Less than two weeks after being removed from the House Civil Justice, Criminal Justice, and Education Instruction Committees, Rep. Bruce Griffey’s (R-Paris) membership was reinstated by Speaker Cameron Sexton.
Griffey’s removal came unceremoniously at the end of the March 25 House floor session, three days following a testy exchange on the House floor primarily with House Parliamentarian Daniel Hicks, and to a lesser degree Sexton himself, related to Griffey’s use of Rule 53 of the House Permanent Rules of Order for the 112th General Assembly for his proposed E-Verify legislation.
Griffey’s HB 0801 lowered the threshold for Tennessee businesses required to use E-Verify for their employees from the current 50 down to 6 employees, but was killed in the House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee, The Tennessee Star reported, at the hands of five Republicans with 0 Ayes, 6 No and 1 Present and not voting.
During the House floor session when Griffey made his Rule 53 motion that would allow for the bill to bypass the committee system and be taken directly to the House floor, Sexton quickly gaveled that the bill died for the lack of a second.
A few days later when he was removed from the committees, Griffey said he had not been given a reason.
Sexton, on the other hand, issued a statement,
“There are certain expectations that must be met by members of the Tennessee House of Representatives. These include maintaining decorum and professionalism, as well as respect for others, and perhaps most importantly — respect for our longstanding committee process. If any or all of these expectations become an issue, appropriate actions will be taken — including removing a member from his or her committee assignments.”
Following Sexton’s action against Griffey, generally considered to be an internal affair amongst House members, there was a relative outpouring of support for Griffey and a parallel admonishment of Sexton.
Initially, the Republican Party of Griffey’s home of Henry County issued a resolution of censure of Sexton the day after he ruled the E-Verify bill to be dead and called for his resignation as Speaker.
Once Sexton removed Griffey from the committees, seven county Republican Parties – four of which are not even within Griffey’s House District – signed on to a letter of condemnation of Sexton.
The group’s grievance was related to the arbitrary punishment of representatives for actually representing their constituents and, in effect, making the House a voice of one.
They concluded their letter by issuing a call for Sexton to “quickly and publicly repent of your unjust actions against us.”
Just a few days later, Sexton and Griffey sat down for a face-to-face meeting, which Griffey summarized positively as follows.
“I met with Speaker Sexton on this past Monday morning, April 5. We had a very successful, productive meeting. We have a lot more in common than things we differ on and we are both committed to working together for the betterment of Tennesseans. In fact, we specifically discussed working together on legislation to improve election integrity in Tennessee.”
Griffey went on to talk about the theme of and reasoning behind much of his legislation this session and in the previous General Assembly.
I will continue to fight for legislation to address illegal immigration in Tennessee. As you known, it is an issue about which I am deeply passionate. President Trump’s stance on illegal immigration is one of the reasons that I supported him in both 2016 and in 2020 for President and I continue to respect and support him today. When I ran for election in 2018, illegal immigration was a top issue on my campaign platform. I made a commitment to my constituents to do everything in my power to fight illegal immigration in Tennessee, and I have followed my campaign promises and will continue to do so, particularly with the illegal immigration at the border reaching crisis levels under the Biden Administration.
I will also continue to speak out against the Governor’s ‘criminal justice reform’ legislation, which I prefer to call ‘soft on crime’ legislation. As an attorney in the criminal justice system at both the state and federal level for over 30 years, as a former Assistant District Attorney and former Assistant Attorney General, Governor Lee’s soft on crime legislation will reward criminals, further victimize victims and destroy community safety. Tennessee voters deserve to know what is happening at the Capitol and I intend to continue bringing transparency to government.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.