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Meet the New Bosses

Tennessee House Republicans spent Wednesday afternoon choosing who’ll lead them into the uncharted waters of undisputed political dominance in the 2011-12 legislative session.

Already the caucus selected Rep. Beth Harwell as their nominee for House speaker. Republicans have now assigned Chattanooga Rep. Gerald McCormick to take the reins as House majority leader, with Hendersonville Rep. Debra Maggart getting the nod to serve as caucus chairwoman.

McCormick and Maggart replace former Rep. Jason Mumpower of Bristol and sitting Franklin Rep. Glen Casada, respectively. Casada lost his bid for the House speaker nomination last month and chose not to run for another caucus leadership post this year.

Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, won the nomination for speaker pro-tempore. He’ll be charged with taking up the gavel in the Speaker’s absence.  If elected — a near certainty given the party’s numerical superiority — he will replace Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, who has held the post for 24 years.

McCormick said after the vote that he’s excited about working with a speaker that has the support of the majority party — a dynamic that, as a result of quirk and intrigue during House leadership elections in 2009, has not been the case for the past two years.

Both he and Maggart said doing what they can to get behind Gov.-elect Haslam’s job creation efforts will be a primary focus.

“The Legislature doesn’t really create jobs, we just pave the way for job creation,” said Maggart.

Added McCormick: “I think the Legislature’s role is to provide an environment that is attractive to businesses to make investment — not so much to go out and be in on the details of the deals, and the tax breaks, and those kinds of things. But to provide a good, solid, predictable environment for business people, so that they will feel comfortable making long-range, long-term investments.”

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Press Releases

Rep. McCormick Pushes Law To Help Troops Vote Overseas

Press Release from Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga; April 26, 2010:

(April 26, 2010, NASHVILLE) – Representative Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) successfully shepherded legislation through the Tennessee General Assembly that will make it easier for troops stationed overseas to vote. Last week, the law was assigned a Public Chapter number after being signed by the Governor.

The new law allows election commissioners to email ballots that troops could then print and return by mail. Before passage of the law, election administrators mailed the ballots overseas and did not use electronic means, making it difficult for troops to cast their ballots in time to be counted.

“Our men and women in uniform are overseas protecting our freedoms, and they should be able to exercise one of our most precious freedoms—voting—with ease,” said Representative McCormick. “We discovered that many of the ballots were mailed too late, making it difficult for our troops in the field to fill out and return by mail in time. Hopefully, our election administrators will use this new law as a means to ensure our troops’ votes are counted.”

The legislation hit a roadblock in the Elections Subcommittee last year, as the bill failed on a party line vote. Republicans were outraged, arguing that the state should do all it can to ensure the votes of our brave men and women serving overseas count.

“I’m glad that we could reach an agreement on a bi-partisan basis this year that enabled this legislation to pass,” continued Representative McCormick. “I’m proud that my colleagues have come together to ensure the votes of our troops count.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Pew Research Center for People and Press reported last year that one-third of states did not allow enough time for overseas voters, listing Tennessee as one of 16 states that sent ballots after the date necessary for voters to meet deadlines. Last year, at least seven states enacted legislation to authorize some form of electronic transmission.

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Press Releases

Rep. McCormick’s Free Speech Bill OK’d In Both Chambers

Press Release from Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga; April 7, 2010:

(April 5, 2010, NASHVILLE) – Representative Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) has passed a law in the Tennessee General Assembly that will protect Tennesseans’ freedom of speech. The law instructs Tennessee courts to declare foreign libel judgments unenforceable if they do not comport with the free speech laws of the United States Constitution or the Tennessee Constitution.

“This new law is designed to protect Tennesseans’ right to free speech and freedom of the press without fear of reprisal from foreign courts in other countries,” said Representative McCormick. “The United States has always upheld the right to freedom of speech, expression, and freedom of the press. This law will assist in upholding that very precious right here in Tennessee,” he added.

Libel plaintiffs have been known to file suit in foreign courts largely due to the fact that other countries do not have the speech protections of the United States’ First Amendment. In particular, American authors and publishers have been targeted in libel suits in other countries.

Known as ‘libel tourism,’ plaintiffs try the cases in foreign courts because many countries do not have the stringent requirements of jurisdiction to which United States courts are subject.

“If Tennesseans do not feel their freedom of speech is protected and could be subject to judgment in another country, it creates a chilling effect on a very precious right,” said Representative McCormick. “This law will go a long way in protecting that right.”