Press Releases

NFIB Picks Favorite Incumbents to Support In August Primary

Press Release from the National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee Chapter; July 6, 2012: 

NFIB Endorses Candidates in 5 Senate, 20 House Primaries

NASHVILLE, July 6, 2012 – The National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee’s leading small business association, today said it has endorsed candidates in 25 state legislative primary races. The endorsements were made by NFIB/Tennessee SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members. State primaries are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 2, with early voting beginning July 13 and ending July 28. NFIB expects to announce general election endorsements later this summer. The general election will be held Nov. 6.

“NFIB supports candidates who understand how important it is to reduce burdens on small business,” said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB/Tennessee. “These candidates have consistently supported less taxation and have worked diligently to improve our unemployment and workers’ comp systems.”

Endorsements by Senate and House Districts (NFIB members bolded)

Senate District, Name

2, Doug Overbey

14, Jim Tracy

18, Ferrell Haile

28, Joey Hensley

32, Mark Norris

House District Name

2, Tony Shipley

5, David Hawk

6, Dale Ford

8, Art Swann

10, Don Miller

11, Jeremy Faison

12, Richard Montgomery

20, Bob Ramsey

22, Eric Watson

24, Kevin Brooks

27, Richard Floyd

31, Jim Cobb

45, Debra Maggart

48, Joe Carr

61, Charles Sargent

66, Joshua Evans

71, Vance Dennis

90, John DeBerry

96, Steve McManus

99, Ron Lollar

NFIB’s endorsement is critical to these campaigns. Small business owners and their employees vote in high numbers and are known for actively recruiting friends, family members and acquaintances to go to the polls. NFIB has pledged it will activate its grassroots network on behalf of these campaigns. NFIB’s political support is based on the candidates’ positions and records on small business issues.

Featured Health Care News

Nursing Board Revamp Referred Back to Committee

Attempts to gut the nursing board and stitch it back together fell apart in the House Thursday after lawmakers from both sides of the aisle asserted the proposal went too far.

The Board of Nursing will dissolve June 30 without some sort of nod from the Legislature to continue setting standards for the profession. But the board has become notorious for butting heads with the General Assembly.

“In the last two years we’ve been round and round from the abuses of our nurses by that board, period,” said bill sponsor Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, who wants to revamp the panel and says some of those issues “have been worked out” in his bill.

“There’s absolutely no retaliatory premise in this,” he continued.

Shipley and Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, were the focus of a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe for pressuring the Board of Nursing last year to rescind disciplinary action against three area nurses the board had punished for allegedly over-prescribing medication. Ultimately, though, the Davidson County District attorney who requested the TBI investigation ultimately concluded the legislators broke no laws.

The board also went toe-to-toe with Hendersonville Republican Debra Maggart in 2009 and 2010. The fight was over the Legislature wanting to expand authority for administering drugs to nursing-home patients, a rule the board for a time refused to enforce, saying it wasn’t safe for the public. Critics of the board said its members were just trying to protect what they regard as their own turf — that the dispute was more about shielding the economic interests of registered nurses than patient safety.

But House lawmakers in the medical profession said they’re worried SB2313’s requirement that members be chosen geographically from the state’s nine congressional districts is too narrow.

“I think that this bill may have some retaliatory intent, and that does concern me,” said Rep. Joanne Favors, the nursing board’s chief defender and herself an experienced nurse.

Selecting members based on where they live, namely outside urban areas, will mean “problems in the future with selecting people who would be the most representative of what we need in this state,” said the Chattanooga Democrat, contending major nursing schools and hospitals reside in the state’s big cities.

Shipley argues the current board is too “Nashville Basin-centric,” and wants to ensure nurses from rural corners of the state are equally represented on the panel. Members of other professional boards with geographic selection rules usually break up the appointments by the three grand divisions.

The governor currently appoints members to the board with help from recommendations by the profession’s interest groups, such as the Tennessee Nurses Association, which also takes issue with the “geographic distribution being that tightly controlled.”

“If we get hamstrung into doing just the congressional districts, we’ll find qualified people, but… it’s incredibly difficult to find people who have the ability to spend time away from their workplace,” said Sharon Adkins, executive director of the nurses association. She said the association is OK with other terms of the bill, such as shortening the amount of time members can sit on the board.

Pharmacist and state Rep. David Shephard, D-Dickson, and Republican Rep. Joey Hensley, a doctor from Hohenwald, also expressed reservations.

Shephard contends the conflict of interest requirements banning members who have a direct or indirect financial interest in health care services would be too stringent given that nurses naturally benefit from the medical industry. Hensley added he disliked the switch that could weight the board more heavily with advanced practice nurses, a classification of registered nurse.

In a narrow 47-44 vote, lawmakers agreed to send the bill back to the Government Operations Committee, with 14 Republicans siding with the Democrats. The measure cleared the Senate earlier this month on a 20-9 vote, so the ball is entirely in the House’s court.

Business and Economy Liberty and Justice News Transparency and Elections

Shipley, Ford Overstepped Legislative Role, Not Law: Nashville DA

Davidson County’s district attorney general on Monday defended probing two state lawmakers for political wrongdoing, even after an investigation by Tennessee’s most powerful law enforcement agency revealed nothing deemed worthy of criminal prosecution.

Victor S. “Torry” Johnson III told reporters Monday that Reps. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, and Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, were “particularly heavy handed” in convincing the state nursing board to reverse disciplinary action against three nurses, but they broke no laws.

“Where it gets complicated is it’s a free country,” District Attorney General Johnson told reporters in his Nashville office.

“They are legislators, and they can certainly make inquiries, but it seems to me there’s a fine line about where you make inquiries and where maybe you are overstepping what ought to be your proper role as a legislator and really try to force a conclusion and override what really is the process that is in place to protect the public.”

He continued, “When you start introducing legislation, or interfere with legislation that might lead to the reauthorization of the board, or when you file legislation to provide that the legislature somehow would oversee these things, that just seems to me you’re using legislation as sort of a club.”

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched an inquiry on June 22 into the two lawmakers and employees within the state Health Department to determine if they had committed any crimes, including misconduct and false reporting, in pressuring the Nursing Board to revisit their decision to discipline the nurse practitioners.

The three had been accused of over-prescribing medications contributing to the death of patients at the now-defunct Appalachian Medical Center in Johnson City.

Shipley and Ford have each acknowledged filing or supporting legislation to alter the board makeup or its oversight, or moving to shut the board down in an effort to convince the body to reconsider its actions. Both lawmakers have consistently maintained they did nothing wrong.

Ultimately, disciplinary actions against the nurses were reversed, although the TBI has yet to close its investigation into the actions of the three nurses.

Now that the district attorney has concluded there are no criminal charges to file, Shipley says he wants a legislative probe into where the original complaints came from and whether the state could pursue charges against the individuals who issued “fabricated” allegations.

“It had to be exaggerated in order to get the district attorney to act, and it’s just unfortunate that these people have wasted thousands of dollars of the taxpayer’s money by having this investigation,” Shipley told TNReport.

“So we’re going to inquire as to the cost and time spent by TBI and the DAs office and all that. I think as a minimum, the person who orchestrated this ought to reimburse the state for the expenses we incurred,” he added. “In a pre-election year when we’re trying to raise money, raising the concerns about the ethics of legislators, it’s not a healthy thing for us, and I intend for it to not be a healthy thing for the person that did it, if I can figure out who did it.”

Johnson said he has no intention to go after anyone who filed complaints against the two legislators.

“Nothing that I’m saying says it (was) a false complaint,” said Johnson. “In the end, I did not feel that the activities of the legislators — while I’ve obviously been critical of them  — I didn’t think they amounted to a crime. But that doesn’t mean that the initial complaints were false.”

Press Releases

Davidson Co. DA: No Charges Against Reps. Ford, Shipley

Press Release from the Office of Davidson County District Attorney, Jan. 9, 2012:

Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson today announced he has completed a review of the investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation into the actions of two state lawmakers and employees of the Tennessee Department of Health. Johnson says the report shows that while there were questionable actions made by some individuals, there was no evidence that these actions could sustain criminal charges.

On June 22, 2011, General Johnson asked for a full-scale TBI investigation into the actions of State Representatives Tony Shipley and Dale Ford, as well as employees of the Department of Health. The TBI received complaints about possible irregularities in actions taken by Ford and Shipley in collaboration with certain Department of Health employees. This complaint was then brought to the attention of General Johnson. The investigation focused on whether the lawmakers illegally pressured the Board of Nursing to reinstate three nurse practitioners it had previously suspended from practice.

For some time, TBI agents in East Tennessee have been conducting an investigation into deaths of patients of the now-defunct Appalachian Medical Clinic in Johnson City, Tennessee. The Department of Health was made aware of the seriousness of these allegations, and commenced its own investigation into the nurses’ activities. Because of its own findings, on March 11, 2010, the Tennessee Board of Nursing took emergency action against the three nurses, who were accused of over-prescribing medications at the clinic. The report of the nurses’ actions was additionally reviewed independently by a peer panel that also recommended they be disciplined. All three were summarily suspended within the guidelines of the Administrative Procedures Act.

Over the next six months, lawyers representing the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) of the Department of Health and the nurse practitioners engaged in extensive settlement negotiations in an effort to resolve the serious complaints. Eventually all three nurses, along with their lawyers, signed consent orders, which contained numerous factual findings of unprofessional conduct that justified discipline. The three agreed not to contest the summary suspension of their licenses and to pay substantial civil penalties and the costs of the proceedings. In essence, the nurses were placed on a form of strict probation designed to allow them to resume practice in the future, provided they met numerous terms and conditions. Although the nurses and their lawyers had agreed to the discipline established by the Board, Representatives Ford and Shipley sought to overturn those orders and contacted various employees of the Department of Health in that effort. In addition, Representative Ford filed a bill that would have created an additional committee tasked with reviewing certain types of disciplinary actions taken against license holders. And Representative Shipley sought to stall legislation that would extend the life of the Nursing Board.

In an apparent response to legislative pressure, at the Nursing Board meeting on May 5, 2011, one of the OGC attorneys presented new consent orders that would essentially dismiss all previous disciplinary actions against the nurses. The attorney claimed that there were defects in the previous orders, and that there was compelling new evidence that justified setting aside the disciplinary orders. Because of these assertions, the Board voted unanimously to rescind the previous discipline and to reinstate the licenses of all three nurses. However, there is no record of any procedural defects or compelling new evidence.

“The Board of Nursing is responsible for protecting the public from the dangers of unfit, incompetent, or unprofessional nurses,” says Johnson. “In this case, the Board did precisely that, only to be subjected to heavy-handed tactics by two state legislators, aided and abetted by some former employees of the Department of Health. Regrettably, both the Board and the Department of Health caved to perceived political pressure and set aside the previous discipline that all parties had agreed to. This is not how government is supposed to work, but it is not a crime since these lawmakers did not personally benefit from their actions nor did they individually have the actual power to harm the Board, the Department, or its employees. In the end, this is a case of political hardball, but not political corruption.”

“Any time there is an issue of possible public corruption, it warrants our further investigation, as we take these complaints very seriously,” says TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “A number of TBI agents have been actively engaged for some time in interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents as part of this investigation. In addition, we have consulted frequently with representatives of the Davidson County District Attorney’s office, and the State Attorney General’s office.”

Several of the principals at the Department of Health left that office after the two legislators initiated their involvement. Others left at the conclusion of the TBI probe. The initial TBI investigation into the deaths of patients of the clinic was launched in 2005 in the 1st Judicial District. That investigation is still open and under review by District Attorney General Tony Clark. That probe is not affected by the findings of the review of the lawmakers’ actions.

Business and Economy Featured Health Care Liberty and Justice News

TBI ‘Pretty Close’ To Wrapping Up Probe Into Shipley, Ford

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is almost finished with its investigation  into two state representatives accused of misconduct in a case involving three disciplined nurses, according to a spokeswoman for the law enforcement agency.

Once the investigation is completed, it will be turned over to District Attorney Torry Johnson, who earlier this year requested the TBI look into the dealings of Reps. Tony Shipley and Dale Ford and the Department of Health.

“We’re pretty close to finishing up and giving the entire case file to him to review,” TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm told TNReport this week. She said the investigation is open.

Johnson asked the TBI to investigate whether the two East Tennessee lawmakers used political influence to improperly pressure the board into reinstating the licenses of three nurse practitioners.

The nurse practitioners had been accused of over-prescribing medications contributing to the death of patients at the now-defunct Appalachian Medical Center in Johnson City. The investigation into the three nurses is still open, and District Attorney Tony Clark is still reviewing the case, according to the TBI. The nurses have not been charged.

Shipley and Ford, both Republicans, had each acknowledged filing legislation to alter the board makeup or its oversight or move to shut the board down. Ford told the Associated Press that his wife was a clinic patient and his sister worked at the center.

“I perceive this whole effort to be a means to intimidate a legislator, to prevent him from doing his constitutional duty. And guess what, it’s not going to work,” Shipley told TNReport Tuesday at the Capitol.

“Everything that I have proposed, I’m going to continue to do, and those who are shooting at me will have to answer for that at some point,” he said.

Shipley chairs a committee that has significant influence over the state Board of Nursing. That Government Operations subcommittee on education, health and general welfare met Wednesday.

The panel voted to keep the board active for another two years but change rules pertaining to who can serve on the board and how it operates.

Shipley led the charge as he and other lawmakers quizzed board representatives on how it deals with complaints against nurses suspected of wrongdoing, but not charged, much less convicted by a court — like the three nurses whose cases triggered TBI’s investigation.

Lawmakers also asked how far the board goes to make sure it implements laws with the Legislature’s intent at heart, an issue that landed the board in hot water with lawmakers last session.

“I want you to understand that we’re not here to beat you up. That’s not what we’re trying to do at all. We’re trying to understand the process because when we come out of this, we want it to be better,” Shipley said to nurses at the subcommittee meeting.

The Tennessee Nurses Association, which represents 83,000 registered nurses, agreed with the proposed changes to be written into legislation extending the life of the board. The plan came in part from a recent sit-down with Shipley.

“We are very comfortable with this amendment,” Executive Director Sharon Adkins said, who added she is also happy with the work of the Board of Nursing. “We are very pleased with our discussion with Rep. Shipley and the resulting amendment that came forward.”

Expected provisions include:

  • One board member to come from each of the nine congressional districts.
  • At least one member to be a licensed practical nurse.
  • At least one member to be a consumer.
  • At least one member must be at least 60 years old.
  • At least one member must belong to an ethnic minority.
  • No more than three members may come from from academic settings.
  •  In appointing members, the governor shall consider people from various medical backgrounds.
  • Seven members must be physically present for any decision to suspend a nurse.
  • No member may serve more than eight consecutive years.
  • Members will be appointed by the governor from a list of candidates recommended by respective organizations such as the Tennessee Nurses Association.

The legislation, and decision to renew the Board of Nurses, now moves to the full Government Operations committees in the House and Senate, which are expected to take up the issue in the spring 2012 legislative session.

NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Fmr. Speaker Williams Eyes Unicoi Co. in Redistricting

It wasn’t clear if Rep. Kent Williams was spilling the beans on something he knew or whether he was speculating, but he introduced himself at an East Tennessee business roundtable this week by saying he would pick up Unicoi County as part of his district next year.

That would be, of course, if Williams wins re-election.

Gov. Bill Haslam went around the room having members of the General Assembly introduce themselves to business leaders from the region at a roundtable in Kingsport Tuesday.

Lawmakers took turns giving their names and the districts they represent by generally saying which counties their districts include. Heretofore, Williams, from Elizabethton, has represented Carter County, and his page on the official website of the General Assembly lists him as a “Carter County Republican” as opposed to being simply a Republican.

The “CCR” designation dates to when Williams was disowned by the Republican Party for his deal that made him Speaker of the House in the 2009-2010 General Assembly. Williams, a recognized Republican at the time, struck a deal with the Democrats where he won the speakership by getting every Democrat to support him and by voting for himself, upsetting many Republicans.

When it came Williams’ turn to introduce himself on Tuesday, he said, “I used to say Carter County, but with redistricting coming up, I say ‘4th District’ now, because I think the 4th District is probably going to incorporate Unicoi County.

“I would be proud to serve Unicoi County if I get the opportunity.”

Unicoi County is currently in the 5th District, represented by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville.

Williams added that he is a former Speaker of the House, although most of the people in the room clearly would know that.

“I enjoy doing what I’m doing and enjoy working with my colleagues,” Williams said.

Other legislators in the meeting were Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, and Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport.

Republicans are drawing the lines for redistricting, power won by virtue of their strong majority status attained in the 2010 elections. Speculation has been rampant over what the designers of districts would do, both in terms of legislative districts and congressional districts based on the 2010 census.

NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Fitzhugh Reluctant to Talk Specifics on TBI Investigation of Nursing Board Legislation

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh is hesitant to say anything about the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s probe of lawmakers who said they used legislation to encourage the state Board of Nursing to reexamine a decision.

“I think the reason for legislation is…to better the lives of citizens in Tennessee. If the particular reason a bill is filed does not come under that broad category, it probably shouldn’t have been filed in the first place,” said the Ripley Democrat.

Fitzhugh said he otherwise did not want to comment on the investigation except to say that the decision to sunset a board is a serious one.

TBI is investigating the dealings of legislators and Department of Health personnel related to efforts to convince the Tennessee Nursing Board to revisit disciplinary actions against three nurses accused of over-prescribing medication which reportedly led to the death of two patients at the now defunct Appalachian Medical Center.

Reps. Tony Shipley and Dale Ford told local media they introduced legislation to encourage the board to listen to their requests. Both say they’ve done nothing wrong.

NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Harwell: Using Legislation as Influence is ‘Wrong’

Speaker Beth Harwell said she has never used legislation to pressure a department or committee to do what she wants, and that anyone who has would be in the wrong.

The Nashville Republican was responding to questions Wednesday about what she knew about Reps. Tony Shipley and Dale Ford’s involvement in getting the state Nursing Board to reverse its decision to discipline three nurses accused of substandard care contributing to the death of two patients.

“We certainly don’t want in any way (to) appear abusive, and I don’t think that was anyone’s intent, and if it was, they were wrong,” said Harwell.

“I don’t know the particulars of it. I made a point not to know the particulars of it. If they have done something that is wrong or is inappropriate or unethical, they should receive punishment for it, but I don’t know that they have.”

Harwell refused to offer specific comment about the allegations because the issue is under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, although she said she’s not been contacted by the agency.

TBI launched an investigation June 22 into members of the General Assembly and employees within the state Health Department to determine if they had committed any crimes, including misconduct and false reporting, in pressuring the Nursing Board to revisit their decision to discipline the nurses. The complaint sparking the investigation came from District Attorney General Torry Johnson.

“TBI is currently ascertaining the facts surrounding the Board of Nursing reinstating the licenses of three nurse practitioners after two state representatives expressed an interest in the nurses getting their licenses back,” TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in an emailed statement.

The department has been investigating the nurses involved, Bobby Reynolds II, David Stout Jr. and Tina Killebrew. The case began as an over-prescribing case in Johnson City and evolved into a death investigation, according to Helm. She said that case file is now being reviewed by District Attorney General Tony Clark’s office.

Shipley and Ford this year supported legislation to block the Nursing Board’s renewal, create a committee to oversee the board and reduce the number of members on the board in what they say were attempts to get the body to reconsider actions taken against the three nurses, who were accused of over-prescribing medication relating to the deaths of three patients at the now defunct Appalachian Medical Center in Johnson City.

According to the Kingsport Times-News:

In May, Shipley said that as an officer of the Government Operations Committee, he “took the position of blocking the extension of the board,” until they agreed to listen to their argument. He said a yearlong battle ensued before the board finally agreed to take another look at the evidence. During the last three or four months of that period of time, Shipley said he had someone from the Department of Health in his office – from the legislative coordinator “all the way up to a deputy commissioner” – engaged in “sometimes heated discussion” toward that end.

In April, Shipley advocated a House amendment to reduce the number of nursing board members and require having seven board members present before issuing a summary suspension.

Ford elaborated to the newspaper, saying he too has nothing to hide:

“It all stemmed from one thing: I wrote a bill to put in an oversight panel and when they issue a major fine or major penalty of any kind to close your doors, we would look at both sides of the evidence. (The nursing board) said if I would pull that bill they would reconsider the summary suspension on Bob Reynolds, and the state of Tennessee had 38 summary suspensions,” said Ford.

“They reconsidered that and I withdrew my bill. They can come after me all they want. They are welcome to investigate any aspect of my life,” he said. As of Tuesday morning, Ford said he had not heard from the TBI.

Both legislators spoke at length with WCYB News Channel 5 in the Tri-Cities area. Extended video interviews with Shipley can be viewed here, and Ford’s interview is here.

Education Featured News

House Approves Collective Bargaining Limitations

The Tennessee House and Senate have approved competing plans overhauling the state’s collective bargaining laws.

But both chambers’ leaders believe they’ll ultimately end up banning unions from negotiating teachers’ labor contracts once everything is said and done.

“I think the vote today indicated that we can get it passed if it’s reasonably drawn and reasonably written. I think we have the opportunity to pass it here,” House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, told reporters after she presided over a grueling four-hour debate on her chamber’s floor.

On a 59-39 vote, majority Republicans moved to scale back teachers’ collective bargaining powers.

Opponents included all the House Democrats, one independent and five Republicans. They pitched more than two dozen alternatives to weaken or derail the bill, but only a few tinkering with technicalities passed — the rest were either tabled or later withdrawn.

One opponent to SB113/HB13o, Democratic Rep. Mike McDonald of Portland, wheeled out an easel and poster boards to help illustrate what he thinks collective bargaining has accomplished to aide teachers beyond helping them get better contracts. The system has allowed them to pressure school boards into purchasing additional “instructional supplies” and other educational materials for their classrooms, he said.

A band of Republicans railed against the bill, too. The GOP caucus members who voted against SB113/HB130 included Reps. Scotty Campbell of Mountain City, Mike Harrison of Rogersville, Dennis “Coach Roach of Rutledge, Dale Ford of Jonesborough and Bob Ramsey of Maryville.

Independent Kent Williams also voted against the anti-collective bargaining legislation. The former state House speaker from Elizabethton hinted during the floor debate that the bill was no more than “political payback” because the Tennessee Education Association gives dramatically more money in campaign contributions to the Democratic Party than they do the GOP.

Republicans maintained that their efforts were solely about improving education in Tennessee, and that ultimately everyone — teachers, students and taxpayers — would benefit from loosening the union’s grip on policy and personnel discussions.

GOP lawmakers said they believe the TEA has become a force of obstructionism in education reform discussions over the years, and that the process of collective bargaining between a school board and a single employee organization to the exclusion of all others thwarts input and exchange of new ideas.

“We have allowed a professional organization to hijack education in our state for their own agenda,” said Rep. Mark White, a Memphis Republican.

Far from being an “attack on teachers,” as opponents of the legislation have painted GOP efforts for months this session, SB113/HB130 represents “the most empowering legislation I’ve seen in a long time for teachers,”said Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol.

Eliminating collective bargaining and allowing school boards to consider other viewpoints and voices when drafting new contracts for education professionals “will help (teachers) succeed,” said Lundberg.

Under the House proposal, teachers unions would no longer be able to negotiate salaries, merit pay, use of grant funding, teacher evaluations, personnel decisions along with policies relating to special education programs like virtual school districts.

Unions would, however, still be able to hammer out issues like benefits and staffing decisions.

Powerful Senate Republicans though have said all along they will accept nothing less than a complete repeal of the 1978 Education Professionals Negotiations Act, which mandates that school districts negotiate with a recognized teachers union.

Not only would the Senate prefer no mandate to collective bargaining, but they’d rather teachers and unions “collaborate” with school districts on issues they want to debate on — but ultimately leave those policy decisions entirely up to the school board.

The rest, they say, they’re happy to compromise on.

So what happens now?

The two chambers will likely play a short game of legislative ping-pong where the Senate rejects the House version of the collective bargaining overhaul then the House turns down the Senate version.

Then speakers from both chambers will name three lawmakers to represent the chamber in a conference committee, essentially a compromise group meant to hash out the differences between the two bills.

Harwell said she’d consider naming Education Chairman Richard Montgomery of Sevierville, bill sponsor Debra Maggart of Mt. Juliet and Rep. Harry Brooks of Knoxville to the committee. Although she will make the committee assignments later in the week, it’s unclear whether she’ll swap any of those members for a Democrat as conference committees traditionally included a member of the minority party.