Presumed House Speaker Wants Attorney General To Opine On Efforts To Expel Rep. David Byrd

Aug 22, 2019

A resolution to expel Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, of the House was filed earlier this month. It’s unclear if lawmakers will act on it during Friday’s special session.
Credit Stephen Jerkins, WPLN

Presumed Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton is asking the state’s top attorney to issue an opinion on whether an embattled lawmaker could be expelled.

The request is related to an effort to kick out Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, who has been accused by three women of sexual assault  while he was their high school coach over 30 years ago.

He wants the attorney general to clarify whether it’s even constitutional to kick Byrd out of the House for incidents that allegedly happened decades before he became a legislator.

"These allegations are serious, and this situation is complex and unprecedented," Sexton says. "The Tennessee House of Representatives has rules that govern our body, and we follow those rules."In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Sexton says his decision comes after consulting with Republican leadership.

Sexton has said in the past that he doesn’t think Byrd should be expelled. In an interview with WPLN this week, Sexton pointed to Byrd's re-election after the allegations surfaced as a reason for not asking him to step down. 

"So, when you look at that, you have to balance the will of the voters and overturning the will of the voters ... over an allegation that was made from 30 years ago," Sexton said.

Knoxville Democrat Gloria Johnson has filed a resolution that would push Byrd out of office.

She questioned Sexton's decision to ask for an opinion.

"I didn't ask the AG for permission to do the right thing," Johnson said. "We learned about these credible accusations about a year ago and since then Byrd and his supporters have run a smear campaign against his victims."

Johnson called the situation a "coverup."

"Bringing the AG into this shows that they are looking for any excuse possible to do nothing when a credibly accused child molester sits on the House floor," Johnson said.

Byrd has not publicly denied the allegations against him.

It’s unclear if lawmakers will act on it during Friday’s special session.