A pair of local state representatives say they are pleased that Tennessee Speaker of the House Glen Casada has chosen to resign from the leadership position.
David Hawk (R-Greeneville) and Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) both told The Greeneville Sun also like to see current Speaker pro Tempore Bill Dunn assume the speaker role at least through the end of this session.
Casada promised on Tuesday to resign from the Speaker position, an announcement that has followed weeks of political scandal that began with revelations that Casada had exchanged text messages with sexually explicit language about women with his former chief of staff several years ago.
His announcement came after the Republican caucus in the House declared no confidence in Casada’s ability to lead in a 45-25 secret ballot vote Monday. Gov. Bill Lee also called for the speaker’s resignation and said he was considering calling a special legislative session to remove the speaker from leadership if he did not resign.
When reached Wednesday, Faison was pleased about Casada’s resignation. “As the first Republican to call for his resignation, I am very glad that the Republican caucus has taken a stand for what is just and right,” he said.
“It is the best situation for our state to move forward and focus on what good things that were done this session as well as continue to do good things for the state in the legislature,” Faison continued.
There are several people who have expressed interest in the speaker’s position, although some who have been complicit to what Casada has done should wait until they earn their fellow legislators trust again, he said.
“We need to get behind a person of integrity who is going to put the state before themselves,” Faison continued.
If he had his preferences, Faison said he would like to see Dunn finish out the session as speaker with the House considering candidates for speaker at the beginning of the next one.
Hawk said his first reaction to Casada’s announcement was that he needs to do so now.
“Speaker Glen Casada needs to resign immediately from his speakership,” Hawk said Wednesday. “People who have acted in bad faith as he has should not get to set their own timeline to resign. The reports that I have heard that Casada said he will submit his time frame to resign after he returns from vacation on June 3 are unacceptable.”
Casada has said that he will meet with the caucus leadership after he returns to Nashville on June 3 to determine the best date for his resignation and to facilitate a smooth transition.
After Casada resigns, Speaker Pro Tempore Dunn, a representative from Knoxville, will assume the duties of the Speaker of the House. Dunn and Casada were elected to their positions in January by the full House of Representatives with their terms to have ended in January 2021.
Hawk said he would like to see the legislature convene a special session this summer to address the situation.
“I would like to see us elect Bill Dunn to serve as full-time speaker of the house, and we then elect a Speaker pro tempore,” he continued. “I hope Bill Dunn will agree to be the full-time speaker for the coming session.”
Hawk said earlier this month that his concerns about Casada’s leadership pre-date the texting scandal. “2019 has provided us with the most bizarre legislative session I have ever experienced,” Hawk said. “In my 17 years of service, I have never seen such dysfunction. I feel like it’s time for us to move in a different direction.”
The session began with rule changes to a time in the House called “Personal Orders.” The rule gave House members time to address any issue they wanted on the House floor each day. Casada pushed a rule change that limited the scope of that time and changed the portion’s name to “Welcoming and Honoring.”
Hawk said debate has also been limited on the House floor and in committees to the extent that members’ microphones have been cut off in the middle of debate.
“The rule changes from day one were put in place to substantially reduce any potential negative comments directed toward the Speaker,” Hawk said. “We just can’t function that way. That’s not how a legislative body should function. The work we do is not always pretty, but it needs to be transparent.”
Hawk ran for Speaker before the start of this year’s session, but he has said he would not be interested in the position now.
“I ran for Tennessee Speaker of the House mainly because I knew that Glen Casada was the front runner for that position, and I knew that a Casada speakership would be a disaster,” Hawk said on May 8. “Unfortunately, my fears are now becoming real. Saying that, at this point, I have no desire to be our next Speaker of the House. If a door were to open in the future, then that may be a possibility. But to reiterate, I have no desire at this moment to be our next Speaker of the House.”
Sun Editor Michael S. Reneau contributed to this report.