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Rep. Dixie questions legality of House gallery ticket system

by PRIDE Newsdesk
Rep. Vincent Dixie

State Rep. Vincent Dixie is asking Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti for an opinion on a new State House rule that limits access to part of the observation gallery to those with special tickets issued by lawmakers.

The controversial rule was recently put in place by House Speaker Cameron Sexton. Under the new rule, the west side of the public gallery is now limited to media members, legislative staff, and VIP guests who are only allowed access with a special ticket. Each of the 99 state representatives is given one ticket per day to pass along to a guest. On Tuesday, the change frustrated many who came to observe the proceedings when the east side of the gallery filled up and they were not allowed access to the west side, even though there were empty seats.

Rep. Dixie, a Nashville Democrat, sent the following to the Attorney General questioning the constitutionality of the new public restriction:

Attorney General Skrmetti,
Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-6-109 (b)(6), my office would like to request a written legal opinion regarding public access to the Tennessee General Assembly.
Is a ticketing system that arbitrarily restricts public access to the House of Representatives chamber gallery permissible under the Tennessee Constitution Article II, Section 22?
Article II § 22 states: “The doors of each House and of committees of the whole shall be kept open, unless when the business shall be such as ought to be kept secret.”
Please contact my office if you have any questions about this matter. Thank you in advance for your response.
Sincerely,
Rep. Vincent Dixie
Tennessee House District 54

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