Tennessee House sees big changes to committees

Friday, January 11, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 2

NASHVILLE (AP) — A Tennessee Republican lawmaker who has been accused of sexual misconduct by three women was tapped Thursday to lead a legislative education panel.

House Speaker Glen Casada picked Rep. David Byrd of Waynesboro to oversee the education administration subcommittee. The change was part of sweeping changes Casada unveiled Thursday to the House's committee system that expanded it to include more than 40 chairs of panels and subcommittees.

"Our new subcommittees will allow us to better understand complicated pieces of legislation by placing lawmakers with specific expertise and experience on those subcommittees," Casada said in a statement. "This is an effort to ensure legislation is vetted by knowledgeable legislators who understand and appreciate legislation in areas they are experts in."

Byrd was accused by three women in a media report last March of sexual misconduct as their high school basketball coach several decades ago. Two women alleged Byrd inappropriately touched them. The third said Byrd tried to.

Casada has been a strong defender of Byrd, often comparing the lawmaker's scrutiny to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump, other top leaders he says were unfairly accused.

Another key appointment in the House included naming Rep. Susan Lynn, a Republican from Mt. Juliet, to the Finance Committee. Lynn will be the first woman to chair the panel.

First-term Rep. Robin Smith, a Republican from Hixson, will chair the new Health Insurance Subcommittee.

"Chairman Lynn and Chairman Smith have proven themselves to be incredibly intelligent and dedicated public servants," Casada said. "Their conservative records and experience make them highly qualified to lead these committees."

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Republican Speaker Randy McNally's office announced changes to five committees.

Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville will replace Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown as the Judiciary chairman. Sen. Kerry Roberts of Springfield will take over Bell's old post as government operations chairman.

Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin has become majority leader, so Sen. Paul Bailey of Sparta is taking Johnson's old job as commerce and labor chairman. Sen. Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville will head the transportation committee that Bailey previously led.

Sen. Ken Yager of Kingston is serving as GOP caucus chairman, leaving an opening for Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville to become state and local chairman.