State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson on Proposed Special Session: Lawmakers Have Heard Nothing from the Governor

Jul 6, 2023

State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson joined Michael Patrick Leahy in studio on Thursday’s episode of The Tennessee Star Report.

As the Left organizes to disrupt the special session and ultimately install a government of “full communism,” Johnson discusses what Tennessee lawmakers have to say, the steps Governor Bill Lee must take to call the legislature into session, and the fact that until now, the state’s chief executive has not said anything to lawmakers about what he is aiming to accomplish.


Michael Patrick Leahy: 7:18 a.m. – in studio, State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson from Williamson County.

So Jack, you adjourned in May. If there’s a special session, which looks like there will be, it won’t happen until August 21st.

I mean, you don’t have anything to do in this period of time.

You– oh, am I wrong?

Jack Johnson: You are wrong about that, respectfully, my friend, Michael.

No; I tell you – we joke, my colleagues and I do, about we’re supposed to be and, and we are fundamentally, a part-time citizen legislature, but there are often times it feels like a full-time job.

And this year has certainly been the case for that. It’s almost as if we didn’t adjourn. It’s just the, the meetings and the mm-hmm. The conversations and meeting with constituents, and that’s okay. That’s part of the, part of the process. But no we, we.

As grateful as I am for the $22- or $23,000 a year – I can’t remember what it is that y’all pay me to be a state senator.

I do have two kids in college.

So we – most all of us – have other jobs and or own other businesses and have other business interests that we pursue. And so it’s a bit of a juggling act to make sure that you manage all of that, and you have to be really good at time management, let’s just say that.

Michael Patrick Leahy: So, do people have a claim on your time? Other people, like when you’re out of session, your constituents in Williamson County – if a constituent comes up to you when they have a question. I mean, you do sort of have an obligation to talk to him, right?

Jack Johnson: Sure. I believe that I do, and we try as best we can – my office does – to honor every request for a phone call or an in-person meeting or a small group meeting. And so there’s a lot of that, that goes on.

I mean, sometimes it’s a scheduling matter because I do have other obligations that I have to tend to. But I very much believe that a key part of this job is talking to constituents, listening to their concerns, listening to their thoughts.

And in this day and age, people have very, very strong opinions all over the map.

Michael Patrick Leahy:  They, they sure do. So let’s talk about an opinion that I have.

I look at this, and the governor seems adamant, at calling this August 21st special session, even though I’ve observed that the majority of the Tennessee General Assembly doesn’t want to hold this special session.

Also we have done some reporting – undercover reporting – at The Tennessee Star.

Jack Johnson: Excellent reporting.

Michael Patrick Leahy:  And we have documented, we’ve obtained, secretly obtained recordings of leftists who are clearly planning to disrupt the special session.

We think that it’s highly likely that thousands of left-wing activists will descend upon the state capitol on August 21st.

We know that from the most recent recording, their objective is not just to disrupt you, but also their ultimate goal is to basically turn the United States into a communist country.

Jack Johnson: Yes.

Michael Patrick Leahy:  That was from our story yesterday. But we also know that some of them are gonna be armed. This is a dangerous situation.

It seems to me with thousands of out-of-staters coming in – we understand that people have expressed this concern of danger to the governor.

He seems not to think that there will be any danger which seems surprising to me.

Jack Johnson: Well, I’ve seen the reporting, the excellent reporting that The Tennessee Star has done, and it’s been picked up by other outlets as well and circulated, and it is a concern.

You know, I’ve been up there during massive protests, and when you do have thousands, if not tens of thousands of people descending on the capitol, our state troopers do an amazing job of protecting the building and the staff and the members and, and the people who are there wishing to see their government in action.

But I’ve also been there when the National Guard had to be deployed to come out mm-hmm. And try to protect the Capitol and the Capitol grounds.

And so for me, it ends up being, you know, ‘is it worth it?’

Is there something that can be accomplished in a special session? And is it necessary that it be done in August and not in January?

We will reconvene in January and that’s part of the conversation that’s taking place among members.

Michael Patrick Leahy: That’s been my argument, and look, because if you do it in August – there are virtually very few other state legislatures in session.

Then all the lefties from around the United States will descend upon NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN – they’ll all be here.

And they’ll all be trying to force you – intimidate you – to adopt red flag laws or, you know, laws that violate the second amendment.

That’s my view on it.

But let me ask you this: how is a special session called by the governor? How does that usually work?

What’s the mechanics of – the details of – how it works?

Jack Johnson: So, the governor issues a “call,” as we mentioned earlier. That’s how we refer to it: the call for a special session.

And in that call he or she stipulates what can be considered. In other words, if the governor calls a special session to address public safety and then someone tries to file a bill dealing with transportation or education, it cannot be considered, because it does not fit the call.

And so that call can be very narrow or it can be more broad. Typically it’s very narrow.

For example, when we’ve gone in to deal with learning loss, or we went in to deal one time with something that had to do with federal funding.

So the governor issues a very, very narrow call, and so when you go in, that’s all that can be contemplated.

Another important thing to know about a special session, Michael, is that typically the work regarding whatever is to be considered is developed and circulated and discussed prior to convening that special session.

Michael Patrick Leahy: So, If I can just add, if there’s a particular topic that needs to be addressed – typically long before the special session – the bill has been thought through.

It’s been identified, it’s been circulated. People see it, people feel like they understand what’s in the bill.

And so almost the special session is kind of a proforma – a formality.

Jack Johnson: Yeah, formality, exactly. To follow the rule.

Michael Patrick Leahy: And how many. Typically, like how many days do you have in a regular special session?

Jack Johnson: It takes three days to pass a piece of legislation. Pursuant to the constitution, a bill has to be introduced, considered on first consideration on one legislative day, considered on second consideration on the second day.

One it once it is passed on second consideration – by the way, those are formality votes as well are typically done without objection.

We don’t necessarily even vote, but they have to be introduced and considered on first consideration. Then second consideration, two separate days after second consideration.

It can then be referred to the appropriate standing committee – the committee of jurisdiction. So if it’s an education related matter, it’ll go to the education committee. If it’s a health related matter, go to the health committee. That committee will typically meet that afternoon. We’ll go in on the floor the morning of the second day.

Then the afternoon of the second day after it’s passed that morning. On second consideration, the bill goes to committee and is presented and heard and debated and discussed. There’s testimony, whatever needs to happen in committee, and if it passes out of that committee then it goes to the Senate floor on the third day and is passed if the votes are there to pass it.

Now let me say this about the house. The house has a bit more of a laborious process because there are subcommittees and so forth. It is very similar though on, on the house side first, first consideration, one day, second consideration, other day, then heard by the committee or committees that need to hear it and then it can go on the third day.

We don’t typically convene a special session to go in and then start figuring out what we want to do, what we want to pass.

Michael Patrick Leahy: See now that’s interesting. Because as far as I can tell, there’s nothing on the table right now.

Jack Johnson:  There is nothing. There are members who are discussing things.

There’s two things that, that I feel very strongly about today, Michael, and that is the governor is going to call us into special session. The other thing I feel very strongly about is we are not going to pass an Order of Protection bill or an extreme risk protection order bill Red flag law, however, you might wish to define that.

There is very, very little support in the Senate for that, especially among Republicans, and I think it’s in a similar posture in the house.

Then that begs the question, well, if not that, then what? And that is unclear at this juncture, and that’s why many of us have heartburn about this special session because we are a long way from deciding about anything that we might want to consider and try to pass.

Michael Patrick Leahy: So a typical special session would all have been prepared in advance. There would be general consensus behind what you’re gonna review and pass. You could get it in and out in three days.

In this instance whatever the governor calls for – narrow or broad – there’s like no consensus on it.

And it, it sounds to me like you could either adjourn very quickly or you could spend weeks and weeks and weeks and get nothing done.

Jack Johnson: And the latter is not something we wish to contemplate, I can tell you.

And it’s not that we don’t care. We care deeply about public safety. But many of us, myself included, think that this can wait till January.

Michael Patrick Leahy: When we come back, we’ve got some more news.

We got a little breaking news. There’s a poll from the Beacon Center that just was released today. Got those results.

And also I’ve got an update for you, Jack, on our attempts at the Star News Digital Media – my company’s – Tennessee Star to secure a copy of the Covenant Killer Manifesto—an update from our case – not in the state – but against the FBI in federal court.

Back after this.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Bill Lee” by Bill Lee.



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