Two weeks from today, Tennessee legislators will convene to open the 106th General Assembly of the state legislature. When the gavel falls, it will likely bring more changes to the way business is done at the Capitol than at any other time in recent history. Republicans will have control of the state house and the constitutional offices of treasurer, comptroller and secretary of state.
While many people have taken time off work this week and most of last week, a number of politicians in the state have picked up the pace because of the looming start of the legislature. Persons interested in becoming a constitutional officer have been making phone calls and twisting the arms of state senators and state house members, trying to garner the votes needed for the job.
While that is happening, Republican House Leader Jason Mumpower is having to bird dog his caucus and make sure that they elect him as speaker of the House and oust Democrat Jimmy Naifeh from ruling the body. Such a vote would give the GOP leadership of the entire legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.
For those watching at home, here are the dates to be aware of in the power struggles.
• On Monday, Jan. 12, Republican legislators will meet in Nashville and be presented with three recommendations for the posts of treasurer and secretary of state. The recommendations will come from a panel comprised of Republican members of both houses who interviewed prospective candidates earlier this month.
Only one person – Nashville's Justin Wilson – applied for the post of state comptroller and it is highly unlikely that any challenge will come from within the GOP caucus to his candidacy.
• On Tuesday, the 13th, the entire legislature will convene. It is on this day that Mumpower, assuming his entire caucus honors their pledge to vote for him, will take the reins of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Republicans hold a one-seat majority over Democrats in the state house.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey will also be up for re-election to his post, which is basically a foregone conclusion given the more comfortable GOP majority in the State Senate.
• Later in the week, on either the 14th or 15th, a joint session of both houses of the legislature will be called to order to elect the constitutional officers for the state. The date of this vote is not specified in the state constitution and Republicans will hold the vote at a time that they have a consensus on who they want to elect to the posts.