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Tennessee House GOP relocates meeting because of Nashville mayor's limit on gathering size

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 11/22/2020 Natalie Allison, Nashville Tennessean
Jeremy Faison et al. standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Members of the House of Representatives sing hymns during a break as they wait for the session to start back up Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. From left are Sergeant-at-arms Wayne Hawkins; Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski; Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby; Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster; Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis; and Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) © Mark Humphrey, AP Members of the House of Representatives sing hymns during a break as they wait for the session to start back up Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. From left are Sergeant-at-arms Wayne Hawkins; Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski; Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby; Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster; Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis; and Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

In light of a new Nashville order restricting gatherings, Tennessee's House Republican Caucus has been forced to relocate a Tuesday meeting from a downtown hotel.

They're moving a few blocks away to the safety of state property – the House chamber at the Capitol – where the group will be exempt from Nashville Mayor John Cooper's order restricting gatherings to no more than eight people.

The 73-member House Republican Caucus was scheduled to hold its caucus leadership election Tuesday afternoon at Homewood Suites, where the group had rented a ballroom for the meeting.

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Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday and with worsening coronavirus metrics, Cooper last week announced the new restrictions on social gatherings would take effect Monday.

"It's completely asinine," House GOP Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison said. "I think the First Amendment is very clear that you can't deny people their right to assemble."

Faison, of Cosby, is facing Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, in his re-election bid for caucus chairman. Other races, including House speaker and majority leader, are uncontested.

The House Republicans late last week gathered at Pickwick Landing State Park in Hardin County for a multi-day retreat. About 50 members attended, along with Gov. Bill Lee, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and other top state officials.

Senate Republicans met in the Cordell Hull legislative office building on Thursday to eat lunch and hold their own leadership elections.

Cooper issued his order as the spread of coronavirus trends upward both in Nashville and across the state.

Faison said he could understand Cooper urging people not to gather – a method employed by Lee, but one that has not proved effective in slowing the spread of coronavirus. But Faison argued Cooper has "no legal or constitutional authority" to prevent people from gathering.

Cooper's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

The governor, however, alsohas issued restrictions on gatherings because of the pandemic.

In March, Lee through Executive Order 17 limited social gatherings to no more than 10 people, a number that later increased to 50 before being lifted altogether in late September.

Reach Natalie Allison at nallison@tennessean.com. Follow her on Twitter at @natalie_allison.

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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee House GOP relocates meeting because of Nashville mayor's limit on gathering size

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