Statehouse Summaries: Tennessee Legislature convenes, members get new appointments
by Kevin Brooks
Jan 13, 2013 | 1045 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week marked the beginning of the 108th General Assembly with the House of Representatives gaveling into session on Tuesday at “high noon” in accordance with the Tennessee Constitution, beginning the organizational session. The week was a busy flurry of activity electing the Speaker, Speaker Pro Tempore and the Constitutional Officers, setting new permanent rules for the House, and swearing in all the members.

Lawmakers take

Oath of Office

Lawmakers took the official Oath of Office Tuesday, and House leadership posts were chosen and sworn in. Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, was unanimously re-elected to a second term, and Curtis Johnson, from Clarksville, was elected to his first term as Speaker Pro Tempore. Individual members were also sworn in and took the Oath of Office, myself included.

Legislators are looking to build upon the success of the previous session that saw wasteful government spending cut from the budget, taxes cut for all Tennesseans, measures passed to encourage job growth, and numerous government reforms.

Lawmakers have already signaled clear goals of balancing the budget, lowering the grocery tax, and ensuring every Tennessee student has access to a high-quality education.

With the close of the organizational session on Thursday, the House will now recess for two weeks and reconvene on Monday, Jan. 28, to resume a normal schedule.

House adopts new

rules to streamline,

save taxpayer dollars

For the first time since 1997, the Tennessee House of Representatives adopted permanent rules that will govern the body. Following the landmark vote, House leaders emphasized the move will streamline House operations, limit government and save taxpayer dollars.

House leaders said it was important to follow through on promises made to the voters by working toward a more efficient and effective state government. Lawmakers also hope the move will make it easier to prioritize the issues important to voters, including a balanced budget, jobs and lower taxes.

Among the rule changes are the first-ever limits on bills. Each member will be limited to 15 bills per year, meaning 30 total for the 108th General Assembly. Previously, the Tennessee General Assembly averaged over 4,000 while surrounding states considered roughly 2,500.

Another major change is a restructuring of the House committee system. Leaders say the move will aid in a more efficient operation by better balancing the workload of each committee. For example, research uncovered some committees considered less than 100 bills, while others were often bogged down in more than 800. Under the new system, lawmakers anticipate the disparity will not be as great.

The new rules also include the annual ethics resolution, meaning that the ethics standards now have the force of the House rules and will be adopted earlier. Other changes in wording will facilitate a move toward a paperless House, by requiring less documents to be printed if they can be found easily online.

House leaders maintain the changes will, in the long run, increase efficiency, save money, streamline operations, make the process easier for the public to understand, and limit government — all solid conservative principles.

Joint Convention elects

constitutional officers

In a joint session of the Tennessee Senate and the Tennessee House of Representatives, members unanimously re-elected Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. and Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. Secretary Hargett will serve his second four-year term, while Treasurer Lillard and Comptroller Wilson will each serve two-year terms. All three were originally elected to their posts by the General Assembly in January 2009. Treasurer Lillard and Comptroller Wilson were re-elected to their second two-year terms in January 2011.

Leaders praised the three constitutional officers for having spent the last four years streamlining their operations to ensure the offices were more efficient, effective and accessible by providing more services than ever before online.

The three constitutional officers count several functions of state government among their responsibilities including, but not limited to, the state’s investments; a financially sound retirement system; that taxpayer money isn’t wasted, stolen or misused at the local or state levels of government; that local governments receive the assistance they need to be successful in various levels of their operations; that state elections run smoothly; and that public libraries have the support they need to provide excellent service to Tennesseans.

House Speaker announces

committee appointments

The House speaker appointed committees last week, announcing them at session on Thursday.

I was reappointed to both the Full House Finance, Ways and Means Committee and to the House Subcommittee of Finance, Ways and Means. This will be my second term for serving on these important committees that vote on the budget and funding for the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Also, I was reappointed to the full House Education Committee. My close connections to education continue to make this a personally and professionally rewarding assignment.

I am also humbled to be named to the House Ethics Committee by Speaker Harwell.

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(Editor’s Note: Rep. Kevin Brooks serves the 24th Legislative District in Cleveland and Bradley County. He and his wife, Kim, are actively involved in the Cleveland and Bradley County community and in local schools. Their children attend schools locally — Zach is a student at Lee University and Elizabeth attends Cleveland High School).