Brian Kelsey

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) temporarily stepped down as chair of the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday as state lawmakers returned to Nashville for a new special legislative session.

Federal prosecutors indicted Kelsey and a Nashville club owner late last week, accusing the duo of orchestrating a fraudulent scheme to funnel money to Kelsey’s unsuccessful 2016 congressional campaign.

Kelsey announced the decision on the Senate floor Wednesday, and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) appointed Sen. Jon Lundberg to chair the panel in the interim. Senate rules require the suspension of indicted committee chairs unless they lodge an appeal.

“The truth will prevail,” Kelsey told his Senate colleagues.

One fellow Republican, Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), rose to defend his colleague, though not exactly to proclaim his innocence. Niceley said that federal lawmakers made it illegal to transfer money from state to federal campaigns, a provision of which Kelsey is accused of violating, only to protect their own reelection campaigns.

Lawmakers have reconvened this week to discuss COVID-19 restrictions and several other seemingly unrelated issues, including local prosecutors who decide not to prosecute certain offenses and making school board elections partisan.

Meetings are currently scheduled through Friday but could extend into the coming weeks.

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