Casada’s Local Employment Policy Measure Falters in Committee

Not all Republican measures will be a slam dunk this year, apparently.

The former favorite for the Tennessee House speakership watched on as a subcommittee loaded with fellow GOP House lawmakers rejected his attempt to blanket the state with uniform regulations on discrimination, “living wage” and family-leave policies.

Casada blamed the HB598’s setback on “special interests,” but he stopped short of pointing fingers at any one group or another.

“I’m concerned special interest might have gotten the attention of some folks, and they didn’t listen to the majority of voters in the district. That’s purely opinion on my part,” said last legislative session’s House Republican caucus chairman.

Casada is proposing to ban local governments from imposing any anti-discrimination practice or employment policies mandating health insurance, a minimum wage or family-leave requirements more restrictive on businesses than state or federal law.

The bill fell, 7-6. Republican Rep. Steve McManus, the Commerce Committee chairman from Cordova, and GOP Rep. Dennis Roach of Rutledge voted against the measure, along with Independent Rep. Kent Williams, Elizabethton, and four Democrats. Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, voted in favor of the legislation with five Republicans.

Gay and lesbian advocates say the bill would have erased any locally enforced discrimination policy or other local rules protecting them based on their sexual preference.

“I think the bill was aimed at our community, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community,” said Chris Sanders, a spokesman for the Tennessee Equality Project who added that the bill meddles in local government’s ability to govern.

Both sides of the issue say the fight is far from over.

“This bill is actually about limiting the growth of big government at a local level,” said former state senator David Fowler, now president of Family Action Council of Tennessee. “Just because you can’t win at the state or the federal level doesn’t mean you should run to the local governments and create 348 different sets of laws businesses have to figure out to comply with.”

The issue caught momentum this year when Metro Nashville officials began discussing adding special protections for the GLBT community in its ordinances, an issue FACT believes is bad for both business and taxpayers.

Casada, who has two other versions of the bill sitting in committee, said he plans to talk to the subcommittee’s no-voters to find out what they took issue with and what, if anything, he can change in the bill to win their approval, he said.