Fitzhugh votes to request Bebb file
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Apr 12, 2013 | 1296 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Steve Bebb
Steve Bebb
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The minority leader in the Tennessee House of Representatives voted Thursday to send a resolution to committee that would allow House members to view investigative files pertaining to 10th Judicial District Attorney Steven Bebb.

There were unfounded reports that Bebb resigned Tuesday afternoon. Another report suggested that an assistant DA resigned. According to information from the DA’s office, ADA Jim Stutts did offer his resignation Tuesday so he can prepare to run for an elected office in Monroe County.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, halted the House Resolution 60 Tuesday when he abstained from voting on a handful of late-term bills placed before the Delayed Bills Committee.

He changed his mind Thursday and voted to send the legislation to the appropriate committee.

The Delayed Bills Committee is comprised of House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and Fitzhugh.

He said later Thursday the Delayed Bills Committee was traditionally used to move legislation in emergency situations.

“We had one earlier in the year for Nashville that wasn’t a true emergency, but where time was of the essence,” he said in a phone interview. “The bills that came before the Delayed Bills (Committee) this time — I didn’t look into them closely, but they were just setting days for Police Week and things like that that didn’t have that type of urgency.

“I didn’t feel they were appropriate for Delayed Bills, so without regard to the subject matter of those bills, I just abstained from voting.”

His abstention stopped movement of the legislation because the vote of the three members must be unanimous.

Fitzhugh said a couple of things happened after the vote that made him change his mind.

“A couple of members were concerned about that and the Republican Caucus Chairman threatened to veto or kill my caucuses’ bills which was disconcerting because we can’t do a whole lot on the Democratic side to keep bills alive. There are only 28 of us, but that was something unexpected,” he said. “Why I changed my mind was because of that and the fact that it is a new procedure.”

Republicans hold 70 of the 99 House seats. There are 28 Democrats and one Independent. The speaker had the option of suspending the House rules with a two-thirds majority vote, which would have mooted Fitzhugh’s abstention in the Delayed Bills Committee.

The minority leader said this is the first year legislators capped at 15 bills each. According to past news reports, the limit was placed on House members to reduce the number of bills and shorten the session.

Fitzhugh said that in an effort to keep bills alive which were filed late, “I agreed to change my vote. I hope next year we can tighten up on the delayed bills so that only these critical bills are brought before us.”

Fitzhugh said all he had on his calendar was the caption for each piece of legislation, which did not indicate what the bill was about, and he did not know the purpose of H.R. 60.

“When I voted, I determined I was either going to vote to let them all out (of the committee) or vote to let none of them out, so I decided the latter (and abstained). I didn’t know at the time, so the subject matter didn’t really have an effect on my vote. It was sort of an all-or-nothing type deal.”

A telephone request to speak with McCormick was left with his office.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted April 9 to direct the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to turn over the files. Seven of the nine-member panel, including Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, voted in favor of the resolution.

Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, abstained from voting.

Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Bristol, who chairs the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, filed H.R. 60, which mirrors the Senate resolution.