Some grumbling over Senate schedule change

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. ā€” Some state Senate Republicans are grumbling about an effort to have the upper chamber’s committees meet on an additional day during the upcoming legislative session, saying the change would allow less time to attend receptions and to prepare for other meetings.

Under the proposed changes, the full Senate would meet earlier on Mondays to allow some committees to meet later that day. In exchange, the chamber would not meet on Thursday mornings for much of the session. (Note: The new schedule posted HERE.)

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that the changes are designed to relive the time pressure of all nine standing committees meeting on two days. The changes would allow members to spend two full days home in their districts and help avoid committee meetings running deep into the evenings, he said.

“The goal of these modifications is not to speed up session, but rather to be more efficient with existing time,” Norris said in the memo.

While Norris said that each member had been briefed the Senate clerk’s office, two senators sent emails raising concerns about the new schedule on Monday.

Republican Sen. Janice Bowling of Tullahoma wrote to colleagues that she worries the change would allow for less time to spend with constituents and at legislative receptions.

“Two nights for the extensive legislative receptions will create additional scheduling problems,” Bowling said in an email to colleagues. “I suspect many groups have already reserved venues for Wednesday night receptions and dinners. We are eliminating access of the people.”

While eliminating Thursday morning floor sessions would allow members to return to their districts as early as Wednesday evening, the Legislature’s daily allowance for meals and hotel costs would remain in place for overnight stays for Monday through Wednesday.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey said the change would make it harder for his committee to operate because it would leave less time for members to prepare the day before.

“This new schedule may make it harder for Senate Judiciary to close on time because we were taking advantage of the Monday work day being free to prepare for our Tuesday afternoon meeting,” the Germantown Republican said in an email. “Much of that time will now be taken up by an earlier Monday session.”

Kelsey said in a phone interview on Tuesday that he begins meeting with staff members and attorneys on Monday mornings to work on schedules, amendments and other committee details. That work would be curtailed by the earlier floor session and committee meetings, he said.

“There are many potential positive outcomes from a schedule change, and there’s a possibility that there will be some negative outcomes, too,” Kelsey said.

“I’m not discouraging anyone from trying it,” he said. “A lot of positives are positives for other committees, and not necessarily positive results for the Judiciary Committee.”