Tennessee’s presiding state House lawmaker anticipates a fruitful legislative session for Republicans in 2012, especially for one in particular: Gov. Bill Haslam.
“We have a wonderful new governor who has a commitment to the state of Tennessee,” Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, told reporters Tuesday after the lower chamber’s opening act for the year. “We are going to make sure that he is able to fulfill that by carrying through with his legislative agenda.”
Harwell predicts “a productive, good session” for Republican interests in general.
“We are committed to the goals we’ve set out for our party and for the state,” she said.
Harwell continued, “My most number-one concern is always the economy, and making sure this is the most business-friendly state that exists in the United States.” The speaker said keeping taxes low, if not actually reducing them, is a priority for her.
Harwell also said she’ll be making efforts to work with Democrats to find common ground when possible.
“We will have our differences, but that is what the legislative process is ultimately about,” said Speaker Harwell. “But at the end of the day, I am always so impressed that this body does come together to do what is best for Tennessee, unlike Washington, D.C., that is just mired in gridlock and can’t accomplish anything. We have a good reputation in this state legislature for accomplishing our goals and adjourning in a timely fashion.”
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh, whose party is outnumbered 64-34 by GOP lawmakers, said his caucus will be trying to use their limited political clout to push the conversation toward job creation initiatives whenever they can.
Fitzhugh also said Democrats will be advocating a cut in the state’s lofty sales tax on groceries, even though Republicans have said their tax-cut priorities lie elsewhere, like reducing the Hall income tax or the estate tax.
“(Job creation) is still the main issue in our state,” said Fitzhugh. “We have some ideas that hopefully can gain some support across the board that will help ramp up jobs and keep the economy growing.”