Lawmakers Cry Whoa Nelly at Lightning Pace

House subcommittees have begun shutting down for the year. Photo credit Blake Farmer/WPLN

House subcommittees have begun shutting down for the year. Photo credit Blake Farmer/WPLN

Leaders of the Tennessee General Assembly set a goal of having one of the shortest legislative sessions in recent memory, wrapping up business by April 19th. But the pace has some rank-and-file Republicans grabbing for the reins.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has been cracking the whip, insisting the legislature’s work will merely fill the time allotted. He adds that creating more new laws isn’t necessarily a good thing.

“If the speaker of the senate had to sit in on a committee and study 85 bills and sit there for six hours and try to do his work also, he may have a different view of how it’s going,” says Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), who raised concerns in a House Republican Caucus meeting Thursday.

Some subcommittees have already begun shutting down for the year. But to do so, members had to cram, compromising the process, Dunn says.

Meetings have also been scheduled simultaneously, meaning lawmakers end up leaving one panel where they are a voting member to present a bill they are sponsoring to another committee.

“When we pass a bill or don’t pass a bill it affects people, so I really think we need to slow down and be deliberative,” Dunn says. “That’s what the people pay us to do.”

The legislature did get something of a slow start. A new 15-bill cap per representative led to some filing delays.

House Speaker Beth Harwell says she wants to “run efficiently.”

“We were literally in here at times in June and July,” she says. “I don’t think that’s what taxpayers want.”

Harwell is encouraging members to get their legislation for next year drafted over the summer.

Please keep your community civil. Comments will be moderated prior to posting, and Nashville Public Radio reserves the right to approve them at its discretion. Comments containing links promoting goods, services - even noble organizations - will not be published. Your comments may include external links, but all comments with links will be delayed as they are reviewed. Comments containing profanity will be rejected.