Here’s what Ky.’s Constitution says about removing lawmakers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This week, the Tennessee Capitol erupted in protest after lawmakers there voted to expel two of their colleagues, a rare move that would also be possible in Kentucky under the Constitution. 

What You Need To Know

  • Tennessee lawmakers voted to expel two members Thursday 
  • Sen. Gerald Neal (D) of Kentucky said the vote went too far
  • Under Kentucky’s Constitution, members can be removed by a two-thirds vote

On Thursday, Tennessee Republicans voted to expel two Black Democratic lawmakers for their role in a protest calling for more gun control. 

“We had members take it upon themselves to rush the well and stop the people’s business,” said Tennessee Republican Rep. Johnny Garrett. 

Though a third lawmaker who is white survived the vote on expulsion, Republicans have denied race was a factor.

Kentucky’s Senate Minority Floor Leader Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, told Spectrum News 1 that even though some discipline may have been warranted, Tennessee went too far.  

“Expulsion is really a threat to the democratic process, if you really think about it, because you are silencing not only the voices of those who are on that floor, who are bringing up legitimate issues now, in a nonviolent way,” said Neal. “You’re silencing not only their voices, you’re silencing the voices of tens of thousands of individuals. That is wrong.” 

According to Section 39 of Kentucky’s Constitution, “Each House of the General Assembly may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish a member for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same cause.”

“I’d be very surprised if something like that happened in Kentucky, but I’m not sure what would happen in some other state because once you start this sort of thing and you have people in leadership that have extreme ideologies, extreme impulses, than you get this kind of result,” he said. 

University of Kentucky Associate Professor Stephen Voss, who teaches about the legislative process, said what happened in Tennessee isn’t surprising now, given the polarization of American politics.

“It really is viewed as a last resort sort of solution to a problem,” he said. “Whether it’s an overreach to remove members for causing the legislative branch to grind to a halt, and to hold a protest against the rules on the floor, really hard to say what the principle on that ought to be because it’s rarely done … For sure, members should not be removed because of their party or their ideology or their policy positions. That would be a clear abuse of the rules.” 

Neal says he planned to have a discussion with some Democratic Tennessee lawmakers Saturday at 10 a.m. on his legislative Facebook page.

Spectrum News 1 has reached out to Republican legislators for comment on the expulsion of the members in Tennessee. 

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