The Senate has now officially cleaned out all of the existing members of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, sending a clear message that lawmakers want a fresh start for the new, smaller board.
Lawmakers have now rejected four of Gov. Bill Haslam's 10 appointees and another didn't receive a vote to advance.
Haslam signed the UT FOCUS Act to reduce the board from 27 to 12 members on Friday and legislators questioned appointees for four hours Wednesday on such issues as sex week, athletic director controversies and outsourcing.
The legislature must confirm Haslam's appointees to the new board, which starts July 1.
The first casualty among the new appointees was current board vice chair Raja Jubran, whose name was taken off notice in committee in the House on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the Senate followed up by removing the remaining board members who were appointed to the new board: Sharon Pryse, Bill Evans and Brad Lampley.
Then, after Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, raised questions about having Melvin Malone, a lobbyist, on the board, the nomination failed to move out of committee.
On Wednesday, after Jubran preemptively removed his name from consideration, Haslam said it was obvious the legislature was trying to make a statement about the current board.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said the same Thursday. Norris said he had let the governor know about his current-member appointees diminishing chances in the Senate.
"I think, at the end of the day, my inability to proceed with at least those three was due to the fact that they were retreads and they just wanted to start fresh," Norris said.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, also issued a statement following the Senate Education Committee's actions.
“In order to create a true fresh start for the University of Tennessee, the Senate Education Committee elected to confirm only those individuals not currently serving on the board of trustees," McNally said. "The success of the new individual boards for our Board of Regents universities is persuasive proof a completely fresh start is the wisest course for the University of Tennessee.
"In addition, the General Assembly has been making a concerted effort to reduce the number of lobbyists sitting on the state’s boards and commissions. I look forward to this newly confirmed board continuing the standard of excellence we expect from the University of Tennessee system.”
Of the governor's new appointees, John Compton, Kara Lawson, Donnie Smith, Kim White and Bill Rhodes have advanced.
In addition to gubernatorial appointees, which must get confirmation from the House and Senate, the new board includes the Commissioner of Agriculture and a non-voting student member.
Norris said with six voting members appointed, the board will still have quorum, or enough members to conduct business if new nominations aren't made in time.
A faculty member will also be appointed to the board's Academic Affairs Student Success committee.
The appointments are effective July 1, subject to confirmation by the Tennessee General Assembly.
Reach Reporter Jordan Buie at 615-726-5970 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jordanbuie.