Lawmakers go back in session today when the gavel hits at high noon. Tom Humphrey and Chas Sisk have extensive and comprehensive stories on what will be on this year’s agenda. Drug-testing Tennesseans who receive welfare and are receiving unemployment, the reduction of lottery scholarships and amending the anti-bullying bill that has gotten national attention are just a few controversial issues that are on the GOP agenda this session.
The second session of the 107th General Assembly starting Tuesday will test Gov. Bill Haslam’s increased assertiveness with fellow Republicans accustomed to getting their way in the legislature.
Haslam is set to begin his second year inoffice by taking a more active role in legislative matters, while the House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are still jockeying for position with each other and with the governor. The speakers are also out to prove that last year’s early conclusion of the session was no fluke.
First on the agenda is redistricting, which could come up for a vote as early as Thursday, despite Democrats’ complaints that the proposal would likely reduce the number of African-Americans serving in the legislature.
Like many other rural communities, it was hit hard in the economic downturn. Businesses closed up shop, people’s livelihoods were destroyed, and the Wal-Mart invasion only accelerated that process. It’s a classic story which we hear all too often from rural counties across Tennessee and across the South as a whole.
DeKalb County is hurting. And it’s not helped by the fact that for three years they’ve had acompletely absent State Representative in Terri Lynn Weaver.
But what’s worse is how their lines have been drawn. Terri Lynn almost lost her reelection bid in 2010 because of DeKalb County. So, she and other House Republicans decided to be politically punitive. Despite the fact that DeKalb County has only 18,000 people, they split it between two House districts. District 40, which now covers essentially the upper 2/3rds of the county, is lumped in with Smith, Trousdale, and Sumner Counties, stretching all the way to Hendersonville. Now you tell me, how in the world are Smithville, Alexandria, Liberty, and other economically troubled communities supposed to be represented effectively when their representative is also dealing with the needs of places like Hendersonville?
Charges will not be filed against two state lawmakers who used heavy-handed tactics to help three nurse practitioners get their licenses back, Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson said Monday.
Bobby Reynolds II, David Stout Jr. and Tina Killebrew were accused of over-prescribing at the now-defunct Appalachian Medical Clinic in Johnson City, where the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was probing patient deaths. The nurses agreed to the suspensions, but Reps. Dale Ford and Tony Shipley later pressured the Tennessee Board of Nursing to take a second look.
“My decision on the future is going to be based on where I think I can have the most impact,” Berke said in an interview Friday. “I have been working on jobs and education for years now, and I think that’s what people want from both parties. So I feel comfortable with the politics of where I am in any [Senate] district.”
At the same time, Berke said, he finds the idea of serving as Chattanooga’s mayor, a nonpartisan position, attractive.
“As mayor you get to exercise executive leadership and hold people together in a unified way,” Berke said. “We have important issues related to crime and economic development. And bringing our citizens together to combat these important problems is something that attracts [me],” he said.
But he insists he could win the redrawn 10th Senate District he now represents.
- Capitol Hill reporter Joe White discusses this year’s legislative session. He says many legislators are going to play it safe this session because it’s an election year. (audio from WPLN.) LINK
- Tennessee Citizens Action has a comprehensive list of bills to watch, their sponsors and links to them online. Happy Back to Session Day. LINK
- A new blog (to me) out of East Tennessee.Cathie Bird has the links to the “Right to Bully Bill” at her website, Raising Cain. LINK
- A prayer vigil is scheduled for this evening as clergy from different faiths spotlight mountain top removal. LINK
- Will Sen. Bill Ketron run against Rep. Scott DesJarlais in the Fourth District primary. Jeff Woods says the Republican senator is praying about it and he hasn’t ruled it out. LINK
- The Koch Brothers have donated to DesJarlais according to a story by Andy Sher. LINK
- Rep. Steve Cohen has expressed some concerns about his new district lines. LINK