Republican majority members tout Haslam’s jobs agenda as top priority; revenge might be No. 2

Sunday, December 26, 2010 at 10:05pm
Beth Harwell (Jude Ferrara/SouthComm)

Not too long ago, the Tennessee state legislature was the unchallenged domain of the Democrats, and beleaguered Republicans were only barely tolerated. Badly outnumbered on every committee, they were consigned to faraway cubbyholes of the Capitol complex to conduct whatever business they might find to do. Their bills were rarely debated, much less enacted into law. When Republicans came up with a popular idea, Democrats introduced an identical measure, let the Republican one die quietly and passed theirs with great fanfare.

Committee chairmen — the old bulls of the party — sometimes openly laughed at Republicans as they came before them to present their legislation. Even reporters joined in the fun. During one particularly demeaning session for the minority party, press corps wags stood outside the office of the mighty House speaker and went baaaa like sheep as certain Republicans shuffled meekly inside to beg for small favors. 

Every 10 years, Democratic gerrymandering quickly wiped out whatever gains Republicans had made in the elections leading up to redistricting. In 1992, Democrats devilishly redrew the lines to crowd 12 Republican incumbents into six districts.

“It was pathetic,” said one lobbyist who witnessed that scene. “The Republicans were just whining and crying. They kept saying, ‘How could you do this to us?’ ”

In more recent years in the House, Rep. Stacey Campfield — an outspoken social conservative from Knoxville — was the object of much abuse. Before killing his bills one after another in committee, Democrats often took glee in publicly taunting and humiliating Campfield as if he were the House jester complete with floppy cap and bells.

“Ah, the bad old days,” Campfield said. “The shoe’s on the other foot now.”

When the 107th General Assembly convenes at noon on Jan. 11, Republicans will reign supreme. Not even the most optimistic party diehards ever predicted this dramatic realignment of power. 

The past two election cycles have been disasters for the state’s Democrats. The coup de grace came in November, when Republicans took an astonishing 14 state House seats. The party not only controls the governor’s office, but it’s only two votes short of a super-majority in the House and owns a commanding 20-13 advantage in the Senate.

Among the new GOP senators is Campfield, who was promoted from the House in November. He is feeling wistful these days. Payback is fun, but who’s left to punish?

“I have mixed feelings,” he said sardonically. “So many Democrats were beaten. I wish some more of them were here to serve in the minority so they could be treated as fairly as we were treated.” 

As tempting as it might be to exact revenge, many in the party say Job No. 1 is proving the new Republican majority can set aside petty partisanship and govern capably and responsibly. To that end, from Gov.-elect Bill Haslam on down, GOP leaders have taken great pains since the elections to play down volatile, publicity-hogging social issues like guns, immigration and abortion that might scare independent voters. Instead, they emphasize job creation and the economy as their almost-exclusive concern. 

“Gov.-elect Haslam’s agenda, his job creation program, will be at the top,” said House Speaker-to-be Beth Harwell when asked to name her priorities. “I have a caucus that understands the most important thing we can do is to have an environment that’s conducive to creating jobs, and that means fewer government jobs and lower taxes.” 

As their jobs agenda, Republicans are expected to ram through a gaggle of measures long sought by business interests in this state. The state’s business leaders say they are advising Haslam and legislative leaders on how to proceed.

On the to-do list:

• Changing state law to restrict eligibility for unemployment benefits and make it less difficult and time-consuming for businesses to deny payments to workers.

• Enacting caps on damages awarded in lawsuits against businesses, including product liability and medical malpractice cases. 

• Streamlining or even eliminating some business regulations, particularly regarding environmental protection. 

“They want to look at Tennessee’s regulatory structure, from soup to nuts,” said Bradley Jackson, vice president for governmental relations at the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “There’s a real movement out there for that. It could get down to the county licensing process.” 

Republicans say they will help create jobs by lowering the costs of doing business and improving the economic climate in the state. 

“What small businesses want out of government is to just leave them alone,” Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said. “One thing we can work toward is reducing some regulation and increasing the ability of small business to work with state government. Our permitting process in the Department of Environment and Conservation is completely out of control. I know of examples of businesses trying to get a simple permit that used to take a couple of weeks and now they’re taking months.” 

But can Republicans keep their focus? This session, they won’t fight much with Democrats, who are too few to matter. Instead, the main subtext likely will be the tension between the GOP’s rowdy right wing and its more orthodox conservatives.

Given carte blanche by voters to do pretty much whatever they please, some lawmakers will find their divisive social issues irresistible. If Republicans are seen as pandering to imprudent hardliners in their base, it could give Democrats an opening to stake their claim as the party of reasonable adults. 

Republicans already are planning to push a strict Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration, despite opposition from the state’s business leaders who fear a loss of tourism and a national embarrassment. To answer their critics, these lawmakers contend anti-immigration measures are jobs bills, too. 

“With the high unemployment we already have, how can we justify having illegal immigrants working rather than natural citizens?” Campfield said.

Also in the hopper for this session: 

• Stripping abortion rights out of the state constitution. That was adopted in the last legislature, and it’s almost certain to pass again — this time by the two-thirds majority required to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the 2014 election ballot. Even if voters approve it, abortions will remain legal because of Roe v. Wade. Other measures to restrict abortion rights could be more controversial. Some states, for instance, have passed laws forcing women to look at ultrasounds of their fetuses before having abortions. 

• Banning gay adoption, a high priority for Christian conservatives. In the past, Democrats have managed to defeat this bill in committee. They point to studies showing that denying children adoptive homes with gay couples would cost Tennessee nearly $3 million — the price of keeping those children languishing in state custody.

• Allowing the state’s 300,000 handgun permit holders to carry firearms in city and county parks, no questions asked. Under the present law, which was enacted only two years ago, cities and counties can vote to ban firearms in their parks, and most of the state’s cities — including Nashville — did that.

During the gubernatorial campaign, Haslam often said he wouldn’t push for such legislation. With his support, Harwell could bottle up bills in the committee system, as Democrats often did when they ran the legislature, if she feels they are bogging down the session or grabbing too many headlines. Campfield insists social conservative causes shouldn’t have to yield to economic issues. 

“I can pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time,” he said. “Honestly, we don’t have to be one dimensional.”   

30 Comments on this post:

By: spooky24 on 12/27/10 at 6:58

I love this:

"Republicans already are planning to push a strict Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration, despite opposition from the state’s business leaders who fear a loss of tourism and a national embarrassment"

Should really say:

Republicans already are planning to push a strict Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration, despite opposition from the state’s business leaders who fear a loss of cheap undocumented labor for their son's lawn care business.



By: ghost7638ghost7... on 12/27/10 at 9:16

I am a democrate but the party has gone too far from what is right anymore. After meeting Ron Ramsey and calling the Muslims for what they really are a CULT, I am impressed. The Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigrations is what this country needs. The unemployment in this country would be at 5 percent if we sent them back to Mexico where they belong. A great law would be to treat them like drug dealers, anything that they gained illegal take it from them and send them back empty handed. Also if they get caught in the US then put them in prison for a year like they do us in Mexico.The welfare then would stop being drained and the state could be in great financial status again. The gun law should be that a permitt person should be able to carry a gun anywhere, the crimmals already do. Abortion is murder, kill a fetus who wants a child its prison time, kill a fetus who doesn't want a child it then alright. Explain the difference? Homosexual adoption is wrong, it confuses a small child and sets a BAD example. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, to where it can't be find today cause of homosexualty, do you really want to test God? You will lose.

By: AmyLiorate on 12/27/10 at 9:22

I'm still straining the hear Haslam talk about his 1,000 little budget cuts to reign in the $1B hole.

Jobs are great and increased revenue can go a long way to boost the state but can it add up to $1B in time?

Now would be a time for Republican leaders to work for the people and make a common sense districting plan. So the people will be represented and not just the whim of the party.

Can the Republican majority take such a noble path? Only time will tell if they want to serve the people or just themselves.

By: Just Sayin on 12/27/10 at 9:32

Just Sayin when I read this article it made me feel ill, if it's true that dem house menbers would publicly taunt and humiliate other state senators, thats pitiful. This is the kinds of things that school children do, not public elected officials. Then to see what the republican agenda is for the next session of the house, like making unemployment benefits easier for bussiness to deny payments to workers, putting caps on medical malpractice suits, eliminating bussiness regulations on enviromental protection. Excuse me but this all sounds like issues that help the people are being tossed aside, only to cater to the corporations that will line the pockets of our politicans. Thank God we live in the Bible Belt, can you imagine what could happen if we didn't.

By: AmyLiorate on 12/27/10 at 9:52

Yes JS, that is the way they act. Often there is little we should respect in our public servants, yet they manage to get the constituents to revere them.

"The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves." William Hazlitt

By: shinestx on 12/27/10 at 10:26

LOL... what a bunch of illiterate dupes you supporters of the Dem-wits are... especially Amy (why is "Now" suddenly the time for all politicians to make nice?) and Just Sayin (I mean, do you know how much you parrot the media?). After four years of total Dem-wit control and "Up yours" legislation from their leftist puppetmasters, suddenly the rank-and-file Dem-wits are trying to ignore many clear facts that even half-observant Americans now know: their party is now firmly the party of socialism with no base in the center; their party is anti-business and economic destruction; their party promotes government dependency ad-infinitem; their party ignored the people when it had total control of the federal government; their party has quadrupled the deficit and doubled the debt in four years; their party has even admitted the flaws of its own foundational philosophies... when their "genius" B.O. said expiration of the Bush tax rates (remember the tax cuts for the rich that the Dem-wits now want to save the portion for the "middle class"?) would hurt the economic "recovery". No wonder the dwindling supporters of the "progressive" left are so angry all the time: their Dem-wit party has shown all their principles to be fraudulent. You know it's really easy to be compassionate with other people's money and unlimited debt.

So final question: If Barack Obama has worked so hard to "fix" the economy for the past two years, does the current dismal state of the economy not prove that he is a failure?

By: EDUNITED on 12/27/10 at 10:55

If Dems had behaved better, they would not be so fearful. However, we can count on their lackeys at the Tennessean to scream bloody murder at any Republican attempt to rebalance the State. What else would anyone expect from a newspaper that shrinks its pages by the month because its quality of content is nihil.

It is a harbinger of things to come when the Tennessean writes about "illegal alien" legislation as a politicized issue.

I am glad that Grownups will run the government. At last.

Ed vanVoorhees

By: cval on 12/27/10 at 11:05

It's only fair that Democrats get a taste of their own medicine now that Republicans are in power. But, were these men and women elected to usurp power or act like statesmen and put the needs of real people of the the State of Tennessee ahead of their own pettiness? When do the people get a fair shake?

By: wataboutbob on 12/27/10 at 11:08

Now we need to do the same thing with the federal government to get this country back on track.

By: yogiman on 12/27/10 at 11:17

The best thing that has happened to Tennessee was when Obama stole the White House and WOKE THE PEOPLE UP! I think many of the people of our nation have begun to understand how anti-American and pro-Muslim the man is.

I agree Tennessee with following Arizona on the issue of illegal aliens in our nation. A major question there is; Why did congress allow it to happen for so long?

Another question has been why they questioned John McCain about his eligibility but not Barack Obama. Hell, is he really a legal citizen? I don't know. Do you?

I have asked my State Representative to submit a bill requiring any one running for the POTUS office to submit proof of legal eligibility before they can be placed on our ballot.

Obama can be the last one to pull that stunt off if it is passed..

By: AmyLiorate on 12/27/10 at 11:18

ShineTX, exactly what do you see in my comment that leads you to believe I support Democrats? I think you have made a large ass-umption when all I called for was a level playing field and to put the people over the party.

For the record, it isn't often that I agree with the Democrats.

I can't recall the last time I voted for one but is there ever a time to keep doing what is wrong instead of making things better?!?

By: zmania on 12/27/10 at 11:30

SMH. This article is big time exaggeration on that happens in the house. Surely if this was going on we would've heard about it.
Another thing. What ate the Republicans planning to do for the people? Pass some anti-imagration law that will surely hurt tourism and increase crime? Guns in Parks, no questions asked? How will anyone know the legal ones and where will all the school sports be moved to? The Republicans need to stop worshipping these people with all the money and get down to business on getting this economy back on track. So far all I see is a bunch of personal agendas."Z"

By: xhexx on 12/27/10 at 11:41

You can be sure that RINO, Harwell, will keep the guns in parks bill from coming to the floor. After all, she must listen to the constituents in her heavily Dem district. How does she even get elected there in the first place with an R by her name?

By: CitizensWin on 12/27/10 at 12:47

In four years Tennessee will only be worse off. The now billion dollar deficit will appear minuscule when corporate tax enforcement is relaxed, reduced or deleted altogether. Compounding the problem will be fewer federal dollar showing up to subsidize healthcare, education and road construction. Anticipate a diminished Tennessee regardless of the distractions of guns, abortion and immigration. This is a national problem and that the status quo is not up for. It is far easier to ignore a problem than to actually solve a problem, and that's a problem. Good luck Bill Haslam.

By: yogiman on 12/27/10 at 1:08


You mentioned federal dollars showing up to subsidize health care, education and road construction. What is a 'federal' dollar? It is yours, mine and all of our fellow citizens who are paying taxes.

By what authority does our "government" have to put one hand out to take our money and put it in the other hand to pass it out to whom they want to have it?

I don't claim to be an expert on our Constitution, but I have never read where Congress can just take what they want to spend it where they want. I think that 97-98 percent of them have forgotten who put them in office and for what reason.

I must remind them; We didn't put them there to 'take care' of themselves.

By: pswindle on 12/27/10 at 1:19

Let's tell the truth about Haslam. He is taking over from a governor that has the state in a great situation. The jobs that are being built in TN has nothing to do with Haslam, but he will get the credit for the jobs. In six monsths, we will see that he is not up to the job. When the new wears off and he has to do something for TN that is when it will hit the fan. The GOP lawmakers put the isues that are important and stay true to the christian folk. The GOP does not want to pay taxes, but they sure like the benefits. When sthe earmarkss from Washington are not in the pocket of the GOP state senate, oh, where oh where will the money come from. The GOP wanted to stop earmarks, and now look at the babies crying.

By: yogiman on 12/27/10 at 2:24

Time will tell, pswindle, time will tell. Tell us in July how right you was and we'll congratulate you for being so wise.

By: CitizensWin on 12/27/10 at 3:29

Like it or not, Tennessee can thank states like New York and California for making up the difference that Tennessee shortchanges in income tax for what it receives back.

With California sitting on a 20 billion dollar deficit and the other states with 120 billion, this situation promises only to get worse when funds from the federal government's $800 billion stimulus plan evaporates.

You can thank a Democrat Governor and legislature for not driving Tennessee into a deeper ditch for the past 8 years.

What's Next?

By: commiekiller1 on 12/27/10 at 8:16

The far left still amazes me at how far out of touch with reality they still are. Now, as to the state not being in debt like others,that is true.The lottery was robbed by Dems for all kinds of plans like energy efficient schools. Teachers and state employees do not deserve defined benefit plans. Most of us invest money in the market, and; we live with the results. Now, defined benefit plans are not affordable for any state.

This State needs to get off the failed schools is a money fault. It is a teacher fault. Add parents, too. Businesses came to TN because of right to work. Now, Obozo has a union bill to kill that.

Unions will kill this state. The damn government is AFGE. Our soldiers and sailors, plus marines and airman give us liberty- not some clown in a suit.

No more handouts.

By: joe41 on 12/27/10 at 11:36

I just hope we don't make fools of ourselves with issues like guns, immigration, mosques, and gay rights. Stick to things that the state government should be involved in.

By: Kosh III on 12/28/10 at 9:12

"Gov.-elect Haslam’s agenda, his job creation program, will be at the top,” .... and that means fewer government jobs."'

Only our hypocritical plutocrats would think that putting people out of work is "job creaton."
"“What small businesses want out of government is to just leave them alone,”

What private citizens want is for government to leave them alone: stop dictating who an allegedly free citizen can marry or who can adopt.

"Woe unto you....hypocrites." Yehoshua ben Yosef Matt 23

By: erbymi02 on 12/28/10 at 12:17

The Schutzstaffel (German pronunciation: [ˈʃʊtsʃtafəl] ( listen), Protection Squadron), abbreviated SS—or with stylized "Armanen" Sig runes — was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS, under Heinrich Himmler's command, was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II (1939–1945). After 1945 the SS was banned in Germany along with the Nazi Party as a criminal organization.

The SS was formed in 1925 as a personal protection guard unit for Adolf Hitler. Under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler between 1929 and 1945, the SS grew from a small paramilitary formation to one of the largest and most powerful organizations in the Third Reich.

If Haslam's Immigration bill passes; We can welcome back the good old days of: "Show Me Your Papers". No Papers... get on the deathcamp train.

By: pswindle on 12/28/10 at 1:09

All doubt has been erased, red TN is nuts.

By: mariebarbara on 12/29/10 at 7:30

• Stripping abortion rights out of the state constitution. ....why can't reporters get this right. You are correct in stating that abortion would still be legal due to Roe Vs. Wade but what SJR 127 does is state that our constitution in t he state of TN is neutral on the issue of fact silent on it. What does this do? Allow the elected state legislators to enact regulations around legal abortion such as informed consent, waiting periods and here is something that needs to be done....state that abortion facilities being inspected, regulated and licensed. It does not strip away abortion rights but takes measure to enact commonsense regulations. How radical is that? We used to have these things before Planned Parenthood, nation's largest abortion profiteer and ACLU sued the state saying that our state Constitution held a broader right to abortion than Roe Vs. Wade.

By: mariebarbara on 12/29/10 at 7:46

And what is that comment about states forcing women to view ultrasounds as part of informed consent before choosing to abort? What state is that? Would you mean ALLOWING them to view ultrasounds before aborting?

By: mariebarbara on 12/29/10 at 7:50

forcing them to view ultrasounds of their fetuses before having an abortion.
fetus= Latin for young one or offspring as in baby

By: BigPapa on 12/29/10 at 9:12

"If Haslam's Immigration bill passes; We can welcome back the good old days of: "Show Me Your Papers". No Papers... get on the deathcamp train"

Hyperbole much? Cmon you can't REALLY believe that Haslam is planning on setting up concentration camps... dont over state an opinion for shock value, you look like an idiot.

By: erbymi02 on 12/29/10 at 11:36

Hey! BigPapa so you think shock value is what this is about. Ask the Jews of Germany and Poland. Then, after the Haslam legislation is enacted... ask some of the Hispanics how they like being profiled? How will you determine at a glance who is legal and who is not. Stop without probable cause. This will be strickly subjective on the part of those entrusted to carryout this foolishness.

It's never as bad as it seems until its here. No there won't be deathcamps, but look for these people to be retained in a staging/ holding pattern until it can be determined whether they are legal or illegal. Look at how we treated the Japanese during WWII. FEAR is what driving this. Many of these people work for you if not with one. How two-faced van we be.

We need true immigration reform. Not methods derived from Nazi Germany.

By: BigPapa on 12/29/10 at 12:45

Yeah you're right.. It's JUST LIKE Nazi Germany... (good grief)

By: pswindle on 12/29/10 at 6:27

I saw somehting yesterday that haunts me. I was in a doctor's office and a family came in with a eighteen or plus son in a carriage. He had no quality of life. He just lay ther making noises, and he had no idea of what was going on around him, The parents would talk to him with no response. The parents looked as if they could not go another minute. This one child has taken the wind and life out of the whole family. There is no life for this family beyond this disabled son. I know about this type of child because it happened to a friend of mine. The whole family has been destroyed. The husband walked away and the Mother is unable to work. She had to go on welfare and Tenn Care. What would you do? You need to walk in someone else's shoes before you are against abortions.