State House Republican Caucus Elects a New Majority Whip

Johnny Garrett


NASHVILLE, Tennessee – During a House Republican Caucus meeting held Monday prior to a floor session, Representative Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville) was elected as the new Majority Whip.

The position came open when Representative Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg) stepped down.

Representative Tillis was elected as Majority Whip during the House Republican Caucus elections held in November 2018, as The Tennessee Star reported at the time.

As the first legislative session of the 111th Tennessee General Assembly was underway, an anonymous Twitter account was initiated under the handle @CHBMole. The handle implied an insider’s perspective of happenings at the legislature’s offices at the Cordell Hull Building.

Much of @CHBMole’s Twitter activity was critical in nature and was directed largely at Republicans and staffers.

After a few months of activity, @CHBMole was outed as Representative Tillis.

While at least one legislative support staff member complained of the creation of a hostile work environment at the hands of @CHBMole, no apparent actions were taken.

In July 2019, prior to Representative Tillis stepping down, The Star reported Representative Mark Hall (R-Cleveland) would be running for the position.

The meeting was announced by Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) about two weeks ago at the meeting held on the first day of session.

As of the day of the election, Representative Johnny Garrett joined Representative Hall in the race, although there were rumors that Representative and former Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) might also make a run for the position.

The meeting, called for 4 p.m. in the old Supreme Court Chambers located in the Capitol building, was attended by 72 of the 73 House Republican members.

After Representative Clay Doggett (R-Pulaski) took the roll, Representative Faison said it was an exciting day for the caucus and called Representative Garrett – referring to him as “Q ball” – to make his comments.

After telling a story of how he helped a conservative Republican judge, Representative Garrett said he learned he liked campaigning.

In campaigning for Majority Whip, Representative Garrett said he got to know members and wants to be part of getting everyone back to the House in the upcoming elections.

As a freshman, Representative Garrett said he didn’t know what it is like to be in the minority and that Republicans have accomplished more than Democrats over 100 years.

Representative Hall jokingly said he and his opponent may look similar, but they are very different.

Quoting Helen Keller, Representative Hall said that what is worse than having no sight is having sight without a vision. “The vision is alive and well,” continued Representative Hall.

He spoke of being a family, despite their struggles and said that they could make a statement, not just to Tennessee but the world, leading with values and integrity.

Napoleon, Representative Hall said, saw every battle as being an opportunity with 15 minutes that determined the outcome of certain victory or defeat and this was one of those times.

Asking for members to stand with him in leaving Nashville better, telling members “I love you,” Representative Hall asked for their vote.

Ballots were handed out, collected and were then carried out of the chambers for counting.

At about 4:30, both Representative Garrett and Hall were called out of the chambers by Caucus Chair Faison. Within a minute, all returned to the chambers with Faison going to the front of the room introducing Representative Garrett as the new Whip.

Members shouted a good-natured “No,” to Caucus Chair Faison’s offer for Representative Garrett to make comments.

Members of the media were then asked to leave the room by Caucus Chair Faison, while the Comptroller’s office made a presentation on the Copeland Cap.

In the chambers from the outset of the meeting, presumably for said presentation, were Treasurer David Lillard and Deputy Comptroller Jason Mumpower.

The Copeland Cap is the 1978 amendment to Article II, Section 24 of the Tennessee constitution that states, “In no year shall the rate of growth of appropriations from state tax revenues exceed the estimated rate of growth of the state’s economy as determined by law.”

The amendment was named for its author, former state Representative David Copeland of Ooltewah.

The amendment provides that legislators must be informed when the Copeland Cap is exceeded and that it is evidenced through a specific and separate vote.

“No appropriation in excess of this limitation shall be made unless the General Assembly shall, by law containing no other subject matter, set forth the dollar amount and the rate by which the limit will be exceeded.”

As The Star reported during coverage of the IMPROVE Act when the Copeland Cap was exceeded, it was pointed out that there are challenges in managing the constitutional commitment to taxpayers, largely due to a timing issue.

It is anticipated that the Copeland Cap will be exceeded in the current year and that measures will be taken to deal with the challenges it presents.

Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.
Photo “Johnny Garrett” by Johnny Garrett.





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