Speaker Beth Harwell said the legislature may take a second pass at Insure Tennessee in January:
“I think we will revisit heath care again. I’m not telling you that Insure Tennessee has some magic bullet to be passed this year but I do think there will be continued discussion.”
Harwell said Republicans… have “legitimate concerns and I think if we’re going to see something passed, we’re going to have to address them.”
She said those concerns include caps on enrollment in the expansion program, designed under the federal Affordable Care Act to cover more uninsured working poor. “We were told it would be a program for about 280,000. The reality is there are about 400,000 people who qualify,” she said.
Sen. Bill Ketron, who led the Hill’s Fiscal Review committee during a resurgence of questions over the integrity of price tags attached to controversial bills, relinquished his position as chair of the committee Thursday.
The 15-member committee instead elected for Rep. Mark White as chair, a key ally of House Speaker Beth Harwell and two-year vice chair of the committee. He agreed to rotate with the high ranking Senator every two years for the committee’s top post.
The powerful Fiscal Review Committee reviews revenue collections, budget requests and oversees fiscal operations of state agencies. The committee is also responsible for fiscal notes, price tags attached to legislation, although the notes are calculated by staff and approved by a director appointed by the committee. Harwell has asked the National Conference of State Legislatures to review the state’s fiscal review committee and fiscal note process.
Committee members unanimously approved the appointment of Jeff Spalding as the new Fiscal Review director Thursday. Spalding, vetted by Ketron, is currently a financial analyst of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a pro-school voucher group, and is expected to begin his new post later this month.
Ketron, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and will miss some of this year’s legislative session as he undergoes chemotherapy. He has served six consecutive years as chairman.
Members of the committee have also changed, with the removal of Republican Reps. Jeremy Faison, Matthew Hill, and Mark Pody who were replaced in GOP House Caucus Elections by Reps. Ron Travis, Bill Sanderson and Susan Lynn. Democrat Rep. Joe Pitts was also replaced by Rep. Johnny Shaw. From the upper chamber, Sen. Brian Kelsey was replaced by Sen. Doug Overbey and retired Democratic Sen. Douglas Henry was replaced by Sen. Sara Kyle.
The Speaker tells The Paris Post-Intelligencer she's interested in statewide office (which, in Tennessee, basically means one thing):
“I do love what I do, and it’s an honor to get to be speaker,” Harwell said. “Nobody knows exactly what the future holds, either personally or professionally, but if I had the opportunity to run for a statewide office, I would certainly be interested in doing that, and I would just have to see what the lay of the land is.”
At least, that’s according to the judges of the annual Ag Day on the Hill milking contest between the two speakers. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey teamed up with Sen. Frank Niceley to beat out House Speaker Beth Harwell and Rep. John Forgety by a three-to-one margin.
This is the third year the two speakers have milked-off against each other and Ramsey’s first win against Harwell. However, Harwell’s victories may have had something to do with Chairman Charles Sargent pouring some extra milk in her bucket, sources said.
Here is the skinny on what's in the newest version of the wine-in-grocery-stores bill, including requirements that more than 20 percent of a store's sales must come from groceries, the retail space must exceed 2,000 square feet, and participating stores must impose a minimum markup on wine.
Members say they got their first look at the language at 9 p.m. Monday night. First thing this morning, the House State Government Committee — with Speaker Beth Harwell sitting in the front row of the committee — adopted the amendment, recessed, and now plans to return at 4:30 p.m. today after reviewing the bill.