House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick today joined Democratic legislators in calling for a special session of the state Legislature to assure that Rep. Jeremy Durham is expelled from office so that he will not be eligible for a state pension.
McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said in a telephone interview that he was already working toward a special session, which he envisions as coming in September, when House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville held a news conference earlier Wednesday on the subject.
McCormick said a September gathering would come after the scheduled August trial of Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, on federal tax evasion charges.
“If he is convicted, I hope Joe Armstrong will do the right thing and resign,” said McCormick. “If not, we can deal with that, too – get two cats with one stone, do all our scandals in one day and be done with them.”
Stewart noted that, if Durham remains in office until his current term expires in November, he will automatically be vested in the state pension plan and eligible to receive a lifetime pension of $300 per month.
Durham recently suspended his reelection campaign after public release of a state attorney general’s report detailing sexual harassment of 22 women, but did not resign. Under state law, a legislator’s term officially ends on election day in November.
“Why should we force taxpayers, including many victims identified by the attorney general, to foot the bill for a pension for Rep. Durham’s bad behavior?,” said Durham. “Speaker Harwell needs to call for a special session right now to keep the victims from being victimized again by supporting his retirement.”
McCormick said Stewart’s call was “good timing” because he “had the same idea” and is already working with fellow Republican legislators on putting together a special session call.
“We should do this on a bipartisan basis,” he said.
McCormick said he believes expulsion votes could be handled in just one day, at limited expense to taxpayers. He also said Legislators could consider revising the state law that allows legislators to vest in the state retirement system in just four years, perhaps switching to a five-year requirement that applies for most other state employees.
Armstrong is scheduled to go on trial Aug. 2 U.S. District Court at Knoxville. He faces no opposition in the Aug. 4 Democratic primary and no Republican is running against him in the November general election. He will face independent candidate Pete Drew, a former state representative who has identified with both major parties at times past, in November.
Note: Previous post on Stewart’s call HERE.