A Special Session To Elect A New House Speaker? Some Lawmakers Worry It Will Cost Too Much | Nashville Public Radio

A Special Session To Elect A New House Speaker? Some Lawmakers Worry It Will Cost Too Much

Jun 5, 2019

Several Tennessee House lawmakers are pushing back on calls to hold a special session to replace House Speaker Glen Casada.

The embattled speaker sent Tuesday his resignation letter to House members on Tuesday, saying the meeting is needed to elect his successor. But some lawmakers are concerned about the cost of it.

According to Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Administration, a special session would cost the state approximately $41,000 per day.

That’s including mileage and per diem assuming all 132 members are present, and it could be as short as one day. But, if lawmakers take up some bills, it could be three days or more.

Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, is one of the members against the special session. 

"What’s fiscally conservative of spending taxpayer money when we have a transition of power to go into January?" Jernigan asked. "It’s a waste of time and money from the state resources."

There’s already someone in line to succeed Casada. That’s Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Dunn.

Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, told WPLN he believes the House should just go with him.

"I see no merits to calling a special session," Hawk said. "I don’t think the cost of calling a special session warrant any activity on our part."

Gov. Bill Lee — who can call for a special session — has said he is not yet planning on doing so. But there are lawmakers who favor it, such as Majority Leader William Lamberth. The Republican said the meeting is needed so the House can elect a new speaker and move forward. 

Some of the other members in favor of the special session are running to replace Casada. 

No impact on pension

Another question floating around after Casada's announcement  is whether he will get a better retirement package for staying longer in the top post, but it doesn't appear to be the case.

Casada said he is resigning on Aug. 2, the day of his 60th birthday. That’s typically when state employees qualify for a full pension.

But, according to the state’s Treasury Department and the Office of Legislative Administration, lawmakers play by different rules.

They qualify for their full pensions when they turn 55. So, Casada’s decision to wait two months before stepping down from the speakership shouldn’t have an impact on his retirement package.

Casada will be paid about $12,000 dollars for the two additional months he's speaker.

That's about $8,000 more than he would make as an ordinary lawmaker.