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Senate GOP Leader: Obama’s ‘Failed Economic Policies’ Holding Back TN Job-Growth

Press Release from the Tennessee Senate GOP Caucus, Sept. 7, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, TN), September 7, 2011 – Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) said today that if Senate and House Democrats in Tennessee really want to positively impact the economy, instead of the jobs tour announced today, they should head north to the White House to talk to the President about his failed economic policies. Norris, who called the Democrat announcement the “Obama Apology Tour,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has done well over the past nine months in the face of the national unemployment and debt crisis.

“They are going to find what we — who talk with our constituents every day –already know; that the failed policies from Washington are destroying our U.S. economy and killing jobs,” said Leader Norris. “In order to get our economy back on track and grow jobs, we must have new leadership in the White House.”

Tennessee’s unemployment rate peaked under Governor Phil Bredesen’s administration in June 2009 at 10.8 percent. In August, the unemployment rate was 9.8 percent.

The announcement also came on the heels of last week’s announcement that a Michigan-based automotive supplier is planning a $23 million manufacturing facility to produce injection molded plastics for a wide variety of automotive manufacturers beginning in early 2012, creating 400 jobs in Perry County over a five-year period. Other August jobs announcements in Tennessee include:

  • An announcement by Quaprotek USA to locate a manufacturing facility for the production of metal parts for vehicles, engines and power trains in Ripley, Tenn. The German-based company will invest $22 million to fit out a 63,000 square foot existing building on Highland Street in Ripley, creating 126 jobs over a five year period to supply leading manufacturers within the automotive industry.
  • Sekisui Plastics decision to locate a second manufacturing facility in Mt. Pleasant with a $3 million investment and creating 25 new jobs over a four year period.
  • Expansion of the ABC Group Fuel Systems in Gallatin, representing a $5 million investment by the company and creating 114 new jobs.
  • The decision by C&F Group to locate a manufacturing facility in Kingsport, Tenn. The Ireland-based company will invest $12.5 million and create 450 new jobs over a four year period.
  • An announcement by Kruger to expand its existing Memphis mill with a $316 million investment and the creation of 100 direct jobs in Memphis, as well as protecting 2,400 existing jobs in the company’s facilities in both the U.S. and Canada.
  • Meritor, Inc.’s decision to expand its precision forging manufacturing operations in Morristown, with an investment of $26.6 million in new production equipment to serve the needs of the North American commercial truck market and creating 29 new positions.

“We had some very significant jobs announcements across the state during the past 30 days,” added Norris. “The Democrat tour, much like the Obama bus tour, is more about politics than job growth.”

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Democrats Caution Against More Cuts to State ‘Job Recruitment’ Efforts

Press Release from the House Democratic Caucus, June 14, 2011:

Bredesen Administration, House Leadership Boosts Tennessee to Sixth in Nation

(Nashville) – Tennessee jumped to sixth in the nation in economic growth last year and House Democrats are calling on the new Republican majority to keep in place the current job recruitment and economic development structure.

Tennessee accomplished stellar economic improvement last year moving up to sixth out of the 50 states in gross state product, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“This is something that we’ve worked on for years through fiscally conservative budgeting and steady global and national job recruitment,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory). “When we bring jobs to this state, naturally, working families are going to contribute to a more vibrant economy.”

The Republican Majority has laid off 60 employees in the state Economic and Community Development department, while deciding that the state’s focus should be diverted from global and national company recruitment. The department was instrumental in recruiting thousands of jobs through global and national company recruitment, including the likes of Volkswagen, Nissan, Dow Hemlock, Wacker Chemie and SAIC.

“This new announcement by the Bureau of Economic Analysis is very revealing and it shows that what we’ve been doing over the last decade or so is working,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley). “To change this positive budget and job recruitment philosophy is the wrong thing to do right now; we need more jobs and we need them now.”

House Democrats, which ran the Finance Committee and carried Gov. Phil Bredesen’s jobs packages over the last eight years, were very successful in bringing jobs back to Tennessee.

Last year, Site Selection magazine ranked Tennessee the second best state for business climate, corporate investment and job creation. Southern Business and Development magazine ranked Tennessee co-state of the year for economic development and Chief Executive Officer magazine said Tennessee was the third best place to do business.

“The economic development path paved by the Bredesen administration is working. At the risk of our state losing jobs, now is not the time to stray from a path proven to produce results,” said Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington).

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Senate Dems Weekly Update, Week of April 24-29

Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, April 29

Storm Damage Relief

This week’s storms and tornadoes have left 34 people dead in Tennessee, over 100 homes damaged or destroyed, and thousands more without power, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Reports of injuries and damages are still coming in, and residents who need assistance are encouraged to contact TEMA by dialing 2-1-1. This line is also available for those would like to volunteer goods, service, or money to aid the relief effort. TEMA strongly suggests that everyone use extreme caution in flooded areas, especially when driving.

Regressive Education Measures

Senate Bill 113, the bill that would abolish the ability of teachers to bargain collectively with school boards, was once again delayed on the Senate floor because of a new amendment that makes significant changes to the bill. As amended, SB113 would require all local school boards to create a personnel policy manual in which teachers, community members and others can submit input for changes. However, it does not guarantee changes will be included. As amended, the bill still repeals the Education Professional Negotiations Act that guarantees teachers collective bargaining rights.

Preserving Military Medals

Senate Bill 572, a bill sponsored by Senator Andy Berke that would preserve unclaimed military medals, passed 7-0 through a Senate committee Tuesday. This bill would require the state treasurer to hold any abandoned military medal until the owner or the proper beneficiaries could be identified for the return of the medal.

“Veterans’ medals are timeless treasures that should never be sold or auctioned,” Berke said. “This bill would ensure that they are given the respect they deserve and are returned to their rightful owners.”

The Senate State and Local Government Committee passed the bill, which will now go to the Senate floor. The House version of the bill awaits a hearing in the Calendar and Rules Committee.

Democratic Response to ECD Shakeup

On Thursday, Chairman Lowe Finney and Democratic House Leader Craig Fitzhugh responded to Governor Bill Haslam’s announcement concerning the restructuring of the Department of Economic and Community Development that will shift focus away from attracting jobs from outside of Tennessee in favor of growing jobs with in-state companies. They highlighted the fact that Governor Phil Bredesen’s efforts brought over 200,000 jobs and $34 billion in economic development to Tennessee, and that to shift the focus of the department now sends the wrong message. The full Commercial Appeal op-ed can be found online here.

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Bredesen, Kisber Laud Latest Solar-Cluster Investment

State of Tennessee Press Release, Dec. 10, 2010:

Company to Invest $160 Million in New Technology at Bradley County, TN Plant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen today joined with Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber in congratulating the board of directors and senior management of Missouri-based Olin Corporation for the company’s decision to invest $160 million in new technology at Olin’s Charleston, Tennessee plant. Olin will expand the production of potassium hydroxide at the facility, preserving 350 jobs while ending the plant’s use of mercury cell technology in 2012.

“I’m grateful for the confidence Olin has shown in its Tennessee workforce and in the business climate of Tennessee,” said Governor Bredesen. “This is a great example of the state partnering with an existing business to develop the conditions for expansion and additional capital investment.”

Olin’s Tennessee facility is adjacent to the planned site of Wacker Chemie’s $1 billion polysilicon production facility and Olin will be a supplier of chlorine to Wacker as well as other major customers throughout the region.

“We’ve predicted that ‘anchor’ projects like Wacker would have a positive impact on existing Tennessee companies,” said Commissioner Kisber. “Olin’s announcement is proof positive that focusing economic development efforts up and down the supply chain can both create and retain jobs.”

“As a result of today’s announcements, we will be eliminating our use of mercury cell technology in 2012,” said Joseph D. Rupp, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Olin Corporation. “The new Charleston plant will employ the most modern membrane technology, have lower operating costs, and will produce higher quality products. Over the past eighteen months we have experienced a steady increase in the number of our customers unwilling to accept our products manufactured using mercury cell technology. The conversion of the Charleston facility, which in addition to chlorine and caustic soda also produces potassium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, and bleach, will prevent the potential loss of these valuable customers.”

“We are expanding our KOH capacity at Charleston with the potential to add even more production in the near future,” said Frank Chirumbole, President, Olin Chlor Alkali Products. “This is good news for our customers and the Charleston community. The Charleston plant is ideally suited to continue meeting the needs of our customers.”

Olin’s investment in the Charleston plant also is expected to generate hundreds of construction and related jobs. Construction will likely begin in the second quarter of 2011 and be completed by the end of 2012.

About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to create higher skilled, better paying jobs for all Tennesseans. The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. To find out more, go to www.tn.gov/ecd or www.investtennessee.org.

About Olin

Olin Corporation is a manufacturer concentrated in two business segments: Chlor Alkali Products and Winchester. Chlor Alkali Products manufactures chlorine and caustic soda, sodium hydrosulfite, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen, potassium hydroxide and bleach products. Winchester products include sporting ammunition, reloading components, small caliber military ammunition and components, and industrial cartridges. For more information, please go to www.olin.com.

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Bredesen: ‘Raise the Bar for Student Achievement’

“Open Letter to Tennesseans” from Gov. Phil Bredesen, Sept. 22, 2010:

Tennessee is raising the bar for student achievement with higher academic standards in the classroom. These new higher standards will help us make sure students are ready for college or career when they graduate high school. That means not only mastering the basics like reading and math, but also developing skills that colleges and employers value – like communications, problem solving and teamwork.

But higher standards also mean harder tests, and may result in lower test scores and grades for students in the near term. This is where our education reform efforts get hard and where students, parents, educators and communities need our full support to press forward.

In 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing America’s top employers, gave Tennessee a failing grade for a lack of high standards in the classroom. We were giving graduates diplomas that implied they were ready for employment or college when many of them weren’t adequately prepared.

Rather than shy away from this report or contest its findings, we responded with a full-court press to raise the bar so a high school diploma means what it should: that graduates are ready for the job or college they’ll enter and their options aren’t limited because they weren’t provided the tools they need to succeed.

This effort is called the Tennessee Diploma Project. As part of this effort, Tennessee is one of 35 states working together with Achieve, an independent, bipartisan, non-profit organization that I co-chair that helps states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments and strengthen accountability. Achieve and its national American Diploma Project network are dedicated to not just graduating students, but to ensuring they graduate college- and career-ready.

Early in our process we involved business and community leaders, educators, lawmakers and other stakeholders from across the state to build support for increasing the rigor of standards, graduation requirements, and developing tests that more accurately measure how well prepared students are for life after high school.

Last school year, Tennessee students in grades three through eight completed their first round of learning and testing under the state’s new and higher standards. Parents will begin to see the results of setting the bar higher when they begin to receive Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) scores based on this new proficiency levels this fall.

Again, this is where our reform efforts get hard, but we must not get discouraged. It’s important that students, parents, teachers and community members understand we must expect more to achieve more. Test scores sometimes dip when schools put in place higher standards. That doesn’t mean your child is going backward in knowledge. Reassure your child they’re capable of doing the hard work that’s needed to succeed.

In July, former U.S. Senator Bill Frist and I launched a campaign called “Expect More, Achieve More” to help prepare parents and communities about what to expect when student test results begin arriving in mailboxes across the state this fall. A project of the First to the Top Coalition, the Expect More, Achieve More coalition is a statewide alliance of more than 30 business, community and education groups committed to reform. Together, we’re working hard to arm parents with the knowledge they need to understand the results and then to engage their child and seek assistance in increasing their academic performance. You can learn more about this effort at www.ExpectMoreTN.org.

TCAP scores will be sent home in mid-to-late September and early October, notifying parents of their child’s knowledge in reading, language arts, math, science and social studies based on these higher standards. If your child is rated “Basic” or “Below Basic” in any subject, or if you find your child’s test scores or grades appear to be slipping, consider these steps:

• Don’t get discouraged. Remember all our students need the knowledge and skills that will equip them for the future, and we have to focus now to make sure Tennessee students are ready to succeed.

• Ask for help. Call your child’s teacher or school and work together with them to put together a plan for helping your child succeed. Parental involvement is critical to helping a child achieve more. Your child needs your encouragement and support.

• Know the facts. Understand why higher standards are important to your child’s future. Life is no longer about competing with just the people in the same hometown. Today, Tennessee students are competing with their peers across the globe. Thirty-five years ago, just 28 percent of U.S. jobs required training or education after high school. Today, 90 percent of jobs require some sort of training beyond high school.

A dip in test results in the near term may cause some people to question the merits of our efforts to raise the bar, but Tennessee is on the right path and the alternative – telling students that aren’t prepared for the demands of the real world that they are – is not a viable option for a state like Tennessee that is committed to the success of its citizens.

If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other, please email me at phil.bredesen@tn.gov.

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Bredesen Joins Infant Mortality ‘Stay the Course’ Summit

Press Release from the Office of Gov. Phil Bredesen, Sept. 13, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today joined Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Dr. Michael Warren, medical director for the Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination, for the Infant Mortality Stay the Course Summit 2010 in Memphis. The event highlighted continued efforts to improve infant mortality rates in Tennessee.

“The improvements that have been made as a result of the work of the Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination and partnering organizations are a tremendous achievement. We’re here today not only to celebrate that progress but to reaffirm our commitment to this issue,” said Bredesen “While we’ve seen the number of infant deaths decline, we must continue to do everything we can to improve health outcomes for this vulnerable population.”

During today’s summit, Bredesen announced a three-year $1.6 million grant from the Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination that will provide continued funding for the Centering Pregnancy and Community Voice programs in Shelby County. These programs are designed to improve birth outcomes and reduce infant mortality rates.

“Infant mortality impacts us all whether we are health providers, community agency workers, government officials, family members, business people, or educators,” said Warren. “It is up to all of us to continue to work together towards a future where more Tennessee babies reach their first birthday. We can do it, and I know this community will continue to lead the way in those efforts.”

The summit highlighted work that has been done to combat infant mortality in Tennessee, progress that has been made and continued efforts for the future. The work and accomplishments of original infant mortality summit pioneers and individuals involved in grassroots efforts were recognized and the program included personal stories of program partners and participants.

Infant mortality is defined as the death of a child before his or her first birthday. Although the rate of infant deaths is declining in Tennessee, statistics show the need for continued efforts to improve birth outcomes. In 2010, Tennessee was ranked 44th in the nation for its infant mortality rate, which represents an improvement from a rank of 47th in 2009.

Following the first infant mortality summit held in April of 2006, Bredesen launched a statewide initiative to combat Tennessee’s crisis of infant mortality. To date, $8.7 million has been spent to improve women’s health and reduce infant mortality in Tennessee, spanning programs in health education, home visiting and clinical care for mothers and babies.

The Office of Children’s Care Coordination provides funding and works with local community programs to help determine the solutions best suited to address the issues unique to individual communities. Many of these programs across the state will be holding special events during Infant Mortality Awareness Month to highlight the infant mortality reduction initiatives in their communities. A schedule of other Infant Mortality Awareness Month activities is online at: http://news.tennesseeanytime.org/node/5862.

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Clinton Implores TN Democrats to Reshape Election Debates

About 1,500 or so Democratic Party die-hards waited for nearly two hours under threat of downpour in downtown Nashville Thursday night to hear former President Bill Clinton suggest ways they may dodge the storm clouds gathering on the electoral horizon.

In order to do that, Clinton said, party enthusiasts are going to have to focus a lot of energy battling the “anger, apathy and amnesia” gripping the country right now.

Clinton was in town to give a boost to the profile and political fortunes of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter in his uphill battle against Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, the Republican primary winner.

However, Clinton’s themes were no doubt similar to what he’s been pitching wherever he’s taken stage lately — most recently this week in Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama.

“I am concerned about this election only because of the relentless opposition and complaints and criticism of the other party and their minions in media,” said the one-time Democratic commander-in-chief. They have “created the feeling that somehow everything is not right and it is the fault of the Democrats.”

Clinton said he “gets the anger” pulsing through the electorate and focused on the party that controls the United States government right now. However, decisions made in anger are usually wrong — and if voters act on that anger at the polls, they’ll regret it, he said.

But the responsibility for breaking out of the apathy and combating the political amnesia rests with Democratic activists, he added.

“I believe that Mike McWherter will win this race if you, between now and election day, can convince most Tennesseans to change the subject from anger, apathy and amnesia, to the following: What are we going to do now, and who is most likely to do it?” said Clinton. “If those are the questions, Mike wins. If it is about anger, apathy and amnesia, we’re all toast. And we’ll all pay the price.”

Republicans are the ones primarily responsible for the country’s economic woes and the government’s bleak fiscal picture, charged Clinton.

“They only care about (balancing) the budget when (Democrats) are in, and then they want to get rid of education and privatize Social Security and Medicare…and give people in my income group another tax cut,” he said.

The GOP is “a very ideological party,” and “they are impervious to evidence,” Clinton said.

Clinton praised the stimulus package and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which he credited with “saving the financial system and keeping interest rates near zero.” Together, those government interventions into the economy prevented 8.5 million more people from being unemployed, he asserted.

However, Clinton made little mention of President Obama directly, and was more or less mum on the subject of the health reform package, the wisdom and workability of which McWherter and outgoing Gov. Phil Bredesen, also on hand for the event, have themselves questioned.

Indeed, Clinton at one point made something of a joke at Obama’s expense. “I feel an enormous debt of gratitude to (Mike McWherter) and his father and his family for the support I received — and the support my candidate received in 2008,” Clinton said. He added, to audience laughter and applause, “I still think she’s doing pretty well as secretary of state, by the way.”

Clinton said the most important duty a governor shoulders is bringing jobs to a state. That’s something the two-term president said McWherter has a much better understanding of than Haslam.

“If you look at every analysis (and) all the job growth for the next 10 years, the most potential is in three areas: small business, manufacturing … and clean energy,” said Clinton. McWherter “is the only candidate that’s actually got a plan to increase assistance to help small business expand and to make America more energy independent through the use of Tennessee-grown biofuels, and those are two of the three areas where we are going to get our job growth. Nobody else is talking about that.”

Andrea Zelinski shot video and contributed reporting to this story.

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Tennessee Universities Awarded $20 Million National Science Foundation Grant

Press Release from the Office of Gov. Phil Bredesen, Sept. 9, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today joined a consortium of public and private universities in the state to announce a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to boost the state’s energy-related research and education efforts. The grant is one of the largest ever awarded in Tennessee by the NSF.

A coalition of scientists, faculty and students from 11 public and private universities in Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will be grouped together into “network nodes” for conducting research, mentorship and outreach.

“The research funded by this grant will further advance our leadership in the area of clean energy technology development and enhance our efforts to expand educational opportunities in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math,” Bredesen said. “I’m especially pleased that public and private higher education and research institutions partnered with one another to collaborate and win this grant funding.”

The grant of $20 million over five years was awarded through the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Research Infrastructure Improvement Program. While eligible since 2002, Tennessee has not previously won an EPSCoR Research Infrastructure grant.

The funded project will draw upon the state’s expanding energy industry and bring researchers from Tennessee universities and ORNL together to boost energy-related research and education across the state. The award is designed to encourage students to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, helping the state produce a more advanced workforce.

“Tennessee will be hard-pressed to advance among states or even hold its own without strengthening its science, engineering and technology base. This sector will create jobs to meet challenges in energy, the environment, healthcare and more,” said Dennis Hall, vice provost for research at Vanderbilt University. “The grant will enable Tennessee’s higher education institutions to work together for the long-term greater good of the state.”

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Transparency and Elections

Good Political Relations Start with a Good Breakfast

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, remembers Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen telling the story of how at a National Governors Association meeting someone said governors should have a meal with state legislators once every week or two.

“And Governor Bredesen said, ‘We’ve been doing that for decades,'” Ramsey said.

So it was interesting when reports surfaced Wednesday that Bredesen expressed his frustration at a breakfast with the Legislature’s leadership Wednesday morning about getting a budget deal done and reports of a potential compromise followed later the same day.

It’s not known exactly what was said in the breakfast or precisely how influential the governor was, but personal relationships among the governor and members of the General Assembly could certainly come into play on a potential budget deal.

Every Wednesday, Bredesen has a 7 a.m. breakfast with the speakers of the House and Senate, the two speakers pro tempore, majority leaders, minority leaders, caucus chairs and the two finance committee chairs from each house. The idea of the weekly breakfast is for those in the room to get to know each other on a personal basis, with the goal of making it easier to work together when serious business arises.

The major candidates in the current gubernatorial campaign were all asked — since it is bound to have crossed their minds — how well they thought their relationships might be with legislators if they get elected. Mike McWherter, son of former Gov. Ned McWherter and the likely Democratic nominee, talked about it Wednesday. The question was posed a few days ago to the three major Republican candidates.

The value of personal relationships came up every time.

Ramsey was asked about the atmosphere in general at the breakfasts.

“Very little policy goes on in those breakfasts,” Ramsey said. “You’re much less likely to be uncivil to a colleague knowing you’re going to have breakfast with him on Wednesday morning.

“I do think it’s the reason we get along better. Governor Bredesen and I have gotten along very well. If we disagree, we disagree agreeably. We don’t throw stones. We don’t get carried away in the rhetoric. We know we’re going to see each other.”

Ramsey said the leadership breakfasts are a tradition that goes back as far as governors Ned McWherter and Lamar Alexander. Mike McWherter has memories of those times.

“I do remember my father participating in those breakfasts with Lamar,” said McWherter, whose father was speaker of the House before succeeding Alexander. “It was always beneficial to understand where everybody was coming from, that kind of casual event where you could sit down and really talk about what your priorities are and what the direction is.

“It’s a concept I would want to continue in my administration.”

McWherter said he remembered being 12 years old when his father went to the Legislature and he saw and respected the Legislature’s role. He recalled that in the 1970s the Republican Party made Ned McWherter an honorary minority leader because he had a bipartisan view and that his father was very proud of the certificate they gave him.

“He demonstrated to me over the years the best way to move Tennessee forward when he was speaker and as governor was to have bipartisan consensus,” McWherter said.

The recent budget debate has cut to the core of political principles. And these are not the best of times economically. Moreover, the next governor and General Assembly are likely to face even tougher budget decisions.

So what would those relationships be like? For his part, if he’s governor, Ramsey said, “I think it would be the best it’s ever been — since the Legislature existed.

“I guess Governor McWherter coming out of the House as speaker had a good relationship with the Legislature. It’s so important to know leaders of the House and Senate and be friends with them. I think that’s one reason I’d be the best governor.”

Ramsey is not the only candidate who feels that way. Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, a Republican, sees parallels to that relationship and the one he has now in city government.

“One of the things I learned real quick as mayor is you don’t get anything done without City Council,” Haslam said. “So I spend a lot of time not just on the budget and kind of official things but a lot of going to lunch, coffee, etc., because I want to make certain when issues come up, that’s not the first time we’ve had a serious conversation.”

Government benefits from such an approach, Haslam says.

“In the end, a lot of things wind up being about relationships, not relationships over principle but a lot of times people understand that he really wants to get the best answer instead of getting to his answer,” Haslam said. “Then they’re more willing to sit down and work with you.”

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp said he has strong support among current legislators but he said it presents a conflict for members at the moment because of Ramsey’s candidacy.

“I’m going to have a really good working relationship with the House and Senate and we’re going to have to be connected at the hip on why our budgets will do what they do and why our state is going to be the most competitive by coming at this from a more austere footprint,” Wamp said.

“We’re going to sort of be bonded together out of necessity.”

Wamp said the governor will need to adapt quickly.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do together,” Wamp said. “The transition is going to need to be quick, because of budget pressures we’re going to face beginning next January when the new governor is sworn in.”

Wamp also said he is prepared for the burden that comes with the role.

“We can’t blame Governor Bredesen. He won’t be there. We’ve got to set the agenda,” Wamp said.

“I will be able to work with whoever the House chooses as speaker and whoever the Senate chooses as their leader/lieutenant governor. But that’s up to them, not up to me. I’ll work with whoever the leadership is in the legislature in a very cooperative way.”

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Bill Blizzard Ongoing Until Thursday

With the special session on education all but wrapped up, an avalanche of bills are awaiting consideration in legislative committees.

Since Jan. 12 lawmakers have mostly been focused on education. This week 28 committee meetings are scheduled at the Capitol to take up a range of issues. Roughly 75 bills now sit in committees to which they’ve been assigned, though not all will be heard this week.

More than 2,000 bills are currently alive. More than 400 have been introduced since the beginning of 2010 — and the floodgates are open until the Thursday deadline to file new bills.

Normally the deadline is slated for the tenth legislative day or the second Thursday of regular session, whichever leadership decides, according to the Senate Clerk’s Office. But when special session pushed the regular session back, the House and Senate leadership set the deadline for Jan. 28.

This week, the bustling committee schedule includes several presentations from state departments:

  • The House Commerce Committee will hear a department update from Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Leslie Newman.
  • Department of Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens will give the House Ag Committee an orientation-like review of the department programs, services and budget proposal presented to Gov. Phil Bredesen last fall.
  • Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee will listen to a presentation on alternative energy from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and another outlining new initiatives within state tourism from Tourist Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker.
  • The Consumer and Employee Affairs committee will hear a presentation on the Unemployment Trust Fund from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
  • The State Collaborative on Reforming Education will give a presentation to the House Education Committee

they are free to vet other bills ranging from making it a “deceptive act” for a company to ask for a person’s social security number to changing the way the state counts multiple DUI offenses.