Speaker Harwell got high marks from prominent Democrats:
Naifeh said she "handled herself extremely well" as speaker and commended her political maneuvering in the committees -- tactics that Republicans loudly denounced when he used them as speaker.
"I think that's her prerogative, and she has the right to vote on every committee," he said.
Other lawmakers were also impressed with Harwell's leadership, particularly her ability to keep bills moving on the House floor, and gaveling members to order when necessary.
Lois DeBerry, the first female speaker pro tempore in the House, said Harwell "definitely ... stood her own."
"It could have gotten out of hand," said the Memphis Democrat. "But because of how she ruled with a tough hand, I think she kept it in balance."
The Speaker broke the tie on the House collective bargaining bill - but is the lower chamber just going to end up voting on the stricter Senate version anyway?
Three Republicans joined the committee’s Democrats in voting against the bill. Another Republican — Rep. Jim Coley, a school teacher from Bartlett — abstained because he said it’s a conflict of interest that he belongs to his teachers’ union.
Asked later whether he would have voted no, which would have killed the bill, Coley said, “In my heart that’s what I wanted to do.”
The House bill continues to allow contract negotiations over base pay and benefits, but repeals bargaining for merit and incentive pay plans and for teacher assignments, among other matters. The Senate already has approved its own version of the bill, repealing collective bargaining outright.
Democrats and some Republicans on the House committee said they worry that the bill’s proponents are playing a political trick and planning to change to the Senate version on the House floor, where it may have enough support to pass.
They harangued the bill’s sponsor — Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville — for assurances that she would stick to the House bill, but she repeatedly refused to predict what might happen.
“I’m not a prophet,” she said.
House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh scoffed: “I don’t see a turnip truck around here, and I didn’t just fall off one. … What we’re going to do is pass the Senate bill.”
Harwell said she would vote for either version.
At the Lincoln-Reagan Day in Clarksville, the Speaker laid out her litmus test:
Harwell stressed the need for her fellow Republicans to "remain true to the principles of this party." She recalled sending a litmus test to House Republicans asking that they evaluate each piece of legislation on whether it stayed true to those principles — smaller government, business friendliness and educational reform.
And Rep. Stephen Fincher says the President is politicizing the capture of Osama bin Laden:
"It is shameful for him to take the credit when he bashes the military week after week, when they deserve the credit for killing Osama bin Laden," Fincher said to a round of applause.
Chas says a deal's close to strip collective bargaining for teachers:
House Speaker Beth Harwell and key lawmakers have agreed to completely repeal the 1978 law that gave teachers the ability to unionize, casting aside an earlier compromise that would have let them continue to negotiate with school boards over a few issues.
They now plan to accept a Senate measure that would ban contracts negotiated by teachers unions and replace them with employee handbooks written by local school boards. The deal appears to be the final result in a war over teachers unions that has spanned this year’s legislative session.
“This allows the school board to get input from teachers, but the final decision is with the school board,” Harwell said.
The agreement between the House and the Senate will combine aspects of the plans advanced in each chamber, but the basic framework will be the Senate’s bill. The wording of the agreement was still being worked out Wednesday evening, but the bill’s sponsors said they are confident they have a final agreement.
The Tennessee Equality Project's Chris Sanders says the Speaker is pandering to the "extreme religious right":
“I don’t believe someone with a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt thinks that a nondiscrimination law is a ‘burden’ for businesses, except businesses that revel in discrimination,” said Chris Sanders, chairman of the Tennessee Equality Project’s Nashville Committee, in an open letter to Harwell.
Chas reports that social issues have not been on the frontburner for the GOP-led legislature:
Social issues are taking a back seat in the state legislature this year, as Republican moderates have so far kept issues such as guns, abortion and states' rights from overshadowing their program on education and business matters.
GOP leaders, especially those in the state House, have avoided controversies over nullification of federal laws and President Barack Obama's birth certificate this session, quietly voting down bills that deal with those topics in subcommittees. Meanwhile, Republicans have moved to cast many of their most controversial positions on social issues, such as the teaching of evolution and gay rights, as economic or education issues.
The state is prepared in the event the federal government shuts down:
The state is ready in the event of a government shutdown, House Speaker Beth Harwell said Thursday. Agencies have “taken the necessary steps to draw down as much money as possible, that is legitimately our money, to state government now rather than wait for the kind of emergency situation that might come to be,” she said Thursday.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s office says the administration’s not worried.
“We expect the federal government will pass a budget and not shut down. In the event of a temporary disruption, however, our departments will assess what impact any delay in federal funding would have on programs and services and respond accordingly,” said David Smith, the governor’s spokesman.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, however, will be closed.
Speaker Harwell breaks a tie of her own:
Harwell, who as leader of the chamber can vote on any House panel, on Wednesday broke a 6-6 subcommittee deadlock on the bill sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville.The House version eliminates areas that teachers can bargain about -- like merit pay or evaluation standards -- but does not do away with union negotiations altogether like the Senate version. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has endorsed the House revisions.
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