SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In early April, Tennessee Republicans expelled two of three Democratic lawmakers from the state Legislature. The extraordinary move has drawn nationwide attention and left some asking if it could happen locally, including here in Utah.
Utah State lawmakers do have the power the expel their fellow legislators, thanks to Article VI Section 10 of the Utah State Constitution. The section states that a member could be punished for disorderly conduct and expelled with a two-thirds vote of all elected members.
It would only require a resolution to be submitted by a state legislator against a fellow member. This is similar to the way Tennessee State Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled.
A Utah lawmaker can also be expelled after an ethics violation. A complaint has to be filed by two or more lawmakers against another lawmaker with facts and evidence supporting the claim. Registered Utah voters can also file ethics complaints against lawmakers so long as one of the complainants has “personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances supporting the alleged violation.”
Filing an ethics complaint becomes a lengthy process of submitting witnesses, statements, and forms to the chair of the Independent Legislative Ethics Commission. That ethics complaint will be reviewed by an independent commission that will be comprised of five members and won’t include a registered lobbyist or sitting legislator. The commission will determine unethical behavior, if any, and if the complaint warrants any action.
In Tennessee, the expulsion came after three Democrats participated in a protest where protestors filled the galleries and the lawmakers took the chamber with a bullhorn to participate in the chant.
According to AP reporting, Tennessee Republican Rep. Gino Bulso said the three “effectively conducted a mutiny” and not expelling them would invite more mutiny on the House floor.
Since being expelled, Rep. Justin Jones has since been reappointed to his former seat by the Metro Council, though he will still have to run for the seat in an upcoming special election.