Singing students evicted from House subcommittee; voter ID bill they backed then killed

A House subcommittee meeting turned sour Wednesday when a group of college students began singing to protest a one-year delay of a bill allowing student identification cards as voting ID by students registered to vote in Tennessee, reports the Commercial Appeal.

House Local Government Subcommittee Chairman Joe Carr, R-Murfreesboro, ordered the students removed and declared a five-minute recess. But a minute into the recess, with some members out of the room, he gaveled the panel back to order as fellow Republicans moved quickly to reconsider the yearlong study of the matter and then killed the bill altogether without the study.

“This committee will not be hijacked,” said Carr, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s re-election in the Aug. 7 state GOP primary.

The 30 or so students walked out on their own, holding hands to form a chain and still singing “Ain’t going to let nobody turn me around” as they walked down the corridor to exit the Legislative Plaza complex.

When Republicans pushed through the state’s voter photo-ID law in 2011, it named several government-issued ID cards as acceptable on election day, for people previously registered to vote. It specifically excluded college ID cards, which Democrats charged was aimed at suppressing student voting.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, tried to amend a bill he presented in the House subcommittee Wednesday to allow valid student ID cards. Fisk University student Justin Jones told the subcommittee he has registered to vote in Tennessee but has no driver’s license, passport, gun-carry permit or other photo ID required under the law for voting. He asked that his Fisk photo ID, and others issued by Tennessee colleges, be allowed.

The panel killed the amendment but voted to send the issue to a state research agency for study and a report to lawmakers in 2015, which Hardaway agreed to. But when Carr called up the next bill, the students began singing.

“You’re out of order!” Carr declared, banging his gavel and ordering sergeants-at-arms to “move them out.” He gaveled a five-minute recess as the students cleared — but 64 second later, Carr returned to his seat, declared a quorum of members and gaveled the meeting back to order, even though some members weren’t present.

Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, quickly said, “It’s come to my attention we need to reconsider the bill,” a motion Carr declared approved on an unrecorded voice vote. Hill then moved for a vote on the bill, which Carr declared failed on another voice vote, killing it for the year.