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Slight Reshuffling Among House Republican Leadership

House Speaker Beth Harwell on Monday won unanimous backing to be the GOP’s nominee for Speaker for a second term. But the party tossed Speaker Pro Tem Judd Matheny from his post in a Republican caucus meeting, replacing him with Rep. Curtis Johnson.

“As far as our caucus is concerned, one of my big roles is to bring our caucus together,” said Johnson, of Clarksville. “We’re going to have differences, we’re going to have constructive criticism … but I think we need to all work together to move our caucus forward.”

Matheny, R-Tullahoma, a Tea Party favorite, was at times critical of other House Republican leaders, and had for a time considered challenging Harwell for speaker.

GOP lawmakers also chose Glen Casada of Franklin to serve as the caucus chairman, a position he held previously before running against Harwell for the speaker’s post in 2010. Casada will take over for Hendersonville Rep. Debra Maggart, who was defeated in the August primary by Courtney Rogers.

“In the 107th General Assembly, we did a lot to change how the Capitol operates internally and created a better environment for job creation throughout the state. Now, it’s time to take the next step,” Casada said in a statement. “Over the next two years, I look forward to leading a solutions-based Caucus that answers the needs of our citizens, creates more opportunity for economic growth, and enhances the educational landscape for our children.”

The caucus also dumped Rep. Curry Todd, of Collierville, from his seat on the powerful Fiscal Review Committee.

Todd, sponsor of Tennessee’s guns-in-bars law, resigned as chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee last year after he was jailed and charged with drunken driving and possession of a handgun while under the influence. He pleaded not guilty, and a trial is set for Nov. 30.

A list of those winning GOP leadership offices can be found by clicking here.

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@tnreport.com, on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

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Press Releases

Geise Named Exec. Dir. of Fiscal Review Committee

Press Release from the Senate Republican Caucus, Oct. 18, 2011:

(October 19, 2011, NASHVILLE) – State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) today announced that Lucian D. Geise has been appointed Executive Director for the Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee effective November 1. Geise, who was unanimously confirmed by the committee today, is currently a Senior Legislative Attorney in the Legislature’s Office of Legal Services.

“As lead counsel for the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Geise brings a wealth of knowledge about the budgeting process to this position,” said Senator Ketron, who is Chairman of the Committee. “I am very confident in his ability to provide accurate information regarding the financial impact of legislation to our state budget, as well as providing wise counsel regarding the other financial matters that come before our Committee.”

Geise graduated cum laude from the University of Memphis and received his Juris Doctor from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Before coming to the legislature, he served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office.

The Fiscal Review Committee is composed of six senators and nine members of the House of Representatives. The speaker of each house and the chairman of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee of each house serve as ex officio members.

“The Director of Fiscal Review also provides key information regarding our state’s contracts,” added Representative Johnson, who is Vice-Chairman of the Committee. “It is critical that we have a director who has the experience and qualifications to carry out these duties. Mr. Geise fulfills all of these qualifications.”

The Fiscal Review Committee was created by statute in 1967 as a special continuing committee of the General Assembly. The Committee is responsible for preparing fiscal notes for all general bills or resolutions which are introduced in the General Assembly that have a fiscal effect on state or local government. In addition, the Committee conducts a continuing review of the fiscal operations of state departments and agencies.

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Press Releases

White Leaves Fiscal Review Committee

Press Release from Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville:

 

Thurman appointed Interim Director of Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee

(NASHVILLE, September 21, 2011) – Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) today announced that Legislative Budget Director David Thurman will serve as interim director of the Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee until assuming his new position with the Department of Finance and Administration. Thurman will succeed Director Jim White who resigned yesterday to join the law firm of Jones, Hawkins and Farmer in Nashville.

“I’d like to thank Jim White for his years of service to the legislature and express my sincere appreciation to David Thurman for agreeing to help us usher in a new era at Fiscal Review,” said Sen. Ketron.

“We’ve consulted both Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell regarding the interim appointment,” said Rep. Johnson. “They are confident in Mr. Thurman’s ability to fill this role and look forward to the appointment of a new permanent director.”

The Fiscal Review Committee is composed of six senators and nine members of the House of Representatives. The speaker of each house and the chairman of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee of each house serve as ex officio members. Committee members will begin the search for a new director immediately.

The Fiscal Review Committee was created by statute in 1967 as a special continuing committee of the General Assembly. The function of the Committee is to conduct a continuing review the fiscal operations of state departments and agencies. The Committee is also responsible for preparing fiscal notes for all general bills or resolutions which are introduced in the General Assembly that have a fiscal effect on state or local government.

Thurman will also continue to serve as Director of the Office of Legislative Budget Analysis.

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Press Releases

McCormick’s Next Task Force to Tackle Economic Development

Press Release from Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga; July 14, 2011:

Representative Jimmy Matlock Named Chairman; Group Will Explore Ways to Reduce Government, Allow Private Sector to Expand

(July 14, 2011, NASHVILLE) – With the 2011 Southern Legislative Conference coming up this weekend in Memphis, giving Tennessee legislators the opportunity to learn about the best practices from other States and share our own, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R—Chattanooga) announced the formation of what is expected to be the final task force of the House Majority.

The Republican Caucus Small Business and Economic Development Task Force will consist of ten Members of the House Majority. In a letter announcing the appointments to the task force, Leader McCormick outlined specific duties for the working group. They include:

  • Identifying regulations that are impeding job growth in Tennessee’s private sector and developing measures to remove those hurdles;
  • Ascertain the best practices of other States when it comes to paving the way for job creation by small businesses and companies;
  • Develop strategies and potential policy initiatives to make Tennessee’s environment better for business expansion and recruitment.

Representative Jimmy Matlock (R—Lenoir City) was given the responsibility of chairing the task force. The other Members include: Representative Charles Sargent (R—Franklin), Representative Curtis Johnson (R—Clarksville), Representative Steve McManus (R—Cordova), Representative Jon Lundberg (R—Bristol), Representative Pat Marsh (R—Shelbyville), Representative Sheila Butt (R—Columbia), Representative David Alexander (R—Winchester), Representative Bill Sanderson (R—Kenton), Representative Ryan Williams (R—Cookeville), and Representative Tim Wirgau (R—Buchanan). The group intends to meet when other scheduled legislative committees meet such as the Fiscal Review Committee or summer study meetings.

“With unpredictable policies that affect businesses coming out of Washington, I believe it is our responsibility to create good policies that will have a positive effect on job development for Tennesseans,” said Majority Leader McCormick. “This task force will conduct a thorough review of our Code and find places where we can eliminate burdensome government regulations that are hurting Tennessee businesses. While Democrats are the Party of income taxes and ineffective government solutions to our challenges, I believe the proper path to sustainable, long-term economic growth is by unleashing the power of entrepreneurs and our business community.”

Rep. Matlock agreed and added, “We had a successful 2011 that included a number of pro-growth reforms for Tennesseans. However, there is much work to be done. This task force will be responsible for presenting a package of recommendations to the full Majority that will form the basis of our next economic development package. I appreciate the opportunity to lead this group and look forward to getting to work.”

“Since Governor Haslam and our Republican Majority were elected last fall, we have been consistent in our efforts to reform the way government operates and to create a consistent environment for Tennessee businesses. This task force is the next logical step in that cause and I look forward to hearing how we can help Tennessee’s job creators,” said Rep. Johnson.

“Small business is the backbone of the American economy and our economy here at home,” said Rep. Wirgau. “Job development is the number one issue on the minds of Tennesseans and, as a business owner myself, I look forward to identifying ways we can get government out of the way so our job market can start growing once more.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R—Nashville) concluded, “This is a smart undertaking for our Majority. 2011 saw us institute a number of critical reforms that will help businesses grow. We reformed education for our children, implemented tort reforms for the business environment, and we reduced the size of government. Next session, I believe we can drill down and identify some specific policies that will have a positive impact on Tennessee’s job market. I look forward to hearing the results of this task force’s work.”

Leader McCormick announced the appointments in a letter to all Members of the House Republican Majority. The full text of the letter is below:

July 14, 2011

Fellow Caucus Members:

I sent a letter to each of you yesterday announcing the appointment of a Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force. This task force, along with the Energy Task Force that was formed earlier this year, will provide a vital service to our Caucus and to our State by conducting significant research on complex issues.

The main goal of the House Republican Caucus is to implement good public policy that will benefit all of Tennessee’s citizens. Without a doubt, the greatest issue for Tennesseans is the lagging economy that our nation is currently experiencing. Since our Majority was formed, our number one concern has been economic development for Tennessee. This includes job development, business expansion, and private sector growth. Though we had a successful 2011 legislative session, we can do more. That is why I am excited to announce the formation of a final task force that will concentrate squarely on that issue.

I have asked ten of our members to form the Republican Caucus Small Business and Economic Development Task Force. This group will develop strategies and potential policy initiatives to make Tennessee’s environment better for business expansion and recruitment, as well as identify regulations that impede job growth in Tennessee’s private sector and develop measures to remove those hurdles. Another key task of this group will be to ascertain the best practices of other States when it comes to paving the way for job creation by small businesses and companies. Providing a great business climate is a process of constant improvement, and I look forward to hearing the task force’s report to the Caucus at the conclusion of their research.

The Republican Caucus Small Business and Economic Development Task Force will consist of the following members:

Rep. Jimmy Matlock, Chairman

Rep. Charles Sargent

Rep. Curtis Johnson

Rep. Pat Marsh

Rep. Tim Wirgau

Rep. Steve McManus

Rep. Jon Lundberg

Rep. David Alexander

Rep. Sheila Butt

Rep. Ryan Williams

Rep. Bill Sanderson

 

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Press Releases

AG Opines On Former Clarksville Mayor’s Hiring as CDE Lightband Superintendent

Press Release from Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams; March 25, 2011:

AG ISSUES SUPPLEMENTAL OPINION ON PIPER HIRING

NASHVILLE – State Senator Tim Barnes and fellow members of the Montgomery

County Delegation received a supplemental opinion from Attorney General Robert Cooper on Friday regarding former Clarksville mayor Johnny Piper’s hiring as superintendent of CDE Lightband.

The opinion states that the power board may not be legally composed if it was formed under a 1935 state law creating municipal power boards, but it also states that the AG’s office does not have sufficient information to determine if that is the case.

At the time of Piper’s hiring, the CDE Lightband board was composed of seven members – all Piper appointees – who were to serve three-year terms, as laid out in the Clarksville charter. The state law provides for a different composition than the requirements in the Clarksville charter.

The opinion also addressed a request regarding how to bring the board into compliance, should it be found to be improperly composed. The opinion states that neither the 1935 state law nor the charter provides such a remedy.

Cooper earlier opined that the 1935 state law supersedes a Clarksville city law prohibiting elected officials from interviewing for a local department head position for one year after leaving office. Piper accepted the $140,000 superintendent job days before his mayoral term expired on Dec. 31, 2010.

Barnes, State Representatives Curtis Johnson, Joe Pitts, and Phillip Johnson

requested the supplemental AG opinion on behalf of current Clarksville mayor Kim McMillan.


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Press Releases

Montgomery Co. Lawmakers Ask AG for Opinion on Johnny Piper Hire

Press Release from Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams, Jan 13, 2011:

Former Clarksville mayor takes $140,000 job as utility superintendent

NASHVILLE – State lawmakers representing Montgomery County have requested an opinion from Attorney General Bob Cooper concerning former Clarksville mayor Johnny Piper’s hiring as superintendent of CDE Lightband, a $140,000 job that he accepted while still mayor of the city.

“Clearly there are questions here that need answers: legal questions, governing questions, and most important, ethical questions,” State Senator Tim Barnes said. “When an elected official agrees to take a six-figure government job while still in office, there should be all kinds of questions.”

Barnes, State Representatives Joe Pitts, Curtis Johnson and Phillip Johnson issued the request Thursday on behalf of current Clarksville mayor Kim McMillan. The request asks the AG whether the city can impose the same ethics regulations on CDE that it imposes on other city departments.

“We have a responsibility to seek some clarity of these recent events in response to the hundreds of citizens who have contacted us expressing outrage regarding this matter,” Pitts said.

Piper accepted the $140,000 superintendent job days before his mayoral term expired on Dec. 31, 2010. Clarksville ethics laws state that elected officials cannot interview for a department head in local government for one year after leaving office, and cannot interview for any government position for three months after their term expires.

CDE lawyers have argued that the city laws do not apply to the utility because it was created under a 1935 state law that does not contain the same regulations. Barnes and other lawmakers point out that the state law allows for local governments to create additional ethical safeguards like the ones in the Clarksville city code. Without them, mayors could appoint people who could later turn around and hire them as soon as their term expired.

“Our ethics regulations were created for scenarios like the one we’re facing now,” said Curtis Johnson, appointed Thursday as the House Ethics Committee Chairman. “The minute we create exceptions, we open the floodgates for abuse.”