Inside Story: House Has No Ethics (Rules) - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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Inside Story: House Has No Ethics (Rules)

From Phil Williams:

This legislative session has already been marked a battle over ethics.

Republicans accused the new speaker breaking his promises. Democrats accused a Republican of trying to extort a committee chairmanship.

So why are they acting like there are no rules?

In fact, a lot of state lawmakers will tell you they stand for strong ethics.

But the next time a member of the state House makes that claim, ask them why they don't have any ethics rules.

Just before the FBI's Operation Tennessee Waltz busted several lawmakers back in 2005, the state House actually drafted and passed something they hadn't passed before.

They passed ethics rules. (Read the rules here.)

That was four years ago.

But, unlike the Senate which readopts its ethics rules every time a new General Assembly convenes, the House has never readopted its rules.

Which means, today, there aren't any.

Then, there's the controversy over Republican Kent Williams' election as House speaker, with the help of Democrats.

Republicans called for him to be punished for not sticking with his pledge to support the party's candidate.

But, in the legislators' oath of office, they raise their hands and promise to vote their conscience.

And the Senate's ethics rules go further. They call it "unethical" to engage in such a "loyalty pledge, unit rule or other formal agreement."

That's right "unethical."

So, if the House does ever get around to voting for ethics, expect a lot of debate about who's really ethical or who's not.

That is, IF they ever get around to voting for ethics.

The current ethics committee chair, Rep. Ulysses Jones, D-Memphis, says he doesn't know why the rules weren't readopted in previous years. But he promises he'll soon have a resolution for the House to consider.

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