Kyle Veazey takes a look at the demographics of the 109th Tennessee General Assembly, starting with the observation that only 17.4 percent of its members are women, compared to 51 percent of Tennesseans generally.
(Note: As reported earlier by Georgiana Vines, previous post HERE, the Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL says the national percentage of female to male lawmakers in 2015 will be 23.7 percent, a slight decrease from the 2014 figure of 24.2 percent – a figure not included in Veazey’s report.)
Almost every one of the state’s 132 representatives (99) and senators (33) reflect some variation of Christian belief in their official biographies on the newly redesigned General Assembly website; about a third of them are Baptist, the largest such group. There are at least 16 lawyers among their number; there is no shortage of small business owners and those who are retired, too. One of them is 85 years old. One of them is 29 years old.
…Otherwise, the body of Tennessee lawmakers does a so-so job of resembling the state as a whole.
Fifteen percent of Tennesseans are age 65 or older; 20 percent of the General Assembly is.
Seventeen percent of Tennesseans are African-American; 13 percent of the General Assembly is.
Though ages of nine of the state’s 132 legislators weren’t available, the average age of the other 123 is 54.4. That’s actually slightly younger than the national average as of the 2009 NCSL survey, which was 56.
The median age of Tennessee residents is 38, but it would be difficult for the legislature to reflect that median: Legislators must be at least 21 years old to be elected.
Yet the common typecast of state legislators as old, white Republican males remains fairly accurate: Close to two-thirds of the 132 legislators are white male Republicans. Of those, though, a dozen are under 40 — including 29-year-old state Rep. Ryan Haynes, who represents a Knox County district. He was 23 when he was elected in 2008.
Of course, the most defining characteristic of a Tennessee legislator circa 2015 is party identification. And we all know what that looks like in Nashville: 101 of the 132 are Republicans, an affiliation that will govern much, much more of what they’ll do this session than any qualities discussed above.