The Tennessee General Assembly Joint Ad Hoc Committee studying emergency powers of the executive branch will include presentations from by retired U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
The meeting to be held at the legislature’s home of the Cordell Hull Building is scheduled for Thursday.
The bi-partisan ad hoc committee established in July consists of 17 members including a co-chair and vice-chair from each house.
Senate members include Republicans Ferrell Haile as Co-Chair, Kerry Roberts as Vice-Chair, Ed Jackson and Shane Reeves along with Democrat Brenda Gilmore.
House members include Republicans Jason Zachary as Co-Chair, Curtis Johnson as Vice-Chair, Clark Boyd, Patsy Hazlewood, Dan Howell, Chris Hurt, Debra Moody and John Ragan. Democrats on the committee are John Ray Clemmons, Bob Freeman, London Lamar and Johnny Shaw.
The joint committee was created by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton at the request of members of both legislative bodies in light of the emergency status caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Apparently, the legislature is anticipating that it will take some time to evaluate the situation and make any statutory changes.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the legislature referred to the ad hoc committee’s Thursday meeting as “their first.”
Additionally, according to Co-Chair Haile, “The purpose of this committee is to review the Emergency Powers Act and make recommendations to the 112th General Assembly when it convenes next year,” the statement said.
The Emergency Powers Act in T.C.A. 58-2-107 provides Tennessee’s governor with broad authority to assume control over all aspects of the state’s response to an emergency.
“Although the bulk of this law has been on the books for two decades, the pandemic offers legislators and the governor the unique opportunity to examine it closer to see if future improvements need to be made.”
Zachary said, “This pandemic and the response of government has created a renewed focus on the Executive and Judicial powers provided by state law during a state of emergency. I look forward to the important work of our committee as we carry out our charge to review and make recommendations related to those powers, to the 112th General Assembly.”
As part of their work, the ad hoc committee will hear from two of the state’s foremost authorities on the matter.
Testifying at the committee’s first meeting Thursday will be the Honorable Alberto Gonzales, Dean and Professor of Constitutional Law at Belmont University. Gonzales served as the 80th Attorney General under President George W. Bush and previously served as a Texas Supreme Court Justice, among many other prestigious appointments.
The ad hoc committee will hear first from deputy to the Governor and Chief Counsel Lang Wiseman.
The agenda for the Joint Ad Hoc Committee to Study Emergency Powers meeting can be viewed here.
The meeting can be watched live here.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.