From Richard Locker:
State Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington, who served as House speaker for longer than anyone in Tennessee history, is expected to announce today he won’t run for re-election this year after 38 years in the General Assembly.
Naifeh, 72, a Democrat, was elected in 1974 to a seat in the state House and then re-elected 18 times.
The House elected him its speaker, the chamber’s powerful presiding officer, for nine terms from 1991 until 2009, when Republicans won the majority. He’s remained an outspoken member, leading the opposition to cuts in lottery-funded scholarships this week.
He would not comment as word of his expected announcement this morning on the House floor spread through the Capitol Wednesday night, but legislative sources confirmed that the announcement is planned.
His District 81 includes most of his home Tipton County and all of Haywood County. But Republicans moved heavily Democratic Haywood out of the district in this year’s redistricting and merged all of Tipton into the new 81st.
In 2008, Naifeh carried both counties and won re-election by a margin of more than 2-to-1. In 2010, he lost Tipton by 681 votes but won by winning Haywood by more than a 3-to-1 margin.
Besides the public events in his presidential campaign trip to Nashville Monday, Newt Gingrich is scheduled to make “courtesy calls” on some Tennessee elected officials at the state capitol – including former Democratic House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh.
Gingrich Tennessee spokesman Ken Marrero says the visits are “bipartisan.” Others on the list include House Speaker Beth Harwell, who is supporting Romney for president, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who is neutral since Texas Gov. Rick Perry withdrew.
Naifeh says he state Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, who is co-chairman of Gingrich’s campaign, asked him a couple of weeks ago if he would like to meet Gingrich.
Asked what they might talk about, Naifeh wondered if the former U.S. speaker knew former Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy, a Democrat whose service in Georgia overlapped Naifeh’s reign as House speaker in Tennessee. He said has heard Murphy and Gingrich are from the same area of Georgia.
Gingrich is not going to be winning a vote with a visit to the Democratic House speaker emeritus.
“I will not be voting in the Republican primary,” Naifeh said.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With the dust settling on Republican plans for redrawing legislative districts in Tennessee, lawmakers from both parties are assessing their future plans.
Democrats say they will offer amendments to the state House and Senate maps unveiled last week, but with vast Republican majorities in both chambers it appears unlikely that the proposals will change significantly.
But House members unhappy with the new maps may take heart in the experience of 2002, the last time redistricting occurred in Tennessee with Democrats holding a 57-42 advantage over Republicans in the 99-member chamber. Republicans now hold 64 seats in the House.
The original Democratic plan in 2002 placed 14 Republicans into the seven districts. Republican Rep. Steve McDaniel of Parker’s Crossroads at the time called the Democratic plan “political gerrymandering at its best.”
But McDaniel, a leader in this year’s redistricting process, ultimately helped hammer out a compromise with Democrats to only draw two Republican incumbents into the same district.
“It’s a lot easier for us to go forward with a House that’s together than it would have been with a House that’s divided,” then-Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, said at the time.
By Lucas, Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pressed by GOP leaders to end the legislative session earlier than usual, the General Assembly passed 154 bills in the final three days of the session, 30 percent of the year’s entire package of enacted legislation.
According to an Associated Press analysis of public records, lawmakers moved out 133 of them in the final two days. That number was roughly a fourth of the 510 bills the Secretary of State’s office lists as passing both chambers during the session that stretched from Jan. 11 to May 21.
“That was utterly ridiculous,” said Democratic Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington, who tried to get lawmakers to extend the session a few days. “It’s just all because they wanted to rush this thing through, and for what reason I’m not sure except for them to be able to say that they got us out on that particular day.”
Among the bills were items that were extensively debated, such as reshaping tenure and collective bargaining for teachers. Others got little attention, including measures that brought far-reaching changes to how residents are allowed to use the Internet, and some are going to need to be redone in the next session because they contained mistakes.
House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh was on hand in 1978 when the Legislature approved a law authorizing collective bargaining between teachers and school boards and he’s around now that there’s a move afoot to repeal that law.
TNReport has some commentary from Naifeh — who opposed collective bargaining then, but supports it now
The Act passed when Naifeh was in his fourth year as a state representative. The Senate passed it on a 20-10 vote. The House passed it 60-38. It was signed on March 10, 1978 by Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton, who, according to a Tennessean article written the next day, “made a surprise visit” to a Tennessee Education Association convention in Nashville so that teachers could witness him officially make it law.
…Naifeh and then-state Rep. John Tanner were “viciously opposed” to giving unions the power to force collective bargaining with local school districts, said Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, who was present at the debate and voted in favor of the 1978 Act. Tanner served 22 years as a United States Congressman from Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District after 12 years in the state House of Representatives.
“They tried every rule, everything in the book to stop it,” DeBerry said of Naifeh and Tanner.
Tanner didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.
In audio recordings of House floor debate over the 1978 Act, Naifeh can be heard attempting to add amendments to the bill that were derided by supporters of collective bargaining as delaying tactics or attempts to kill the union-friendly legislation.
Naifeh in 1978 was a supporter of local control, and he argued that the state was imposing its will on the districts by forcing them to recognize and exclusively negotiate with a teachers union.
“All I’m asking is that you give the people of your district the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to have professional negotiations,” Naifeh at one point pleaded with his House colleagues.
But between the fiery debates then and now, Naifeh has done a 180-degree change of course.
“I made a mistake, and I have admitted that many times,” Naifeh told TNReport earlier this legislative session. “At the time, it just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t think it was the way to go.”
A proposed amendment to the state constitution prohibiting a state income tax was revised Wednesday to incorporate a ban on increasing sales taxes as well.
The addition of language to freeze state and local sales taxes was proposed by House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh in the House Finance Subcommittee. His amendment was supported all five Democrats on the panel, plus Republican Reps. Steve McDaniel of Parkers Crossroads and Dennis “Coach” Roach of Rutledge.
The Naifeh amendment declares that state and local sales tax rates will be frozen effective Nov. 4, 2014, the day of the election that Tennesseans would be voting on any constitutional amendment.
Under current law, the state sales tax rate is 7 percent and local governments may add up to 2.75 percent local sales tax, for a 9.75 percent total. Naifeh said his proposal would allow any local government not now levying the maximum local tax to raise their rate to the maximum by Nov. 4, 2014. But at that point, the combined state and local sales tax maximum would be frozen permanently at 9.75 percent.
“I think it’s just common sense…Where we are right now is having the highest sales tax rate in the country,” said Naifeh. “We do not need to raise taxes on people who can afford it the least….Were are right ow the highest s tax state in the country. We do not need to raise taxes on people who can afford it the least.”