A Little Silver Lining?

Day Three of the Organizational Session of the 106th Tennessee General Assembly
January 15, 2009

Imagine that for months you have been planning your dream vacation -- the airline tickets are purchased, itinerary set, reservations made, ground transportation arranged, hours spent pouring over guide books planning each day's activities.  The big day arrives, you board the plane to Paris. After the hours long flight, the plane lands and you disembark stunned to find that you are in China.


That sort of describes what has happened this week on Capitol Hill.   For months the expectation had been that Majority Leader Jason Mumpower (Bristol) would be elected  to be speaker of the  TN House of Representatives.  When the dust settled, Kent Williams (Elizabethton) was in the Speakers chair. China instead of Paris, and the tour of China has begun.

Arriving at the Plaza early, I had no idea what was going to happen Thursday morning.  Just before the House and Senate convened I learned that the vote on the Constitutional Officers was expected. 

Shortly after nine o'clock Speaker Kent Williams took his place at the podium and opened the session. As an aside, it was very nice to see Majority Leader Jason Mumpower guiding the House business on the floor!! That is as is should be.

During "Personal Orders" Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) rose to "have a little conversation with you".  He noted that the 'good book' tells us to live a Christ-like life and that each day he wakes up with the intent to live his life as God would have him live, but that every day he fails.  He went on to state that while God does not condone the sins he commits, God does offer His forgiveness, but that after receiving the gift of forgiveness, it is sometimes difficult to extend that same forgiveness to others and not hold contempt in his heart for someone he feels has been wronged or who has wronged someone he cares about. He moved on mentioning the sin of bearing false witness, promises made, and that one of the biggest falsehoods was that lots of jobs would be lost [it is thought that one of the reasons the Democrats coalesced around Williams was to 'save' the jobs of many of the staff].

Hawk said he remembered that "he who is without sin should cast the first stone" so "I put the stone back in my pocket" and went on to offer his colleagues forgiveness. Then he asked for forgiveness of the anger he had kept in his heart for the last few days, noting that we all have to met our  maker and he didn't want to meet his Maker with this on his heart. He commented on some snickers but continued by challenging his colleagues to lead a Christ-like life.

The House passed the Resolution calling for the Joint Convention to elect the Constitutional Officers. After some recesses, at 10:23 a.m.,the Senate members joined the House for the Joint Convention.

First up was the office of Secretary of State (a four year term):

    Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) nominated Tre' Hargett. Rep. Glen Casada (R-College Grove) provided the 'second' and Majority Leader Jason Mumpower (Bristol) presented Hargett's qualifications.
    Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) nominated incumbent Riley Darnell and presented his qualifications and accomplishments. Sen. Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) provided the 'second'.
    Sen. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) moved that the nominations cease and the roll called.
The roll for the Senate and the House is called separately with each member stating the name of the candidate they support.
Along party lines the Senate voted 19 for Hargett and 14 for Darnell.
When the House vote was taken, all the Republicans, including Speaker Williams, and Democrat Dennis Ferguson (Harriman), voted for Hargett for a vote total of 51 and the remaining 47 Democrats voted for Darnell.
Combined vote total:  70 for Hargett; 61 for Darnell.

Note in these totals:  Rep. Les Winningham (Huntville) was absent due to the critical illness of his wife.

Comptroller (a two year term):
    Sen. Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) nominated Justin Wilson, Rep. Steve McDainel (R-Parkers Crossroads) provided the 'second'.
    Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) nominated incumbent John Morgan, Sen. Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) provided the 'second'.
Along party lines the Senate voted 19 for Wilson, 14 for Morgan.
Along party lines the House voted 50 for Wilson, 48 for Morgan.
Combined vote total: 69 for Wilson; 62 for Morgan  

Treasurer (a two year term):
    Sen. Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga) nominated David Lillard, Rep. Curry Todd (R-Collierville) provided the 'second'.
    Sen. Joe Haynes (D-Nashville) nominated incumbent Dale Sims, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) provided the 'second'.
Along party lines the Senate voted 19 for Lillard; 14 for Sims.
Along party lines the House voted 50 for Lillard, 48 for Sims.
Combined vote total: 69 for Lillard; 62 for Sims

All Calm as GOP win top posts
GOP Sweeps Constitutional Officers
Lillard, Hargett appointed constitutional officers in legislature
Republican Officers Picked

Thus concluded the three days of the Organizational Session of the 106th Tennessee General Assembly.  At least the Republicans did walk away with these victories. Prior to Thursday, the election of the Republican nominees for the Constitutional Officers was somewhat tenuous because the caucus had to stick together to bring that about.  There is some thought that the election of Williams as speaker so galvanized the caucus, that it assured the outcome.  That is not a bad thing.

The Regular Session is scheduled to convene on February 9, 2009.  These three weeks will be used the move all the offices and staff around.

Will Dems have buyer’s remorse about new speaker?

Jimmy Naifeh and Gary Odom may prove to be too smart by half.
Certainly, the two Democratic leaders of the state House pulled a measure of victory from defeat this week by propping up largely unknown Republican House member Kent Williams as the body’s new speaker.
Why would they do that, you might ask? Well, it was a strange week at the Tennessee General Assembly — a place that seems to draw some of the state’s most outlandish characters this side of the Metro Jail.
Democrats were left reeling after November elections that saw the GOP’s majority margin hold in the state Senate and saw Democrats lose their House majority for the first time in over a century.
This came amid a bitter battle for the speakership between Odom and Naifeh that lasted all summer and into the fall, as they wooed the prospective votes of an ultimately unsuccessful field of Democratic House hopefuls.
Read more here

Because of the unexpected outcome of the election of the Speaker of the House, the Committee Chairmen and members are still decided.

The State Senate released their committee assignments:
Speaker and Lt. Governor: Ron Ramsey
Speaker Pro Tempore: Jamie Woodson
Deputy Speaker: Bill Ketron

Senate committee chairmanships went to the following state senators:

Commerce, Labor, and Agriculture: Sen. Paul Stanley of Memphis

Education: Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville

Environment, Conservation, and Tourism: Sen. Steve Southerland of Morristown

Finance, Ways and Means: Sen. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge

General Welfare, Health, and Human Resources: Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City

Government Operations: Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin

Judiciary: Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet

State and Local Government: Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro

Transportation: Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville