In an unexpected turn during the House Finance Committee yesterday, two long-time supporters of Speaker Beth Harwell, voted against the anti-sanctuary city bill which 67 members of her Republican caucus is co-sponsoring.
Finance Committee Chairman Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) and Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads), both listed as co-sponsors of the bill, voted to effectively kill the bill by sending it to a summer study by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. Both Sargent and McDaniel are retiring from the Tennessee House of Representatives and are not on the ballot in 2018.
The motion was made by Rep. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain), who does not support the measure.
Harwell is listed as a co-sponsor of the bill.
After being elected by the Republican caucus as Speaker, Harwell appointed Sargent to serve as chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee, a position he has held throughout Harwell’s tenure as Speaker.
McDaniel has also held choice committee assignments under Harwell’s leadership and was the House member she appointed to lead the Ad Hoc Select Committee that put in motion the eventual ouster of former representative Jeremy Durham for alleged sexual conduct at the legislature.
Tennessee currently has a narrowly tailored law prohibiting sanctuary cities. However, a June 2017, ordinance proposed by the Metro Nashville Council that would have made Nashville the most liberal sanctuary city in the country was written in a way that would have bypassed current state law.
The Metro ordinance, drafted with help from the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), proposed instituting a practice of “don’t ask so you don’t have to know or tell” was designed to obstruct cooperation with federal immigration authorities and instead, shield illegal aliens who had committed crimes under Tennessee law.
A Tennessee Star poll conducted within hours of the ordinance being withdrawn asked 533 likely Metro voters the following: “Metro Nashville Council was scheduled to vote on a proposal next week that would, in effect, turn Nashville into a sanctuary city where illegal immigrants are protected from arrest and deportation. Do you support or oppose the proposal for Nashville to become a sanctuary city?” – 49.4 percent supported, while 47.1 percent opposed, a statistical tie since the 2.3 percent differential is within the poll’s 4.2 percent margin of error:
31.9% Strongly support
17.5% Somewhat support
8.6% Somewhat oppose
38.5% Strongly oppose
3.4% Not sure/don’t know
Another Tennessee Star poll showing likely Republican primary voters oppose awarding in-state college tuition to illegal aliens by an astounding 88 percent to 6 percent margin, suggests that in a state Trump won by 61 percent to 35 percent, (a 26 percent margin of victory), issues involving illegal immigration will matter in the GOP gubernatorial primary election.
Former Sen. Mae Beavers who had already announced her run for governor and whose legislative record consistently opposed illegal immigration, condemned Nashville’s actions without hesitation.
Even before formally announcing her campaign for governor, Congressman Diane Black who is a member of the House Border Security Caucus and author of the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, was also quick to condemn the attempt by Metro Nashville Council to pass a sanctuary city ordinance.
GOP gubernatorial candidates Randy Boyd and Bill Lee followed with predictable statements opposing sanctuary cities while Harwell is relying on her vote for the 2009 law prohibiting sanctuary cities in Tennessee.
In a February ad released by a PAC called Tennesseans for Good State Government, Harwell takes credit for “outlaw[ing] sanctuary cities,” most likely a reference to her 2009 vote for the narrowly tailored law which the Nashville ordinance would have bypassed and which the current bill opposed by Reps. Sargent and McDaniel, will fix.
Yesterday, after discussion on Rep. Jay Reedy bill in the House Finance Committee and loud objection to Rep. Hazlewood’s motion to send the bill to summer study, Chairman Sargent on a voice vote, declared the motion passed.
Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and several others objected but were ignored by Sargent who quickly moved on to other bills. A subsequent recess of the committee during which members left to presumably discuss procedural options, resulted in Rep. Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville) moving for the committee to reconsider its action on the anti-sanctuary city bill.
This time around, a roll call vote in favor of reconsidering the bill was passed 13-8 with Republicans Hazlewood, McDaniel and Sargent voting with the Democrat members against the bill.
Using his position as chairman, Sargent moved the bill to the last Finance Committee calendar instead of allowing a vote while the committee was still in session likely resulting in the same 13-8 vote to pass the bill on to calendar it for a vote on the House floor.
The final Finance Committee calendar is anticipated to be completed today. The Senate companion bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville) is scheduled for a vote by the full Senate today.