NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — He may have been expelled Thursday evening, but Justin Jones is back in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
The ousted legislator was reappointed to his former seat in the 52nd District in Nashville by the Metro Council Monday afternoon, just a few days after he was officially expelled for breaking decorum rules on the House floor on March 30.
Reps. Jones and Justin Pearson had approached the front of the House chamber with a bullhorn and participated in a chant after joining protesters calling for passage of gun-control measures in the wake of the mass shooting at the Covenant School.
The Metro Council voted 36-0 Monday to appoint Jones as the interim representative for the district.
Jones, a member of the so-called “Tennessee Three,” faced expulsion along with fellow Democrats Gloria Johnson of Knoxville and Justin Pearson of Memphis. Johnson survived the expulsion vote by one, but Pearson was ousted as well Thursday. The move was met with national criticism of Republican leaders in the state house, including House Speaker Cameron Sexton.
Shortly after the expulsion, Metro leaders were quick to announce their support for Jones and intentions to send him back to the House. Vice Mayor Jim Shulman quickly announced a special meeting to announce the vacancy, as required by law.
Just before Metro gaveled in to make its appointment, House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R—Portland), and Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R—Cosby), issued the following statement:
“Tennessee’s constitution provides a pathway back for expulsion. Should any expelled member be reappointed, we will welcome them. Like everyone else, they are expected to follow the rules of the House as well as state law.
Our state endured a horrific tragedy on March 27 that will never be forgotten. We continue to mourn the six lives lost as we pray for healing. We remain focused on solutions that ensure every child and parent feels safe in every community across the Volunteer state.“
GOP leaders argued that the move against Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson was necessary to draw a line against lawmakers using protest to disrupt House proceedings.
Jones and Pearson, who are Black, have regularly criticized the white-majority House chamber.
Jones was once temporarily banned from the Capitol several years ago for throwing a cup of liquid at then-House Speaker Glen Casada during a protest calling for the removal of a bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early Ku Klux Klan leader.
Pearson faced scrutiny when he wore a black dashiki on the first day of the session rather than a suit and tie. Pearson later said a “white supremacist” attacked his choice to wear the tunic-like garment that originated in west Africa.
Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, also participated in the House floor protest. She survived a move to expel her by one vote.
Republicans have a supermajority control in the House, which allows them to advance most of the political agenda despite objections from Democrats.