By Erik Schelzig
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The demise of a bill seeking to allow faculty and staff to carry guns on the campuses of public colleges has led to a flare-up between Republican lawmakers in the Tennessee House.
Freshman Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden sent an email close to midnight Tuesday to Rep. Jim Coley of Bartlett that criticizes his fellow Republican for “acts of retaliation” last week in sending the measure to a study committee after the legislative session adjourns.
“I hope you’re still proud of your cowardly actions,” Holt wrote in the email.
Holt, who told reporters Wednesday that he has since made up with Coley, wrote in the email that the move made the House GOP caucus look “dysfunctional and incompetent.”
Coley said he circulated the email among colleagues because of the language and tone Holt used. He said the two lawmakers have since come to an agreement to work better together in the future.
Coley had hoped in a subcommittee to add enhanced training requirements for faculty and staff who wish to carry guns on campus. But the measure (HB2016) was called up out of order when Coley was out of the room.
When the measure came up in the full Judiciary Committee last week, Coley cut it off before any discussion could take place.
“In light of the way this got to this committee I’m going to move that this bill be moved to summer study,” he said, and the motion was approved without objection.
House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville said she hadn’t yet read the email, but said it’s normal for tempers to flare over the course of a legislative session.
“This is just a disagreement between members,” she said. “When you have people you’re always going to have conflict, that’s just how human nature is.”
Holt said he was surprised to see the email circulate so quickly among fellow lawmakers and reporters.
“I just wrote him a short email that really just said i wasn’t happy with what happened in the Judiciary Committee,” he said. “I wish we could have just kept this between us.”
Holt said he had a productive discussion with Coley on Wednesday.
“We’re all on the same team for the same reasons, and that’s pretty well the end of the story,” he said.