Is Clemmons trolling the GOP?

Nashville Post, Feb. 10, 2016

By: Andrea Zelinski

After proposing Republicans go along with a resolution recognizing Nashville’s most high-profile civic leader for Latinos, Rep. John Ray Clemmons is now asking the chamber to applaud the International Gay Rugby championship coming to Nashville this spring. 

Passing a resolution is typically a slam dunk in the legislature and generally pass on either chamber's consent agenda. But in Clemmons' case, both resolutions hit on touchy issues for the Republican supermajorities: immigration and gay marriage. 

Rep. Rick Womick, a Rockvale Republican who got the rugby resolution pulled off the consent agenda, said he doesn’t appreciate the "shenanigans” Clemmons is “trying to pull right now."

"What he and the state Democratic Party are trying to do is create campaigns affecting Republicans. That's fine. We'll just make sure what goes around comes around,” he told Post Politics.

The legislation, up for debate Thursday, recognizes the Bingham Cup tournament coming to Nashville. The Bingham Cup is the International Gay Rugby championship game named after the late Mark Kendall Bingham, a college rugby player who was among several passengers who derailed hijackers’ plans to target Washington, D.C. by crashing instead in Pennsylvania on 9/11. 

Clemmons says the resolution both honors the man whose name is etched on a plaque at the U.S. Capitol Building and recognizes a sporting event expected to draw 2,000 people to Nashville. 

“This doesn’t have anything to do with anybody being gay. This doesn’t have anything to do with individuals playing in this tournament. This is about a tournament that’s taking place in my district. That’s it, plain and simple. This doesn’t have any political motive,” Clemmons told Pith in the Wind

Clemmons has needled Republicans before, earning scorn from House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick for lashing out at Republicans during a committee hearing on school vouchers last year. 

Womick says he is not alone in his frustration with Clemmons’ resolutions, adding, "I'm not the only one. I'll bet you almost every Republican in the House is opposed to the game he's playing."

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada said he does not believe Clemmons is intentionally trying to put Republicans in a tough spot, but said resolutions like his should go through the committee system instead of the consent agenda for non-controversial items. Most congratulatory resolutions skip over the committee process. 

“I don’t see it today. I really don’t. But again, that’s why the committee is in place, to fetter out games versus serious things," Casada said.

Casada has a resolution of his own up Thursday morning to recognize Tommy Vallegjos, chairman of Latinos for Tennessee, a conservative organization focused on civic engagement. The resolution comes up for a vote days after the rare rejection of Clemmons' previous resolution congratulating Nashville civic leader Renata Soto for her appointment to the National Council of La Raza, an organization advocating for Latinos and immigrants. The Senate killed the bill with all but nine members voting against or refusing to vote.