Republican Gov. Bill Haslam met with members of the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly Wednesday night at the Tennessee Residence.
The meeting, which was closed to the media, came after a similar event with Republicans on Tuesday at the residence on Curtiswood Lane in Nashville.
Claude Ramsey, deputy governor and chief of staff to Haslam, described the event with the Democrats as an example of camaraderie and “getting to know each other.” First Lady Crissy Haslam participated in the event.
Democrats are at a decided disadvantage with Republicans holding control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time since Reconstruction. The Republican majorities grew in the last election to a 64-34-1 advantage in the House of Representatives and a 20-13 majority in the Senate. But Ramsey said the meeting at the residence was upbeat.
“I thought it was very productive, and I hope we will be able to continue to do that sort of thing, much as we did with the Republicans,” Ramsey said. “We listened a lot. We talked a lot.”
Topics of discussion were no surprise.
“I think the budget is on their minds. I think education is on their minds. I’ve never seen a politician yet that didn’t want jobs in the state and in their districts,” Ramsey said. “Those are all goals in common.
“They understand that we are going to try to tighten up state government. They understand the last budget was tough, and it was made with some one-time money that’s not recurring, and we’re going to have to deal with that. That makes this a tough budget, but we’re going to work our way through that.”
The dinner with Democrats came one day before Haslam was scheduled to begin a series of regional “jobs roundtables” on Thursday in Memphis.
Haslam is scheduled to attend the opening of a solar plant in Jackson on Thursday at 1:30 p.m., with the roundtable at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at 3 p.m. The governor is also scheduled Thursday for the swearing-in of Amy Weirich as Shelby County district attorney general, a post vacated by Bill Gibbons, who has become Haslam’s commissioner of safety.
Ramsey said the conversation with Democrats varied and characterized it as “sharing thoughts.”
“Some of it was philosophical,” Ramsey said. “We talked a little politics, and everybody has concerns about the budget. Everybody has concerns about the economy, and that’s not a Democrat issue. That’s not a Republican issue. That’s a Tennessee issue we all share.”
Ramsey said, at least while he was in the room, he did not hear discussion with the Democrats about any specific budget cuts.
Budget issues are at the forefront with the governor scheduled to begin budget hearings Monday. They begin with a hearing on Health at 1 p.m. Monday in the Executive Conference Room on the ground floor of the Capitol.
The budget hearings will be available on video online at www.tn.gov.
The Haslams are the first couple to live at the Tennessee Residence in eight years. The mansion went through a major renovation during the terms of Gov. Phil Bredesen and was a major project headed by First Lady Andrea Conte. Bredesen and Conte lived in their Nashville home during his time as governor.