On ‘traditionally collegial’ Senate and ‘blood war’ House

Freshman state Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, gives his thoughts on the differences in serving on a county commission and the state legislature and between the state House and Senate in a Wendy Smith report.

He compared his legislative experience with his time on County Commission. One difference is being able to talk freely with fellow legislators. Open meeting law prohibits discussion of county business outside of formal meetings, which slows the process down. Plans for a new fire station at Choto Road took 16 months longer because he couldn’t speak directly with fellow commissioner Ed Shouse, Briggs said.

But the Legislature that required transparency from others exempted itself from the open meetings law. Being able to speak with fellow legislators Martin Daniel, Ryan Haynes and Becky Massey enabled them to work together to restore Scenic Highway designation to Middlebrook Pike after it was removed for a new Tennova hospital.

“I’m proud that we could get that done,” he said.

Something that surprised Briggs during his first senate term was the ease of orchestrating compromise. He could bring two disagreeing parties together in his office and almost always work out a win-win situation.

The Tennessee Senate is traditionally collegial, and its 33 members would never intentionally embarrass each other on the floor. The House of Representatives, however, is a blood war, he said. He compared it to the blood war he witnessed during his early days on County Commission.

He reviewed the process of creating new laws in Tennessee. He learned to wait until the last minute to put his name on a bill because amendments can completely change the nature of a bill.

While 1,800 bills were filed this session, fewer than 300 became law.

It’s a good process, he said, because each legislative branch can correct the mistakes of the other.