How Tennessee Lawmakers' Plan To Raise More Money Could Thwart A Push To Give Themselves More Power

Apr 17, 2017

A proposal meant to give lawmakers more opportunities to override vetoes of controversial legislation could be tripped up by a separate measure that would dramatically increase how much money state senators can raise.

The dispute between the Tennessee House of Representatives and the state Senate could come to a showdown as lawmakers wrap up this year's legislative session.

It centers on one of the Tennessee governor's most effective weapons to stop legislation — vetoing it after the General Assembly adjourns for the year. Historically, that has left them unable to mount a veto override.

But a measure from state Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown, would make it easier for lawmakers to go back into session to override those gubernatorial vetoes. House Bill 16 would essentially bring lawmakers back to Nashville in the late summer every two years, giving the legislators — not the governor — the final word.

That proposal breezed through the House earlier this session. Then the state Senate added wording that effectively doubles the limits on how much senators can raise from each donor.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams of Cookeville says that idea gets away from the bill's focus.

"It wasn't the original intent of the bill," Williams says. "So in discussion with him, he didn't want to do that, so we just stuck with him on it."

Senators say it's only fair that they should be able to raise more money, since their districts are three times larger. They'll have to iron out their differences before sending the measure on to Governor Bill Haslam. Who could still veto it.