State Rep. Jimmy Eldridge defends to the Jackson Sun his comments on a workers comp bill moving like a freight train through the Legislature — caught on a video that he didn’t realize was recording (Previous post HERE.) He said in an interview with The Jackson Sun on Thursday that his comments in the video have been twisted and taken out of context.
“This workers’ compensation bill is moving through, and we feel strong that it’s a good deal that we got the votes to pass it. We want (bills) to move like a freight train, in a very careful way. I want to get this bill to the House floor and debated by all the members,” he said.
He later said that “all interested parties will have the opportunity to express their views and give input on how to craft the best piece of legislation possible.
“We all want to ensure that this initiative is fair for both employers and employees, and I welcome the healthy discussion and debate that is starting to take place in the coming days regarding this extremely important piece of legislation,” Eldridge said.
Tennessee Citizen Action has called on House Speaker Beth Harwell to explain Eldridge’s comments. Jeff Woods reports that reporters asked her and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick about the remarks, but didn’t get much of a response. “I appreciate his enthusiasm for the bill,” McCormick said. “I think it’s a good bill. Maybe his choice of words could have been better.”
“I don’t know that I can comment for Chairman Eldridge,” Harwell said. “You’re more than welcome to ask him for a response on that.”
We tried that yesterday. One of his minions puffed out his chest, stood in front of the representative’s office door and informed us that “Speaker Harwell’s office” had instructed Eldridge not to talk to reporters. That’s neat, isn’t it? Harwell tells us to talk to Eldridge, and Eldridge says Harwell told him not to talk to us.
It’s all in keeping with the speaker’s motto: “The less you say, the better.”
Without realizing the Legislature’s streaming video equipment was recording his remarks, House Consumer and Human Resources Committee Chairman Jimmy Eldridge likened a bill overhauling the state’s worker’s compensation system to a “freight train” roaring through the Legislature.
The video, initially reported and posted Wednesday on the Nashville Scene’s blog, features Eldridge, R-Jackson, complaining about criticism of the bill – pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam – as unwarranted and intended “rouse employees” and “scare them to death.” A companion says the critics are “uneducated people.”
“I’m going to take care of that bill,” says Eldridge. “That freight train is going off.”
The accidential recording was made prior to the bill’s initial appearance Wednesday in a subcommittee of the committee Eldridge chairs. The subcommittee approved the measure on voice vote with two Democrats recorded as voting no.
The measure (HB194) makes multiple changes to the workers compensation system, the largest being removal of disputed cases from the court system and sending them to a new board, appointed by the governor.
Haslam says his bill will streamline the system while being fair both to workers hurt on the job and businesses who hire them. Critics such as Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, say it will “gut workers’ compensation as we know it in Tennessee. ”
“HB194 will cut paychecks to injured workers who can return to work by one-third,” Mancini said said in a news release Wednesday. “These cuts, along with cuts made in 2008, means an injured worker who goes back to work will collect 60% less than in 2007. The bill will also eliminates certain injuries as being work related and make it more difficult for workers to prove their injury was caused at work and subsequently, more difficult for an injured worker to collect a paycheck when injured.”
Similar remarks are apparently the sort of criticism Eldridge was criticizing.
Recent events illustrate that the art of compromise, historically valued in the world of politics, remains a constant in the new normal of Republican rule in Tennessee government. So does the belief that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Gov. Bill Haslam, in his titular head role as overseer of our state’s Republicans, called last year for a one-third reduction in legislative bill filings in 2012. At the outset of the 2012, the governor thereupon introduced a legislative package of 54 bills, compared to his 24-bill package of 2011 — somewhat shy of a 33 percent reduction.
Having thus established his freedom from the hobgoblin of little-mindedness, the governor proceeded to watch as legislators filed a total of 1,725 new bills for the 2012 session, including those introduced at his behest.
This was also somewhat shy of a one-third reduction and amounts to an increase compared to the typical second year of a two-year General Assembly session. In fact, it wasn’t down even a third from the floodgate first year when 2,162 bills were introduced.
Womick Bashes Fitzhugh
Freshman Republican state Rep. Rick Womick, in an op-ed piece published by the Daily News Journal, attacks the state House minority leader. An excerpt: The Democrats current figurehead is state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. Mr. Fitzhugh has been on a barnstorming circuit of late trying to convince Tennesseans that the overwhelming majority of them who voted for reform last fall are wrong. While his claims have as much merit as ocean front property in Rutherford County, Mr. Fitzhugh truly believes what he is peddling. Sadly, he is conveniently ignoring the fact voters sent a message last fall that was directed squarely at him and his big government party.
…Mr. Fitzhugh needs to honestly answer why he would allow his fellow liberals to yet again file a bill instituting a state income tax this year — a notion Tennesseans have continually rejected. Why won’t Democrats listen to citizens? Do they really believe Tennesseans need to be paying more taxes in these rough economic times? Apparently, Mr. Fitzhugh does, because he also let his Democrat friends file a bill increasing the gas and diesel tax by 10 cents! Not only would this harm motorists, it would effectively cripple Tennessee’s vibrant shipping industry. Yet another Democrat bill would have mandated all Tennesseans who own buildings to conduct a costly, comprehensive energy audit.
These are not part of a pathway to prosperity and job creation. These are the dark avenues of economic ruin that led Tennesseans to throw Democrats out of office in record-breaking numbers a little over six months ago. Eldridge Boasts
In something of a contrast to Womick, state Rep Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, brags about GOP accomplishments rather than bashing Democrats in a Jackson Sun op-ed. Excerpt: Chief among them (accomplishments) was my legislation, House Bill 1503. This law enacts much-needed reforms to the often complicated Tennessee workers compensation laws. It is a clear win for the business community in our State that has, for too long, been saddled with red tape by government.
At the same, this law balances those realities with the legitimate needs of workers who have been hurt while at work. Additionally, my Committee passed updates to how unemployment compensation is calculated, strengthened the constitutional rights of workers, and ensured all employees will have a fair and equitable hearing when disputes arise.
Overall, this General Assembly focused its attention squarely on job growth for Tennesseans. We wanted to make sure that both short-term economic development and long-term job growth were given top priority. On Caylee’s Law
Commercial Appeal columnist Otis Sanford doesn’t think much of the rush to file legislation enacting a “Caylee’s Law” in Tennessee and elsewhere.
On the other hand, the Jackson Sun says the idea is worth trying. Bob Cooper on Bath Salts
In a Daily News Journal piece, Attorney General Bob Cooper hails a new state law prohibiting synthetic drugs marketed as “bath sales” and “plant food.” Running on Cutes and Crazy??
In a Johnson City Press column, Jan Hearne describes her past activities as a feminist activist and suggests progress didn’t lead exactly where she thought it would. When Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as Walter Mondale’s running mate, we rejoiced. When they lost to Reagan, we told ourselves the country wasn’t quite ready for a female vice president or president, but some day …
Well, some day actually might be here, and what do we have?
Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, a bizarro world candidate and a question mark running on cutes and crazy.