Justice Holly Kirby

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby administers the oath of office to members of the state House of Representatives on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.  

(The Center Square) – The Tennessee Legislature gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday to officially begin the 2021 legislative session.

Capitol security was heightened because of warnings of a protest at the state Capitol scheduled for Tuesday morning, a Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesperson said, but the morning was uneventful.

House members took the oath of office and re-elected House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, in a 95-0 vote. Sexton was sworn in by Justice Holly Kirby. Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, was elected House Speaker Pro Tempore.

“We're seeing dark clouds all across our country: pandemics, tornadoes and violence and unrest, and especially a particularly tough Christmas Day right here in Nashville,” Sexton said in a brief address to members after being sworn in as speaker.

No mention was made of the FBI raid on several legislative offices Friday. Former House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, was at Tuesday's proceedings, along with Reps. Robin Smith, R-Hixson; Kent Calfee, R-Kingston; and freshman Rep. Todd Warner, R-Chapel Hill, all of whom had homes or offices searched by the FBI last week.

“Each of us has a limited time to serve,” Sexton said. “So I ask, again, what will you do with your time?”

Two new senators were sworn in Tuesday: Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, and Sen. Page Walley, R-Bolivar. Senators reelected Lt. Gov. Randy McNally to serve as senate speaker.

“In 2020, a bevy of black swans descended on our state,” McNally said, recalling tornadoes in March and the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our state has weathered this adversity better than any other state in the union. The reason for this was preparation and leadership. Hopefully, this year will be better. But if it is not, we are ready."

The two chambers will convene in a joint session Wednesday to elect the state’s constitutional officers.

Staff Reporter

Vivian Jones reports on Tennessee and South Carolina for The Center Square. Her writing has appeared in the Detroit News, The Hill, and publications of The Heartland Institute.