A Bible Passage Inspires An Ethics Rule Change In The Tennessee House | Nashville Public Radio

A Bible Passage Inspires An Ethics Rule Change In The Tennessee House

Jan 10, 2019

A biblical concept is the inspiration behind a rule change in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

The new policy, proposed by state Rep. Mathew Hill, R-Jonesborough, requires lawmakers to get a second signature when filing an ethical complaint.

He says it draws from a biblical requirement that allegations have to be corroborated.

"If there’s not corroboration, if there’s not evidence that is presented, then we are working off hearsay, we are working off gossip," Hill told the other House members on Thursday. 

The new rule states that an ethics complaint against a lawmaker has to be signed by at least two representatives. One of them is required to have firsthand knowledge or evidence of the alleged violation.

The model is a frequently cited passage from Deuteronomy that says at least two witnesses are needed for a charge to be established.

But Memphis Democrat G.A. Hardaway says the new rule goes somewhat against the role of elected officials.

“I respectfully disagree in requiring anybody to have to seek the approval of another independently elected official before they can act on behalf of their constituency," Hardaway said. 

Some Republican lawmakers also expressed concerns, noting that only five ethical complaints have been filed in the last eight years.

The policy does not affect the sexual harassment protocol, which still doesn’t require a minimum of witnesses. But it does echo what new House Speaker Glen Casada has said will be required to remove a lawmaker following an allegation of sexual misconduct. 

Casada told WPLN last month he'd ask a lawmaker to step down only if there was "proven violation of ethics. And that ... would be defined by court of law. You've got two or more witnesses, you've got eyewitnesses, you've got empirical evidence of violation."