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.”