NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Heavy debate on a series of bills in the House has delayed the conclusion of the 107th General Assembly.
The chamber recessed after 10 p.m. CDT Monday, but was scheduled to return at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville says the early start should give lawmakers every chance to conclude their business by the end of the day.
The lower chamber had more than 45 bills remaining on its calendar, including a measure to require drug testing for welfare recipients and a proposed overhaul of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
The Legislature gave final approval to the state’s annual spending plan Monday evening, sending the measure for the governor’s signature. Passing a balanced budget is lawmakers’ chief responsibility.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers edged closer Sunday to adjourning several weeks earlier than usual, but they continued to engage in end-of-session wrangling as intense as ever.
Budget disagreements between the two chambers led to the first conference committee on the spending plan since the acrimonious debate over the income tax more than a decade ago.
The Republican majorities in both the House and Senate have reached an agreement on the budget, but several contentious matters could still crop up before the 107th General Assembly concludes its business.
They include the much-debated guns-in-parking-lots bill and a measure would prevent private universities from setting guidelines for student organizations such as religious groups. Lawmakers hope to conclude the legislative session on Monday.
Budget bickering within Republican ranks, determined Democratic effort to make political points and a bipartisan desire to let veterans gamble combined to thwart leadership plans to adjourn the 107th General Assembly last week.
The fallback plan of legislative leaders calls for an unusual Sunday evening session today to deal with the veterans issue, followed by Monday meetings of the House and Senate wherein reunited Republicans will presumably vote down the determined Democrats.
And then, unless plans go astray again, legislators will go home to begin campaigns for election to the 108th General Assembly — probably with some of the curious voting that took place last week as part of the picture for those seeking new terms.
By Erik Schelzig, Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers are preparing for what they hope is the last week of the 107th General Assembly, though issues that still need to be worked out include the state’s annual spending plan, proposals to change the way the state selects Supreme Court justices and a resilient effort to ban teaching about gay issues in schools.
Also still pending is a dispute between business groups and gun advocates over a bill seeking to guarantee that employees have a right to store firearms their cars while at work.
Republican leaders nevertheless express confidence that the session can draw to a close by the end of the week.
“There are about 60 or 70 bills that are still there,” said Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville. “I think we’re right on course to adjourn.”
God, guns, gays and money are scheduled debate topics for the 107th Tennessee General Assembly in its windup week.
Enactment of a state budget for the coming fiscal year, a duty formally assigned to the Legislature by the Tennessee constitution, is clearly the most substantive issue remaining as legislative leaders push to adjourn the session by Friday.
The $31 billion budget plan submitted by Gov. Bill Haslam is generating some disputes. The general theme of Democratic critics is that Republican plans unnecessarily hoard at least $200 million from increasing state revenue. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says the total could reach $400 million if revenue trends continue.
Republicans are ready to dip into the growing surplus for some causes, notably including a last-minute move to repeal the state’s “gift tax” at a cost of $15 million in lost revenue. But they insist some hoarding is appropriate because of potential fiscal problems in the year ahead.
House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, cites the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold a federal health care reform law. That alone, he says, could require another $200 million in state spending in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
But, insofar as debate rhetoric and media attention go, the budget may be overshadowed by pending action on several social issues. Among them:
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — James M. “Mike” Williams won’t be the last Democrat standing in Rutherford County for long.
The 63-year-old road superintendent is the last Democrat to hold a local elected office here and plans to retire next August.
Williams told The Daily News Journal that part of his decision not to seek a sixth four-year term is that Republicans captured the other seven county constitutional offices as well as all six of the county’s delegation seats in the Tennessee General Assembly (http://on.dnj.com/syNQG3).
Williams considers himself a conservative Democrat and says if he did run again he would stick to his party because “I don’t feel you should jump parties to get elected.”