State lawmakers have now been assigned committees. And Republican leaders say the makeup of some panels was tailored around specific issues.
One Senate committee is stacked in a way that Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says it will likely act on a perennial issue that has gotten stuck in the committee process.
“Wine in grocery stores is one that I feel passionate about. And I think with the committee we appointed we will have at least a fighting chance of getting it out.”
Ramsey says it was also important to get someone who sees eye-to-eye with him on selecting judges. So he replaced Judiciary Committee chair Mae Beavers of Mount Juliet with an ally – Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown.
In the House, Speaker Beth Harwell says her committee assignments were made based more on expertise. But Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh contends he was specifically dropped from the Education Committee so it would be easier to pass school vouchers, which would use public money to help families – likely low income – pay private school tuition.
Rep. Harry Brooks of Knoxville was named as the new chairman of the committee. He was part of a special vouchers task force, but he says his support of any plan depends primarily on how much it costs.
“Tennessee does not have a whole lot of money, and every time you arrive at a policy conclusion, you’ve got to go back and determine, ‘can we afford this?’ Do we stop doing something else to fund X?”
Brooks sidesteps direct questions about his support of vouchers, a statewide charter authorizer or parent trigger laws. He says as chairman, he’ll approach such hot button topics with an open mind.