Last Monday I wrote in this space about the relatively few bills that had been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly up to that point-a mere 700-which was a fraction of the number of bills traditionally filed prior to the close of the bill filing period, which ended Thursday, February 17th. However, in the days since that column was written last week the total number of bills filed mushroomed somewhat dramatically at the last minute, and went from 700 last Monday to over 2,000 by the Thursday deadline. It is not known yet how the sudden jump in the amount of legislation to consider will impact the length of this year’s legislative session.
Will the increase in bills mean an increase in the size and scope of government? “Republicans ran on a promise to, among other things, reduce the amount and influence of government in the lives of Tennesseans,” said Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) “but people have to keep in mind that the Tennessee Code is a huge collection of laws, so it will take writing some new laws to undo some of the old regulations we’ve pledged to tackle.”
One set of legislation that doesn’t seem very thick so far, according to a Capitol source that asked not to be named at this time, is the Governor’s proposed legislative package. “The Governor hasn’t personally proposed that many bills yet, and the ones he has asked to be run are those that a lot of people, especially Republicans, are going to agree on,” said the source. “The reality is that constitutionally in Tennessee any governor is very weak, it takes a simple majority in both houses to override his veto, so it may be better for Bill Haslam if he brings a budget proposal and not much else, and lets the Legislature work out the details.” Indeed, Governor Haslam has expressed some public support for legislation that neither he nor his office initially proposed, such as reducing or eliminating the collective bargaining power of the teachers’ union. Haslam gave a real boost to education reform last week when he came out in favor of lifting the State’s cap on charter schools, long a cause of many Tennessee conservatives interested in change in the State school system.
“When keeping track of the number of bills that have been filed for this session, just remember that around 200 of them belong to one House member, G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis), and a lot of G.A’s bills don’t have Senate sponsors, so that means they’ll wither on the vine,” Senator Campfield told The Examiner.