More 2013 supermajority session superlatives (first installment HERE):
Celebrity of the Year: Sen. Stacey Campfield, of course. Hands down. From Jay Leno and Stephen Colbert to Jon Stewart and Piers Morgan on national TV, from TMZ to Huffington Post on the national blogosphere, they all talked with — or at least about — the red-haired Knoxville Republican on the cutting edge of red state conservatism. He’s been there before, of course, but this session his national media stature grew — and much of Tennessee’s media, including bloggers, went into an absolute tizzy, sometimes just to report that national celebrities had noticed the senator or one of his blog posts. With exceptions such as Bill O’Reilly, most of the attention was negative — much amounted to ridicule — and centered on his bill to tie a parent’s welfare payments to a child’s school performance. He never backed down in rhetorical fights, whether on TV or the News Sentinel website comment sections, but did back down from putting the bill to a Senate floor vote this year, perhaps a politically practical and tacit acknowledgment that others fret more about such things than he.
Lobbyist of the Year: David McMahan, once known as “Rooster,” had a lot to crow about, starting with 37 clients. That would be an overload without his lobbying lady colleagues who do much of the heavy lifting. Perhaps most prominently, he again helped steer the wine-in-grocery-stores bill to defeat on behalf of liquor retailers, despite increasingly effective efforts on the other side. Perhaps more interestingly, he was a player in passage of a bill that, among other things, allowed Sugarlands Distillery LLC to make moonshine in Gatlinburg despite city official objections. This raised conflict-of-interest questions since McMahan was registered as lobbyist for Gatlinburg and was a minority investor in Sugarlands. But he handled the situation somewhat ethically, losing the city of Gatlinburg as a client in the process and registering for Sugarlands, though arguably he didn’t have to do so as a part owner. So McMahan was both successful — also winning some more obscure lobbying squabbles — and somewhat ethical. Those two things don’t always go together for lobbyists.
Runner-up lobbying honors go to Rich Foge, executive director of the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association, who smoothly engineered passage of an overhaul of the state’s beer tax that will save wholesalers millions of dollars over the coming years. Relying on good will built up at freebie events for lawmakers, Foge also orchestrated grassroots beer events and negotiated a deal with local government officials who lose revenue over the long run from “freezing” beer taxes.
Against the Wind Award: Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, who was inspired by the aforementioned distillery bill — it also legalized the making of whiskey in Chattanooga — to aggressively attack the alcoholic beverage industry and its lobbyists. He thus stood out as a member of the apparently dwindling number of lawmakers who vote no, as a matter of conscience, on bills enhancing alcohol sales.
Anonymous Influence Award: To Publius Huldah, who may have set a precedent by testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee under her blogging pseudonym while refusing to give her real name. Publius was protagonist for a proposal declaring legislators could nullify federal gun laws, which failed in the committee on a tie vote. Interestingly, her chief sparring partner in the debate was Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, who sponsored a bill — passed in the Senate, held up in the House — that gives legal protections to anonymous commenters on Internet websites.
Least Conservative Republican: Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville, who, for example, actually proposed a bill that could be considered a tax increase — it involved hotel-motel taxes and he considered it closing a loophole — and was the only Republican to vote against Gov. Bill Haslam’s workers’ compensation bill.
Most Conservative Democrat: Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis. In keeping with his past penchant for breaking with fellow members of the minority caucus, especially on education issues, DeBerry backed a Republican-sponsored statewide charter authorizer and sponsored a “parent trigger” bill that would make it easier for parents to force a public school to become a charter school.