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Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones returns to Capitol after Nashville Council reinstates him

Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville gestures during a vote on his expulsion from the state legislature at the State Capitol Building on April 6, 2023 in Nashville, Tenn. Monday, the Nashville Metro Council voted to temporarily reinstate Jones to House District 52.
Seth Herald
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Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville gestures during a vote on his expulsion from the state legislature at the State Capitol Building on April 6, 2023 in Nashville, Tenn. Monday, the Nashville Metro Council voted to temporarily reinstate Jones to House District 52.

Updated April 10, 2023 at 7:54 PM ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn — Nashville's Metro Council has unanimously voted to reinstate freshman Democrat Justin Jones to his seat in the Tennessee House. The GOP-led legislature expelled Jones last week for gun reform protests he led on the chamber floor after the Covenant School shooting.

The vote puts Jones into the seat on an interim basis until a special election can be held for the seat.

"Justin Jones has been elected to the vacancy of Tennessee House 52 pursuant to the state law and the rules governing the Metropolitan Council," Vice Mayor Jim Shulman announced at Monday's specially called meeting, as cheers erupted in the gallery.

Jones returns to the state Capitol Monday

Shortly after the council vote, Jones returned to the Tennessee capitol to be sworn back into office amid a sea of media and supporters. He then made his way back to the House chamber, arm in arm with state Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, who narrowly escaped expulsion last week.

The unanimous vote

Metro Council rules ordinarily require members to wait four weeks before filling vacancies in the state legislature. It would have only taken two dissenting members to prevent a suspension of the rules. Had that happened, Tennessee's legislative session may have been adjourned by the time Jones was reseated.

"I know that community members called and emailed us, and I think they did a great job because we didn't have a single objection to suspension of the rules today," said Council Member Sandra Sepulveda.

Ahead of the meeting, at least 30 councilmembers released statements declaring their intent to vote Jones back into the District 52 seat. He needed a simple majority of the 40-member council to reclaim the seat.

Meanwhile, in Shelby County, commissioners will meet Wednesday to discuss reappointing fellow ousted Rep. Justin Pearson, also a Democrat.

Since the expulsions of the two young Black lawmakers, Black leaders have called the move racist and hypocritical. Johnson, who escaped expulsion, is the only one among the three who is white.

Copyright 2023 WPLN

Cynthia Abrams