NASHVILLE - State Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, said Tuesday he wants a special legislative session to remove Tennessee Republican House Speaker Glen Casada not only from the speaker position but as a member of the General Assembly.
Casada announced Tuesday he would step down as speaker after a resounding "no confidence" vote of 45-24 by Republican Caucus members, followed by a call from Republican Gov. Bill Lee for him to vacate the speakership. The ongoing scandal over his inappropriate responses to text messages from a former aide and other concerns recently brought to light have affected his ability to lead and overshadowed the work that legislators should be focusing on for Tennessee voters, they said.
Casada said Tuesday that he will meet with Republican Caucus leaders once he returns from a scheduled vacation to determine the best date for him to resign as speaker.
But Carter said in an interview that Casada's statement "left me with more questions than answers. No date was given, and there was no statement that he would resign [from] the House as well as his speaker position."
If Casada remains in the House, Carter said, "it would be difficult to work with him after you voted no confidence, and it could fractionalize the Republican Caucus." Moreover, the attorney said, removing Casada as a representative "may be essential to his removal as speaker."
Efforts to reach Casada or obtain a reaction to Carter's plan via a House official were unsuccessful.
Noting that a Monday comment by the governor about calling a special session hinged on "if the speaker didn't resign," Laine Arnold, the governor's spokeswoman, said that, "as of today, with the news of the speaker's intent to resign, we do not currently have plans to call a special session."
But, she added, "we will continue to monitor the situation."
The petition for a special session, Carter said, must contain at least 66 House members' signatures, a two-thirds majority. Also, the Senate must vote by a two-thirds majority to concur in the special session.
Carter's idea drew praise from Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisburg, an early Casada critic. In a tweet, Tillis, whose district includes part of Marion County, stated, "I have served with Judge Carter for three sessions and witnessed his intellect and insight into legislation and matters of law.
"This opinion is based on actions and fact," Tillis added. "It speaks truthfully to the situation at hand."
Casada, a veteran lawmaker who in January attained his longterm goal of becoming speaker, became embroiled late in the session in news reports about controversial and sexually explicit text messages in a text string. The three-year-old texts were between Casada, then-aide Cade Cothren and an unidentified man Casada later identified as a former GOP political consultant who leaked them.
Casada didn't initiate the sexist tests, but he responded jokingly or approvingly to three Cothren texts about women, according to reports by The Tennessean and WTVF-TV.
There were other controversies as well, and they kept piling up. Cothren resigned last week amid a news report that he once texted about using cocaine in a legislative office building.
One controversy drew in Carter, a member of the Ethics Committee. Casada asked the panel to look into his handling of Cothren, his chief of staff. After being shown a proposed draft advisory opinion by the chairman, Carter later said he suspected it was an effort by Casada to "rig and predetermine" the outcome, which Casada later angrily denied.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.
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