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Ramsey Re-elected Speaker of the Senate

Press release from the office of Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; January 13, 2015:

(NASHVILLE, TN), January 13, 2014 — The State Senate re-elected Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey today as Tennessee’s 33 senators met at noon on the first organizational day of the 109th General Assembly. This will be Ramsey’s fifth two-year term as Tennessee’s Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate.

“Thank you for placing your trust in me,” Ramsey told senators and onlookers after being elected. “The people of Tennessee have placed great trust in all of us. They have called upon us in election after election to use our power wisely — and we have.”

“We made hard choices, just like any Tennessee family would have to, and balanced our budget. And when we have had to borrow money, we paid it back — promptly and in full,” Ramsey continued. “That is the Tennessee way.”

“This stands in stark contrast to the ways of Washington. As our federal government continues on a path into the economic abyss, Tennessee stands apart — committed to fiscal discipline and sanity,” Ramsey explained.

“Tennessee truly is the best state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family,” Ramsey concluded. “As long as I am speaker, I will fight to preserve that reputation and continue our record of accomplishment.”

Tennessee’s conservative leader, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey is the first GOP Senate Speaker in Tennessee in 140 years and the first from Sullivan County in over 100 years. In the 2008 elections, Ramsey led Tennessee’s Republicans to a gain of three Senate seats and a solid five seat majority. Under Ramsey’s leadership in 2010, Republicans both increased their majority in the Senate and elected a Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1969.

After picking up an astounding 6 seats in 2012, the Ramsey Senate achieved an unprecedented 28 to 5 supermajority in the 2014 elections, a feat unmatched by either party in modern Tennessee history.

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Speaker Harwell Proposes House Rule Changes

Press release from Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell; December 19, 2012:

NASHVILLE – Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) today announced she is recommending changes to the Tennessee House of Representatives internal rules that will make the governmental process more efficient and save taxpayer money. The changes follow an effort two years ago to streamline operations.

“Tennessee taxpayers have entrusted us with the task of governing–something I take very seriously,” Harwell stated. “These changes reflect the will of Tennesseans: that state government operates efficiently and effectively while saving money. These changes also reflect the will of the body. After surveying the members of the last General Assembly, we have incorporated some of their suggestions as well. While Congress remains mired in partisan gridlock and continues to waste time, the state legislature is working toward better government.”

The changes include:

  • Restructuring the committee system to balance the workload of each;
  • Adopting the annual ethics resolution into the House Rules which will ensure the body is abiding by an ethics policy from the first day;
  • Limiting the number of bills filed to 10 per member annually which will encourage members to prioritize;
  • Reaffirming that each member vote for only him or herself;
  • And deleting the requirement that every document be printed to reduce the amount of paper used in committee and for floor sessions.

Harwell noted the committee restructuring, bill limits, and paperless measures are among those that will, in the long run, save the Tennessee taxpayer money.

“The new committee system will balance the workloads of each committee, ensuring that they are as efficient as possible. Bill limits will reduce duplication and ensure each member prioritizes their issues. I am seeking to eliminate the requirement that every document we produce as a body be printed in effort for us to adapt to the technology available and reduce the enormous amount of paper used each year. Each of these measures together ensure a more efficient, effective, and accessible government. This will also give us more time for thoughtful, deliberate analysis on each piece of legislation—which is something Tennesseans expect and deserve.”

The proposed recommendations will be taken up by the House Rules Committee, which will be appointed by the Speaker in January.

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Harwell: My Daughter Says I’m Cool

In her first sit down with Capitol Hill reporters since being selected the Republicans’ nominee for House speaker, Rep. Beth Harwell fielded questions Monday morning about everything from limiting the number of bills lawmakers can introduce, her thoughts on gun legislation and tackling the task of creating jobs.

Harwell, who expects Republicans to officially vote her in as speaker in January, offered few concrete details during the 15-minute press conference, but she did talk about what it’s like to be the first woman elected to the powerful position.

Here’s what she had to say:

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Harwell Promises No-Compromise GOP-Driven House Agenda

Rep. Beth Harwell sees more than just a Republican majority in the House of Representatives — she sees it as a license for the GOP to do what it wants.

And what Harwell wants is be in the driver’s seat.

The Nashville Republican is running for Speaker of the House, a highly coveted leadership post Harwell says she’s earned after a four-year stint running the Tennessee Republican Party and heading up high-profile legislative committees.

But before she can take the wheel, she’ll have to beat out another well-connected contender in House Majority Leader Glen Casada as well as overcome concerns about her commitment to the conservative agenda and her friendliness to Democrats.

“Certainly in times past, we’ve had this mentality of a Democrat-Republican coalition, understandably so,” she told TNReport Wednesday. “That day is over.”

Since Republicans scooped up 14 extra seats in the House of Representatives for a 64-34-1 majority, Harwell has has been positioning herself as a House GOP lawmaker who is strong, experienced and patient enough to handle a massive freshman class of Republicans.

But some say her past legislative votes and actions cast doubt on whether she’ll consistently adhere to conservative interpretations of constitutional principles in the future.

The Tennessee Firearms Association shot off an e-mail to members Wednesday questioning Harwell’s stance on the 2nd Amendment, and beyond that the depth of her understanding of, and commitment to defending, other essential tenets of the Bill of Rights.

Case in point, said TFA Executive Director John Harris, was that Harwell had voted against two major bills expanding gun rights in the last two years.

She was one of only two Republicans in the House who voted not to overturn Gov. Phil Bredesen’s veto of a bill that would allow guns in places of business that serve alcohol. The override ultimately passed 61-30. The other Republican, Rep. Joe McCord, did not seek reelection this year.

“Many see an elected official’s voting history on these Second Amendment issues as a litmus test of the depth of that individual’s core, constitutional foundations,” Harris wrote in the TFA e-mail. “A demonstrated unwillingness to stand by core constitutional principles cannot be lightly ignored as a predictor of what might occur when other constitutional rights are in the balance.”

Harwell, a 53-year-old 12-term legislator, insists her record on gun rights is actually quite strong. She was given a ‘B’ by the NRA.

“In all the years I have been there, I have voted 100 percent with them, except for that one last bill, which was guns in bars,” Harwell said, adding that “alcohol and guns do not mix.”

At any rate, any legislation dealing with guns that is of importance to members of the GOP caucus would make its way to the House floor under her leadership, Harwell said.

As if she weren’t facing enough obstacles, her Speaker Kent Williams gave her an extra one when he endorsed her shortly after the election.

Williams said his backing was an attempt to help in her reach for the speaker’s gavel. However, given that the party is still ticked at him for using Democratic votes in 2008 to steal the speakership away from then-Rep. Jason Mumpower, his vocal support may do more harm than good, said Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol.

“I think, clearly, that that endorsement was not helpful in any stretch of the imagination. I think he did it thinking it would genuinely help, so I don’t think he realizes some of the feelings that exist for him on the Republican caucus,” said Lundberg, who declined to comment on who he would vote for, although he is angling for a seat as House Republican Leader.

Even though Republicans now make up two-thirds of the House, members of the Memphis Tea Party believe it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Harwell could rally the same troops that won Williams his speakership.

In a recent e-mail, the group called Harwell “damaged goods” and questioned her GOP loyalties to a conservative agenda.

But Harwell says none of conservatives’ worries are warranted. Not only is she ignoring Democrats as she counts up votes in her bid for speaker, but Harwell promises to load up legislative committees in ways reflective of Republicans’ robust numerical strength in the House.

“We have the majority, the vast majority. We are ready to govern in that mindset. As far as I’m concerned, there will be no Democrat-Republican coalition,” she said. “This will be a Republican decision who the next speaker is.”

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Mumpower Moving On

Republican Leader Jason Mumpower, a key figure in delivering the GOP its historic majority status in the state House, surprised much of the Capitol on Thursday by announcing he will not seek reelection this fall.

For Mumpower, from Bristol, it was a stunning turn, since he was within one vote only a year ago of becoming speaker of the House, edged out in a striking maneuver when Republican Kent Williams of Elizabethton made a deal with 49 Democrats to make Williams speaker instead.

That vote jolted the other House Republicans and denied Mumpower the speaker’s gavel many had assumed he would be taking. The Republicans had gained a 50-49 advantage in the House in the 2008 elections, creating the party’s first majority in both the House and Senate since Reconstruction.

Mumpower said Thursday after the House adjourned for the day that last year’s vote on a speaker had nothing to do with his decision now to leave after serving 14 years.

“That’s old news,” he said. “It is what it is. That has nothing to do with it. My decision has everything to do with what is right for me and right for my family.”

He said his focus now will be on legislative work and the upcoming election season.

“The time was right,” Mumpower said. “It’s always best to leave the party early.

“This hasn’t been an easy decision. This has been one I’ve come to know is the right decision. What I’m going to do at this point is finish this session, leading this caucus in an aggressive way to make sure that we accomplish a balanced budget with no new taxes. Then I’m going to leave this session and get out in the field and make sure we continue to grow and expand our Republican majority in the House.”

Mumpower mentioned “new challenges” in his future but he gave little hint as to what they might be. He did acknowledge a personal desire he and his wife have to have children.

“I’m 36 years old,” he said. “One thing I haven’t done yet is start a family.

“I think if I had chosen to run I would have been re-elected to my House seat and re-elected as House Republican leader and I think I stood a very good chance of being elected speaker. Ultimately, I made a different decision.”

He said he felt he was making the right decision.

“It’s a decision a member of the House has to make every two years, and if you look back at past election cycles, I’ve always had a tradition of filing my petition for re-election on or about (NASCAR) race weekend in Bristol, and that happened to be this past weekend.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this past weekend talking with my family and really came to the conclusion this past weekend that this was the right time for me.”

Mumpower said he would be active in working for Republican candidates.

“I’m going to work in many political campaigns across the state, helping Republicans get elected,” he said.

Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, Republican caucus chairman, said he did not believe Mumpower’s departure was related to any disappointment about the speakership.

“Jason was a true leader. He’s a true friend, first and foremost,” Casada said. “He is a true Christian. He lived what he believed. He did an excellent job as majority leader, and he’s probably the fundamental reason why we are in the majority.”

Casada said he thought there were a lot of factors in Mumpower’s decision and that he thought Mumpower himself probably didn’t know what he wants to do away from the Legislature.

“I think he has served 14 years and he’s looking to do other things,” Casada said. “He’s been going back and forth 600 miles a week for 14 years. It’s just time to do something else.”

Rep. Mike Turner, D-Nashville, the Democratic caucus chairman, said he had heard rumors “a while ago” about a possible departure by Mumpower.

“I heard rumors. I hadn’t heard anything lately. I had kind of forgotten about it. Then I heard early this morning about it,” Turner said.

Turner and House Democratic leaders had locked horns earlier this week over controversial remarks Turner had made about reaction to the Obama health-care reform plan in Washington.

“Jason is a good man,” Turner said Thursday. “He’s a very intelligent man. He’s been a friend of mine for some time. We don’t always agree on a lot of things, but it doesn’t make him a bad person. I’m sure he’s going on to better things.”

Mumpower did not speculate on who might win his district seat.

“Fourteen years ago, the people of the 3rd Legislative District decided to take a chance on a skinny, 23-year-old kid, and I respected the judgment that they exercised then, and I’m going to respect the judgment they exercise now in choosing whomever they want to represent them,” Mumpower said.

“I will be working to ensure it is a Republican, because I think only a Republican will best reflect the values of the district I represent.”

When a reporter asked Mumpower for more specifics on what he will do next, Mumpower reiterated his intention to work for candidates.

“I’m not leaving the fight. After that, we’ll see. Maybe you need a camera man,” he said. “I’m going to see what’s out there. Whatever the case may be.”

Mumpower had been in the Legislature only a few years and was not very well known outside his district when state Republican Party members began to notice the strong approval ratings Mumpower had there.

He soon became recognized as a rising star in the House, and his ascension to the leader’s post followed. He looked primed to reach the top position in the chamber when the 106th General Assembly convened. Then came the dramatic vote that made Williams speaker.

As Mumpower waited patiently Thursday while members of the media gathered around his desk on the House floor for comments, moments after the day’s session had adjourned, a man stepped forward, said, “Jason,” reached out and shared a firm handshake with him, then walked out of the chamber. The man was Kent Williams.