Democrats Boycott Governor’s Breakfast

The Legislature’s top Democrats today boycotted Gov. Bill Haslam’s traditional Wednesday morning breakfast after a breakdown in negotiations over proposed amendments to the governor’s civil service reform bill.
“I was just afraid I’d say something I’d regret and thought I’d take a little vacation,” said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. “My colleagues decided to go with me.”
Fitzhugh felt he had negotiated “good faith” amendments to the civil service bill (HB2384) with Mark Cate, senior advisor to the governor, that sought were by the Tennessee State Employees Association and were acceptable to the administration. But apparently they were not acceptable to Herbert Slatery, the governor’s legal counsel, and Deputy Governor Claude Ramsey, Fitzhugh said.
“I’ve got to figure out who I can negotiate with,” Fitzhugh said.
Fitzhugh withdrew 14 amendments to the bill at a Tuesday meeting of the House Finance Committee, saying he did so as part of the negotiating process, believing that some could be dropped and others would be acceptable to the administration with minor modifications of language.
Slatery at the meeting said he had not seen one of the amendments in question and would not committ to going along with it.
At the committee meeting, Fitzhugh said there were basically just three proposals outstanding – one dealing with so-called “compression pay,” another assuring that a proposed across-the-board pay raise later this would apply to all employees and a third declaring that TSEA would be consulted on future employee policy decisions.
Haslam has followed the practice of past governors in hosting a private weekly breakfast meeting for both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders as an informal means of discussing issues and, at times, resolving them.
Asked if the governor had any comment on the breakfast boycott, Haslam spokesman David Smith sent this email:
Leadership breakfasts are a long-standing tradition that bring the leadership of both parties together on Wednesday mornings during the legislative session to discuss current issues. The governor looks forward each week to spending the time with leaders from both parties and values hearing their views and perspectives on various issues.

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