The 111th Tennessee General Assembly commenced in Nashville on Tuesday, with both chambers of the legislative branch selecting members of the Republican caucus to preside over the respective lawmaking bodies.
The House and Senate are again this session dominated by Republicans. For the past six years the GOP has enjoyed supermajority control of both statehouse chambers, as will be the case now for at least two more years.
For that reason, when the Republican House and Senate caucus members met late last year to choose their nominees for the respective speaker posts, it was a foregone conclusion that their picks would go on to ultimately win approval before the full legislative chambers.
In the Senate on Tuesday afternoon, Randy McNally of Oak Ridge was approved to serve a second term as the chamber’s gavel-bearer. McNally has served 32 years in the state Senate, and before that eight years in the House.
All 26 Republican senators present voted for McNally. All five of the chamber’s Democrats abstained, although they did not nominate a speaker candidate of their own.
As speaker of the Senate, McNally is also officially designated as Tennessee’s lieutenant governor.
Floor sessions in the House of Representatives for the next two years will be supervised by Williamson County Republican Glen Casada.
A 10-term House lawmaker and longtime fixture in lower-chamber GOP caucus leadership circles, Casada is replacing Beth Harwell at the speaker’s podium.
Harwell, a Nashville Republican who holds the distinction of serving as Tennessee’s first female legislative speaker, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018 and didn’t seek re-election to the statehouse.
Casada beat out the Democrats’ speaker nominee, Karen Camper of Memphis, by a vote of 75-22. Three members of the minority caucus — Johnny Shaw of Bolivar, John DeBerry of Memphis and John Mark Windle of Livingston — crossed party lines and voted for Casada. Another Democrat, Darren Jernigan of Old Hickory, abstained.
During remarks after taking the speaker’s oath of office, Casada noted that 28 of this session’s House lawmakers are new faces in the General Assembly. “Now that our elections are over and behind us, we must come together and tackle the greater task, which is governing,” he said.
Casada promised that the House will under his leadership assume a more active role in state government budget-writing and spending oversight. He said he wants to see the General Assembly more assertively exercise its “voice intended by the Tennessee Constitution.”
Lawmakers, lobbyists and Capitol-watchers can also expect “a committee process that is more balanced and ensures important pieces of legislation have a fair opportunity to make it to the House floor, instead of being held up by technicalities,” Casada said.
He pledged that “partnership, not partisanship” will mark his leadership style.
“We will…work to build a bond of bipartisanship across this chamber,” Casada said.