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Mid-South lawmakers attending annual prayer breakfast, call for ‘civility in government’

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SHELBY COUNTY, TN -

(WMC-TV) – Memphis Councilman Myron Lowery's annual New Year's Day prayer breakfast proved there's never a dull moment in politics. The forum unearthed tensions brewing between lawmakers in every branch of government.

Lawmakers agreed it's time to put personalities aside and get to the business of legislating.

The prayer breakfast began with a call from Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, "Civility in government."

He says legislation is getting lost in the rhetoric of personal differences in every branch of government.

"We ought to get to the point where we disagree on things without personalizing our disagreements," Luttrell said.

In an epic County Commission clash, Commissioner Terry Roland accused Commissioner Sidney Chism of voting for his cousin for school board.

Roland said last September, "You tell me you ain't got an agenda!"

Chism fired back that Roland's family has deep Ku Klux Klan ties.

Meanwhile, Memphis council members are working on a new set of rules and procedures, after several clashes in council meetings.

In one clash, Memphis Councilwoman Janis Fullilove laid in on MLGW President Jerry Collins and some felt it got too personal.

"Excuse me. I'm speaking! I'm speaking!" exclaimed Fullilove in October of 2013.

That exchange came after MLGW released Fullilove's billing record to a local media outlet.

Incoming Memphis City Council Chairman Jim Strickland said, "I think we all need to work together and build relationships."

At the prayer breakfast, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton made a pledge.

"As a mayor, I'm going to do all I can to make sure there's a better working relationship with the council," Wharton pledged.

Council members say his office blind-sides them by not giving them information on legislation until it's time to vote.

Congressman Steve Cohen was also at the breakfast and said, "Civility is important, but sometimes when you see things that are wrong, you've got to speak up and sometimes in strong terms."

Congressman Steve Cohen said the 2013 government shutdown showed dysfunction on a federal level.

"Mayor Luttrell, I don't mean to be uncivil, but it was the Republican shutdown," said Cohen.

Incoming Memphis City Council Chairman Strickland wants to set up a collaboration, where lawmakers at every level of government meet to get on one accord.

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