Odds and Ends of News on Legislatorland

A Trickle of Bills (so far)
Only 29 bills were filed in the House during the opening week of the 108th General Assembly, according to the Legislature’s website – a relative trickle compared to past years. Fifty-six bills have been filed in the Senate.
Last year, 134 bills were “pre-filed” in the House before the session began. This year, no bills were pre-filed in the House and only 11 in the Senate.
Legislators apparently were waiting to see what happened with House Speaker Beth Harwell’s move to limit the number of bills that can be filed in the House. She proposed a general limit of 10 bills per year. The final version, not approved until Thursday, has a 15-bill limit with several exceptions.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey did not seek a bill limit in the Senate, but noted that the House limit effectively reduces Senate filings as well since a bill cannot become law unless introduced both in the House and Senate.
Next year, Ramsey said he will push to repeal the deadline for filing bills, which falls on Feb. 14 this year. As a practical matter, he said legislators will still have to file their bills early enough for them to be considered by committees before the session ends. Ramsey and Harwell hope to wrap the 2013 session up by the end of April.
Ramsey on Lifting Bill Deadline
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says the 15-bill cap per lawmaker was not his preference, reports WPLN. He says next year he’ll propose dropping the deadline for making proposals, so there’s no rush to file before legislation is game-ready.
“I like the no bill filing deadline. That way you won’t have the duplication because people can look in the hopper and see if something has been filed an sign on with somebody else.”
Getting rid of the filing cutoff would allow lawmakers to respond to current events. Ramsey says it would also stop the use of so-called “caption bills” that can be amended to do just about anything.

Harwell Elevating Profile
Changing the way business is conducted at the Tennessee Capitol, the avowed purpose of recent rule changes including a 15-bill limit, could elevate Beth Harwell’s profile, observes Chas Sisk in a profile story on the House Speaker… and that could be helpful if she opts to run for higher office.
Harwell ‘Putting the Brakes on Crazy?’
Columnist Gail Kerr thinks House Speaker Beth Harwell’s 15-bill limit will “put the brakes on crazy” at the Legislature.
Harwell does not suffer fools gladly. And she’s been none too pleased that, during her first two years in charge, the Tennessee legislature has became the laughingstock of the nation.
…With an unlimited number of bills, lawmakers have been known to file just about anything to make one or two voters happy. With only 15 choices, the thinking goes, they’ll be far more selective about what they decide to draft and file.

Committee Assignments: Dems Disappointed, Repubs Happy
Georgiana Vines talks with Knox County House members about committee assignments. Democratic Rep. Joe Amrstrong, former chair of the Health Committee, got no seat on the Health Committee. Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, a teacher, got no seat on the Education Committee. Republican Rep. Roger Kane, an insurance agent, got his first choice seat on the Insurance and Banking Committee.
On Statewide Charter Authorizer
CA education reporter Jane Roberts takes a look at pending legislation to let a statewide “charter authorizer” approve a charter school even if a local school board rejects it.
“Ultimately, what we support is an independent state authorizer,” said Matt Throckmorton, the charter association’s executive director. A bill, he says, will be before legislators soon and is designed to take the “politics” out of getting approved.
The impetus is several much-publicized school board actions in Memphis and Nashville that either flat-out denied charter applicants or so delayed the process that the operators couldn’t staff schools in time to start school.
…Of the 42 states that have charter school laws, 13 and the District of Columbia have some kind of a statewide authorizer. In about half, charter operators can appeal decisions only after applications have been denied locally.
Lobbyist Gets 2 Shelby Suburb Clients
The Shelby County suburbs of Arlington and Lakeland are hiring lobbyist Nathan Green at $6,000 apiece to monitor any local schools-related matters that arise in the upcoming session of the Tennessee General Assembly, reports the Commercial Appeal. He already represents Bartlett.

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