House panel assignments still up in air


Committee assignments in the Tennessee House of Representatives may be decided next week after a meeting is held on Tuesday between the majority and minority leaders and the new Speaker of the House. That was the word Thursday from State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Lebanon, who, along with her Democratic counterpart State Rep. Stratton Bone of Lebanon, witnessed an unprecedented for modern times change at the top of the House in a roundabout and shocking political maneuver.

“It was pretty shocking,” was how Lynn summed up the week’s events that brought Republican Kent Williams to the position of Speaker of the House in a deal with Democrats on Tuesday. Majority Leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol had been expected to ascend to the Speaker’s position after Republicans won a majority in the House in the Nov. 4, 2008 elections.

In some final maneuvering by Democratic leaders, those plans were dashed when Minority Leader Gary Odom of Nashville nominated Williams as Speaker and all 49 Democrats voted for him. Williams cast a vote for himself bringing the vote total to 50 in favor and 49 Republican votes for Mumpower. Lynn seconded the motion to elect Mumpower during Tuesday’s proceedings. Williams’ replaces longtime House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, who served 18 years in the position.

“It was an interesting week,” Bone said Thursday afternoon.

Committee assignments are up in the air until next week when Mumpower and Odom will meet with Williams to discuss who will serve on which panels.

Lynn said House Republican members had determined that they would not accept committee assignments, but Mumpower addressed the group and told them he appreciated their loyalty and support for him but he was going to the meeting and would do the best he could for them in obtaining assignments.

“It’s very hard to get committee assignments,” she said, adding that Mumpower told them he could not promise who would get what.

Lynn said he told members “‘If I’m able to get them (the assignments), I want you to take them.’”

She noted that she and other House Republicans were touched by his comments. “That’s real leadership. He’s still going to bat for us. We truly appreciate it.”

Lynn has served as a member of the House Commerce Committee, member of the House Government Operations Committee and member of the House Utilities, Banking and Small Business Subcommittee.

Bone has served as chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, member of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee and member of the Joint Pensions and Insurance Select Committee.

The House and Senate did meet for a time on Thursday to elect new Constitutional officers, but Lynn said she understood that Odom and Republican Sen. Mark Norris worked all night regarding whether the election would be held yesterday as scheduled.

In the end, House and Senate Republicans were victorious in electing their choices for the Constitutional offices. The new officials are Tre Hargett as Secretary of State, replacing Riley Darnell; Justin Wilson as State Comptroller, replacing John Morgan; and David Lillard Jr. as State Treasurer, replacing Dale Sims. She said she believed Odom came to the conclusion that it would have looked bad for the

Democrats if yesterday’s election had not taken place.

“It was tense,” she said of the joint session. “I couldn’t help but be apprehensive.”

She noted that Hargett, Wilson and Lillard were “fine people,” and members will go on and get down to business.

For his part, Bone was complimentary toward Williams, the new Speaker. “He is a man I’ve worked with before. I found him to be fair. I think he will do a good job.”

Bone said it was possible the new Speaker will divide the chairmanships of the various committees between the two parties. The committees in the past have been pretty evenly balanced between the parties, he noted.

“It’s a big job trying to pull all that together,” he said, adding it was important to put the best qualified people on the committees.

Bone said he has served as an officer and as a member on committees and as far as remaining on the Agriculture panel, “I feel confident I’ll stay on.” 

The General Assembly is to go back into session in February when Gov. Phil Bredesen will give his budget address to members in a joint session.

Bone said anyone wanting a new program or new money to fund it or an old one may want to rethink that because the message from the governor and the General Assembly is “cut, cut, cut. We’re still trying to make up this shortfall we’re in right now.”

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