Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey bypassed the state’s two top-ranking Democratic senators in handing out seats on the powerful Finance Committee last year and now they’re asking him to reconsider, reports Nashville Post Politics.
That would likely mean downgrading the status of the two Democrats who got the seats, Sens. Reginald Tate of Memphis and Thelma Harper of Nashville.
“Look, I’m not making any promises but things are different maybe next year than they were last year,” Ramsey recalled telling the two lawmakers, Sens. Lee Harris of Memphis and Jeff Yarbro of Nashville, when they came by his office for an impromptu meeting Wednesday morning. “You aren’t freshmen any longer, but obviously Thelma and Reggie are still good friends of mine. We’ll see what we can work out.
“That’s all I said,” he told the Nashville Post.
Harper and Tate have 36 years in the legislature between them — although most of that comes from Harper — and both sit on the finance committee this year. Tate has been instrumental to Ramsey on legislation at times, and Harper rarely gets in the lieutenant governor’s way.
…Although Ramsey said his reasoning was based on the fact that that two leaders were freshmen lawmakers at the time, he is unsure whether he’ll promote them to the powerful budget committee next year when the two Democrats begin their third year.
“I understand their concern. It was unprecedented, but it was unprecedented times,” said Ramsey. “I mean, how many times — probably, maybe the first time in history, too — that a freshman got elected majority leader and caucus chairman. So that did make perfectly good sense.”
Yarbro said their absence from the committee limits how much either of them can participate in conversations about policy and the state budget, a realization made after a breakfast meeting hosted by the governor with leaders from all parties invited.
“We had had a meeting this morning that was about the budget and it was a reminder that neither of us are actually on Finance, which actually complicates certain discussions because we don’t have the background,” Yarbro said Wednesday.