substantive steps to improve mental health access and the criminal justice system, it won’t be enough for the anti-gunners or their allies in the media. I’ve been saying for months now that Lee’s demand that lawmakers return to Nashville was a political miscalculation of epic proportions, and nothing in the opening hours of the session has changed my mind. If anything, I’m more convinced than ever that the session was a terrible mistake on Lee’s part, as well as a gift to the anti-gunners in the Volunteer State.

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