Apr 10, 2023, 5:48pm EDT
politicsNorth America

Nashville council reinstates expelled Tennessee lawmaker Justin Jones to state House

State Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson
Nicole Hester/The Tennessean/USA TODAY NETWORK via REUTERS

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Just days after the GOP-led Tennessee State House expelled State Rep. Justin Jones over his gun control protest on the chamber floor, the Nashville Metro Council voted unanimously to reinstate him as the interim district representative in the General Assembly.

The expulsion of Jones and another Black Democratic lawmaker, State Rep. Justin Pearson has prompted outrage from Democrats across the country, with President Joe Biden calling the expulsions "undemocratic."

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Within minutes of the Metro Council meeting beginning, the council suspended rules regarding appointments and nominated Jones, sending him back to the House of Representatives.

"We are restoring the political voice of the 70,000 people of District 52," Council member Zulfat Suara said, ahead of the vote. "Their will should’ve never been undermined."

Jones, Pearson, and State Rep. Gloria Johnson were hailed as the "Tennessee three" after they joined hundreds of protesters on the House floor calling for gun reform legislation in light of the deadly Nashville school shooting.

The Tennessee House of Representatives on Friday then voted on whether to expel the three lawmakers for violating rules of decorum and procedure on the House floor and for not asking permission to protest. Jones and Pearson — both Black men — were expelled, but Johnson, a white woman, was not, prompting allegations of racism.

The rare expulsions sparked nationwide condemnation. Only two other Tennessee representatives have been expelled in 157 years with neither incident centered on a protest.

Per Tennessee law, city councils are tasked with filling a vacant seat. While the appointment process generally takes four weeks, according to the Tennessean, the Nashville Metro Council suspended the rules and held an emergency vote to first nominate, and then elect Jones to the vacancy.

State House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, had compared the gun reform protest to the Jan. 6 insurrection. He later told reporters that he would seat both Jones and Pearson if their respective local bodies voted to reinstate them.