State Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, suddenly finds himself off the committees he had been serving on in the state House of Representatives after an angry House Speaker Cameron Sexton removed him from those committees Thursday.
The two have been at odds since early in the week when Griffey unsuccessfuly tried to bring a bill he had pushed regarding immigration law to the floor of the House after it had already been defeated in a subcommittee.
Sexton, R-Crossville, had “a testy exchange” with Griffey Monday, according to a report in the “On the Hill” column on the website of The Tennessee Journal.
Griffey argued that he should have been allowed to deliver remarks in favor of his bill while making the motion on the floor. But Sexton and House parliamentarian Daniel Hicks disagreed, according to the column. After cutting Griffey off, Sexton determined Griffey’s motion didn’t have a second and declared it defeated.
After that turn of events, the Henry County Republican Party’s executive committee unanimously voted to pass a resolution of censure for Sexton, calling his actions “in direct violation not only of the spirit of the Rules governing the 112th General Assembly, but of your (Sexton’s) oath of office.”
Just before legislators were leaving Nashville for the week on Thursday, Sexton announced he was removing Griffey as a member of the Civil Justice, Criminal Justice and Education Instruction committees.
Griffey told The Post-Intelligencer Thursday that Sexton’s actions show that, in the Legislature, rules, procedures and the committee system are more important than representing the constituents back home.
“This may be a blessing rather than a curse,” Griffey said. “I look at it as a positive. People don’t want to hear dissenting opinions.”
Griffey said his security badge wouldn’t work on the members-only elevators at the Capitol, beginning Monday evening.
“It just seems awfully petty,” he said.
Referring to his push for the e-verify bill that prompted the disagreement Monday, Griffey said, “I was simply following the rules presented to me. What kind of representative would I be … if I wouldn’t fight for them (my constituents). I don’t think I’ve done anything to step outside the rules.
“Everybody can have differences of opinion. Everybody should have a right to advocate for the positionof their constituents.”
Griffey made a social media post earlier Thursday afternoon regarding the situation.
“In response to all of the media inquiries I’m now receiving since the close of session this morning, Cameron Sexton has not had any communications with me about the removal or the reasons behind it,” the post read.
“I can only surmise that it is punishment for me bringing a Rule 53 Motion so all members of the House could vote on whether they want to expand the use of E-Verify in TN in order to protect Tennesseans from being stripped of jobs in favor of illegals and to keep the wages of working TN citizens from being suppressed by the illegal labor, particularly with the border crisis.
“It could also be because I have voiced opposition to the Governor’s ‘soft on crime’ legislation and moved last night (Wednesday night) in the Criminal Justice Committee to send it to Summer Study. It could also be punishment for me disclosing to the public what is happening in committee hearings on bills.
“They don’t want transparency in government, but rather want to hide behind voice votes with no accountable record so voters don’t truly know what happens. The clear message being sent is that if you don’t ‘go along to get along,’ then you will undoubtedly be punished.
“Cameron Sexton clearly does not want legislators at the Capitol who think independently and are unwilling to be puppets to a larger puppet master. God forbid a legislator actually try to be a real voice for his constituents and actually try to do what he campaigned to do! If Tennesseans knew what really happens at the Capitol, they would be horrified.
“I submit that what is happening is childish antics that I thought only kids engaged in on an elementary school playground. Ironically, when I came to work on Tuesday morning after my Rule 53 Motion Monday night, my access card no longer worked.
“I don’t think this is the ‘leadership’ TN citizens deserve. Sexton mistakenly assumes that he is attacking me, but in reality he is attacking the Republican Party, all Tennesseans and the very form of our government. I don’t think the people of Tennessee want to live under a dictatorship. It is a destruction of what is supposed to be a representative form of government and a complete violation of 1st Amendment speech rights — not just mine, but of the thousands of people who elected me to be their voice.
“It is no secret that I have been a long-time Trump supporter and remain a Trump supporter. What is happening to me is no different than what happened to Trump when he went up against the Establishment wing of the Republican Party.”
COUNTY GOP BACKS GRIFFEY
Tess Robbins, Henry County Republican Party chairman, said Griffey was only following the instructions he’s been given by the local parties in his district.
“I’ve been working with six counties on what happened to Bruce,” Robbins said.
Republican parties from several counties intend to talk to Gov. Bill Lee about the matter, Robbins said.
“He’s not a lone wolf,” she said Thursday afternoon. “He’s answering to us. He’s just being the instrument that he should be. There’s a coalition that we’ve never had before. We’re meeting and we’re talking to Bruce. He’s doing this on behest of us.”
“This is bigger than just Bruce,” she said. “Bruce gets beat up because they don’t like what he’s saying, but what they don’t realize is that we’re organized now.”
Robbins said there had been a party meeting Saturday that involved people from several other counties, including as far away as Sevier County.
Robbins was most disturbed by what she saw as an abandonment of procedure by Sexton, possibly provoked by the censure she had sent to the Speaker on Monday.
Now, the Carroll County Republican Party intends to follow suit, she said, and others were weighing the possibility of doing the same.
Griffey said at least two Democratic representatives had told him they “feel like I shouldn’t be treated this way.”
A lawyer, Griffey is in private practice now. However, area judgeships and the district attorney positions will be on the ballot in 2022, and Griffey said he’s considering a change in careers by that time.
“I’m thinking about it,” he said of running for something different. “No decision has been made.
“I prefer law over politics. In court, opposing lawyers argue and battle, but I don’t take attacks on me personally.”
Griffey said he thinks if he decides to run for a different office next year, many district conservatives would want his wife, Rebecca, to run for state representative.
Griffey is the representative for the 75th House District, which includes Henry, Benton and Stewart counties.