GOP House Freshmen Chart a Conservative Course

Chas Sisk takes a look at the big freshmen class of Republican state representatives and finds they are staunchly conservative, but have not “shaken up” things as some might have hoped or expected. “But they have helped keep the legislature on a steadily conservative course, serving as a loyal base of support for GOP leadership and forming a nucleus of lawmakers who could keep Republicans in control for years to come.”
More from the story:
Freshman Republicans have filed 153 bills this session, an average of about seven for each of the 21 GOP lawmakers who were sworn into the state House of Representatives for the first time in January. (One other Republican, Maryville Rep. Art Swann, rejoined the legislature after 22 years.)
Among the bills local freshman Republicans have introduced are legislation that would have barred drug offenders from receiving government benefits, challenged federal government powers and required all candidates for public office to prove their eligibility to get on the ballot.
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said such legislation is evidence that the freshmen are pushing the Republican caucus toward the right.
“I think there certainly has been a shift in the legislature,” he said. “I guess times changed. When I came to the legislature, at least for the first few years, I tried to sort of stop and listen and tried to survey the situation. … This time it does appear the freshman class is quite vocal.”
But few of those bills have advanced in the legislature. In most cases, freshmen have voluntarily shelved their controversial bills or stood by as their bills were defeated before they could get out of committee.
Those defeats do not appear to have rankled the freshmen. Instead, they chalked their losses up to inexperience.
“It did not pass this year, but I will bring it back in some form next year,” state Rep. Linda Elam, R-Mt. Juliet, said of a bill that would have declared that the federal government cannot regulate trade within the state of Tennessee. A House subcommittee declined to take up Elam’s bill at a meeting earlier this month.
“That was probably a mistake on my part to have not run it earlier in the year, but you live and you learn.”
The treatment of Womick’s bill to require birth certificates for presidential candidates is illustrative.
Womick says he filed his bill after more than 200 constituents pressed him for legislation that would resolve questions around whether President Barack Obama was really born abroad, an allegation that may violate the constitutional requirement that only a “natural born citizen” may hold the presidency.
…. The legislation was killed in a House subcommittee on which Republicans held the majority. The decision likely deprived Democrats of an opportunity to paint Republicans and freshman lawmakers as extremists pursuing conspiracy theories.
Womick said he understands why the legislation failed but plans to bring it back in the future.

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