By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
CAMDEN, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday renewed his call for state Rep. Jeremy Durham to resign but says he won’t speed up the process by issuing the call for a special legislative session to oust him.
Haslam told reporters after a grant announcement that he will leave it to lawmakers to decide on calling the special session. If the governor doesn’t issue the call, it takes two-thirds of legislators in both chambers to convene one.
Haslam noted that the state constitution requires the same threshold to oust a member.
“If I have to call them in, that probably means they can’t get the votes because that means they couldn’t get the signatures,” Haslam said.
Durham earlier this month suspended his re-election campaign but did not resign after an investigation by the state attorney general included allegations of improper sexual interactions with 22 women at the Legislature.
The report looked at Durham’s conduct over about a three-year period beginning in late 2012. It was released after a five-month investigation that included interviews with 72 witnesses, including several who told investigators that the Franklin Republican constantly pursued them for drinks, tried to get them to meet him alone, and sometimes grabbed, hugged and kissed them.
One former political worker told investigators that when she was 20, Durham plied her with a cooler full of beer and then had sex with her in his office.
Durham has said the allegations are either false or taken out of context.
Haslam said Durham should step down immediately.
“It’s past time for Jeremy Durham to resign,” the governor said. “For his sake, the state’s sake and the General Assembly’s sake, it’s the right thing to do.”
But even that may not be enough to preclude Durham from receiving state benefits. The Tennessean reported Tuesday that even if Durham is ousted, he would still qualify for state health insurance benefits for life. The state picks up 80 percent of the health coverage cost.
Note: See also Cari Wade Gervin’s report on the confusion surrounding the special session petition drive.