Haslam to biz leaders: Engage the legislature

'Your voice counts way more than you think it does'

Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s always urged community stakeholders to personally lobby their local lawmakers, but lately he’s turned up the volume.

“I’m encouraging you to punch at your weight class because your view matters incredibly to the future of Tennessee,” the governor told state business leaders at the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting Tuesday after talking about maintaining Common Core education standards, his latest issue embattled on Capitol Hill.

There are lots of bills in the legislature not going the governor’s way, like what a school voucher program would look like, taking away local control over banning guns in parks, and how far to go to limit sale of cold medicine used to make meth.

Haslam’s self-described “lecture” came little more than a week after the governor gave a similar message to mayors at the Tennessee Municipal League, telling them “It’s more critical than ever that you engage in the process.” That talk came days after the House hijacked a bill to delay further implementation Common Core and it’s related annual test. Haslam said he, too, has stepped up his lobbying of members on Common Core. He said he met with a group of Senators Tuesday and is "continuing conversations."

Here’s what he told the Chamber on Tuesday:

“Let me say something now if I can be really honest to everybody sitting in this room about what I’ve learned since I’ve been here.

Businesses can be three times more effective in terms of their impact on Capitol Hill than they are right now. But you have to do that by personally engaging. The chamber plays a great role in bringing us together and doing all this, but at the end of the day, that legislator that’s in your district needs to understand the critical issues facing your business and that’s not something that can be delegated. It needs your personal involvement.

People that have interests that don’t match up with yours are actively engaged in the process. I promise you that. Those legislators understand that until you all invest capital, until you hire people, nothing happens on economic development. They need to understand the connection between the critical issues that they’re talking about and the issues that matter to you and the best way to do that is if you will be personally engaged.

I love, believe me, I love the chamber. I’m not here talking about the Chamber or anybody, other economic development organization. I’m just saying, within that, don’t lose the importance of your personal voice with your personal legislator. They’re hearing from a whole lot of folks. It would really help if they heard from you as well. I don’t mean to end with a lecturing note, I mean that to be an encouraging note.

Your voice counts way more than you think it does and the fact that you’re a major employer in so many people’s districts makes a lot of difference. I’m encouraging you to punch at your weight class because your view matters incredibly to the future of Tennessee.”