Thursday, March 20, 2014

Joe Carr Will Not Be Trifled With

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 11:04 AM

If you mess with the bull that is Joe Carr, you will get the horns.

In the Local Government subcommittee yesterday, dozens of college students stood up and began to sing “Ain’t Nobody Going to Turn Me Around” in the middle of a hearing after lawmakers voted to study the idea of using college IDs as acceptable identification to vote with — essentially killing the measure in a polite fashion.

Moments after the vote, 60 or so students from the Nashville Student Organizing Committee began singing. The group contends the state’s laws requiring voters to produce a photo ID discriminates against minorities, the elderly and disabled by creating extra hurdles for voters, and want to see it repealed.

Still singing the civil rights era song, the students marched out of the committee room after State Government Committee Chairman Joe Carr asked the sergeant at arms to remove them and then called for a five-minute recess.

Sixty seconds into the recess, an angry Carr gaveled the committee back into session and he and the committee then quickly rushed to reconsider its action and kill the bill.

“This committee will not be hijacked especially when this chair and this committee make every effort, every effort, to make sure everybody is equally and fairly heard,” Carr said in a huff.

Carr said he had taken great pains to maintain decorum and be diplomatic during the nearly one hour hearing about the state’s voter ID law, giving a representative from a college student group and members lots of time to speak so “we don’t roll over people.”

“I think you took this personally and that’s so unfortunate that you took it personal, as opposed to understanding that and taking that as statesmen and that’s the difference,” said Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, to Carr and members after they voted down the bill. “Because if we took it personal, I couldn’t handle it. I wouldn’t even want to be here.”

Thursday morning on the floor of the house, Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh called on the Rules Committee to investigate whether Carr's quick gaveling-in of the committee — after he had told members that they would recess — was proper.

Madam Speaker, yesterday in our Local Government subcommittee, a bill by our colleague Representative Hardaway was sent to a study. Moments later, after Representative Hardaway had left the room, a five-minute recess was declared by the chairman of that subcommittee.

Some 60 seconds later, the chairman of the subcommittee gaveled back into session and proceeded to reconsider the committee's action on HB 2373 and kill this legislation, all while the sponsor and several members of the subcommittee were still out of the room.

This morning, Madam Speaker, on behalf of my caucus, I'm requesting that the honorable chairman of the Rules committee have a meeting of that committee and determine, first, if it was proper to gavel the committee back into session before the announced five minute recess expired and, secondly, to determine if in fact a quorum existed for the committee to conduct business.

Respectfully, Madam Speaker, we have rules in this House, and they should be followed by all of our members.

Here is video of the committee hearing. (Note: Given the somewhat balky nature of embed links from the state legislature site, if you're not able to make this work — people still use Microsoft Silverlight? — go to this link and the fireworks begin at the 1:20:00 mark.)

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