Beth Harwell

House Speaker Gerald McCormick?

With Beth Harwell announcing her run for governor in 2018,  which means she can’t seek reelection to the House, state Rep. Gerald McCormick says he’s looking to succeed her as Speaker of the House in January, 2019, reports the Times-Free Press.

McCormick said with three two-year terms as majority leader under his belt — he chose not to seek the post last session and was named by Harwell in January as Finance subcommittee chairman — he believes he has “more experience probably than anybody else in the House dealing with governors and senators.”

“And that’s a lot of what the job entails, I think,” McCormick said. “I think I can step in on the first day and know what I was doing and try to get things moving in the right direction so far as our relationships with those folks go and understanding how the body works and how committees work.”

… McCormick’s successor as majority leader, former House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin, is seen as another possible candidate to replace Harwell.

“I’ll look at it this time next year,” Casada said of a possible bid for speaker. “I’ve got a year of a lot of members leaving — it’s the governor’s last term. So we’ve got a lot of work to go and as majority leader I’ve got to focus on that.

“I can’t take my eye off the ball of being majority leader for the next 12 months,” said Casada, who expects 10 to 12 of the 73 Republican incumbents, including Harwell, not to seek re-election to the House.

Asked earlier about the possibility of Casada running, McCormick noted the Franklin Republican hasn’t been involved in the Finance Committee, which participates in negotiations with senators over the state’s annual spending plan.

Moreover, McCormick noted that in six years, he carried any number of bills for the governor.

“So I’ve got more experience from that standpoint,” McCormick said.

Harwell announces as candidate for governor

News release from Beth Harwell campaign

Nashville, Tenn. — Beth Harwell, Tennessee’s Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, today announced her campaign for Governor of Tennessee.

“Tennessee needs someone who possesses the experience from day one to lead our state to the next level and who has a steady hand when challenges come our way,” Harwell said. “As Governor, I will lead on jobs, cutting taxes, guaranteeing every child has a great school, and ensuring our Tennessee values are protected. Every Tennessean should have every opportunity to succeed and prosper in our state. That’s why I am running to be Tennessee’s next Governor.”

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Harwell continues ‘good groundwork’ for gubernatorial campaign

House Speaker Beth Harwell spent Monday and Tuesday in the Tri-Cities area of Northeast Tennessee and, during the visiting, told WHJL TV that she’s laying “some good groundwork” for announcement as a Republican candidate for governor later this month.

News Channel 11 asked Harwell if she had made her decision yet to run for Tennessee’s next governor, and she said she’s “leaning that way.”

“I’m just getting my team together and just wanted to continue to reach out to folks and lay some good groundwork,” Harwell said.

The Johnson City Press has a lengthy report on her visit to a new “aerospace park” project at the Tri-Cities Airport on Monday. An escort on her tour was former state Rep. Richard Venable, now mayor of Sullivan County.

Note: Venable was not among the 22 East Tennessee mayors declaring their support for Randy Boyd’s gubernatorial campaign back in May. (Previous post HERE.) On Harwell’s July announcement plan, see also the Nashville Post. Excerpt: “Sometime in July — I’ve got to keep you a little bit guessing,” Harwell laughed. “We’ll get it out there when it’s the appropriate time.”

New ‘blue ribbon task force’ on juvenile justice system set up by speakers (Haslam gets a seat)

News release from House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office

NASHVILLE – Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) this week announced the formation of the Joint Ad Hoc Tennessee Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice. The task force will be co-chaired by Speaker Harwell and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).

The task force will study, evaluate, analyze, and undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s juvenile justice system, using a data-driven approach. The members are charged with developing evidence-based policy recommendations that will lead to potential legislative action that will protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and contain costs while improving outcomes for youth and families in Tennessee.  Continue reading

Harwell urges AG to sue opioid drug manufacturers

House Speaker Beth Harwell has asked Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery to consider filing a lawsuit against five manufacturers of prescription opioid drugs – as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine did earlier this week.

Harwell’s letter to Slatery says Tennessee is “consistently ranked among the worst states” for the opioid abuse and notes the Ohio lawsuit contends the drug manufacturers “sparked the addiction crisis by misrepresenting the drugs’ addictive qualities.”

Further from WKRN:

“We have a true crisis in our state,” said… Harwell. “And we want to address it… To some extent, drug manufacturers have misled how addictive these prescriptions are.”

Speaker Harwell said she’ll defer to the Attorney General to decide if a lawsuit is necessary. Harwell also stated she does hope that if a lawsuit is filed by the state. If the court sides with the state, the money would go toward helping people battling addiction.

“Really what we’re looking for is some assistance in helping people go through rehabilitation programs and to pay for those programs,” Harwell said. “To help them come off of what is really a crisis.”

From an AP brief on the letter:

The companies sued by DeWine are Purdue Pharma; Endo Health Solutions; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and its subsidiary, Cephalon; Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals; and Allergan.

And here’s a statement via email from Attorney General Slatery: “Ohio advised us that it was taking this step.  It is hard to overstate the problem that opioid abuse is in our State and nationally.  We have been working for quite some time with the Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and frankly other states, to determine the most effective role our Office can play in addressing and helping to resolve this problem.”

A copy of the letter is available by clicking on this link: harwellletter

Harwell to divided Republicans: ‘Be kind to each other’

With Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax bill scheduled to hit the House and Senate floors on Wednesday, GOP House Speaker Beth Harwell is urging divided fellow Republicans to “try to keep personalities out of it” during debate, reports the Times-Free Press.

“This will be a hard week,” Harwell told GOP Caucus members Monday. “We got big votes and I’m just asking y’all no matter how you come down on this — we’re going to have good Republicans for this bill, we’re going to have good Republicans against this bill — I’m asking you to be kind to each other.

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On early twists and turns in the 2018 GOP race for governor

Excerpt from a review of recent developments in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign by the AP’s Eric Schelzig:

The repeal of former President Barack Obama’s health care law was supposed to provide a springboard for U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s entry into the Tennessee governor’s race.

State Sen. Mark Green was supposed to capture to the core of President Donald Trump’s supporters.

And term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax proposal was supposed to fall flat, avoiding political difficulties for House Speaker Beth Harwell.

But none of that has happened as expected, leaving an unsettled Republican field for the 2018 gubernatorial nomination.

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Roundup of some recent TN politics and policy writing

Gas tax debate brings new legislator titles

In a lengthy review of conservative legislator complaints that they haven’t gotten a fair hearing while opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax plans, Sam Stockard depicts Rep. Jerry Sexton as “apparent leader of the ‘Fire and Brimstone Caucus’.”

Excerpt:

Sexton was so irritated he got into an argument with Tennessee Journal writer “Easy” Ed Cromer, who had the audacity to ask him if he also opposed a cut in the food sales tax, a 1 percent reduction contained in the bill.

“Why don’t you ask me if I’m against F&E and the Hall tax (cuts)? You want to pick out something,” Sexton argued.

Cromer, who could be the most laid-back member in the Capitol Hill Press Corps, bristled at the suggestion he was being unfair – at least as much as he can bristle – and after a short back-and-forth with Sexton left the scene of the crime (We’ve got a lot of folks storming out these days).

On the other hand, Tennessee Star – which has hailed Sexton’s efforts and commentary – has taken to referring to Rep. Barry Doss, R-Leoma, who has taken the lead in pushing Haslam’s bill in the House – as “Boss Doss” in criticizing his commentary.

The latest example, under the headline “Boss Doss Claim That Tennessee is Lowest Taxed State in Nation Contradicted by Kiplinger Report” is HERE.

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Gas tax maneuvers: Haslam targets 15 House votes; Harwell may flip-flop

House Speaker Beth Harwell, who last week declared her support for an alternative to Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package proposal, now says she’s “leaning” toward support of the administration bill, reports the Times-Free Press.

The governor, meanwhile, has set up 20-minute private interviews with 15 legislators considered “on the fence” in voting for the bill, reports The Tennessee Star. There are 11 Republicans and four Democrats on the list of legislators getting an emailed invitation.

The House floor vote on Haslam’s bill is scheduled for Wednesday.

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Haslam gas tax plan clears House Finance; no vote on Harwell alternative

Gov. Bill Haslam gas tax bill won approval of the House Finance Committee in a voice vote Tuesday after an alternative proposal promoted by House Speaker Beth Harwell was discussed, then shelved without a vote.

The Harwell alternative came in the form of an amendment sponsored by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, that would have diverted sales tax revenue from vehicle sales to the highway fund rather than the state’s general fund. Haslam’s bill (HB534) raises the gas tax by six cents per gallon and the diesel fuel tax by 10 cents per gallon over a three-year period. It also includes cuts to other taxes.

Further from The Tennessean:

The House finance committee’s approval of Haslam’s bill assures the measure could receive a vote on the House floor, barring any last minute legislative high jinks. (It’s already cleared for a Senate floor vote.)

… Rep. Gerald McCormick moved to reject Hawk’s proposal, which led the Greeneville Republican to withdraw his amendment.

McCormick said because Hawk’s amendment would have completely rewritten the bill, the committee should be leery of taking such action.

“I’m really afraid that we could make some serious mistakes doing that,” McCormick said.

Despite pulling back his amendment, Hawk vowed to continue to fight over the measure on the House floor.

“I will state that this issue is far from being done. We will have a conversation on the floor about how we need to better fund transportation and what is the most responsible way to do that as we serve our constituents,” Hawk said. “That’s a promise. We will have a debate on the floor and we will bring an amendment to the floor.”

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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