Tennessee House Democrats held a post-session press conference Tuesday voice their disappointment with much of what the GOP supermajority-controlled Legislature passed this year.
Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley was joined by House Caucus Chair Mike Turner of Old Hickory and Memphis Rep. Antonio Parkinson to speak to reporters about what issues they wish the General Assembly would have acted on and new laws they think the state could do without.
Turner charged that the session was a boon for the wealthy Tennesseans and corporations but “if you were in the middle class, it was a terrible session for you.”
Chief amongst the concerns Turner mentioned was the Haslam administration’s overhaul of workers’ compensation that he called “a tax on sick workers.”
“That did not really address the problem that keeps the cost rising—the medical costs—and just took more money out of workers’ pockets,” said Turner.
Leader Fitzhugh, meanwhile, said his biggest disappointment was the governor’s decision not to accept nearly $1.2 billion in federal Medicare expansion money. But Fitzhugh didn’t fault Haslam completely, saying some of the blame rests with his own party for not doing enough to rally their base on the issue.
“I think our problem, as Democrats, this time is we didn’t get the message out to the people who could have been affected, Fitzhugh said. “I think there are people out there that don’t really that they were this close to having the ability to have health insurance when before they couldn’t afford it… and I’m just sorry we didn’t get the word out to more of them so they could have risen up a little bit and tried to convince the governor.”
While the Democratic lawmakers weren’t shy about questioning many of the session’s Republican-backed initiatives, they were hesitant, when asked by reporters, to choose which new laws they thought were the worst, saying they didn’t want to jinx the possibility, however slim, that Haslam might choose to veto some of them.
“There are a lot of things he could veto and we’ll sustain him on probably all of them if he vetoed them,” Turner told reporters. “I don’t want to influence his veto one way or another until after the fact. Come back with that question after—what’s he got, 10 days or something like that?”