Beth Harwell

Harwell, Casada reject Democrats’ call for special session

In a perhaps unusual move, House Republican leaders have responded to Thursday’s House Democrats holding a news conference and issuing a press release urging a special legislative session on Medicaid expansion.  (Usually such Democrat doings are ignored.) They spurned the idea.

House Speaker Beth Harwell: “As Speaker of the House, I believe that instead of calling for a wasteful special session to expand a program that is failing, we as State Representatives and Senators should instead call on Congress to return healthcare back to the states without strings attached so we can begin to develop a better, more affordable program for Tennesseans.”

House Majority Leader Glen Casada“As Republican leaders of our state, we want to get rid of the disaster of Obamacare, not support a broken healthcare system that has become a drain on Tennessee families and backed insurance providers into a corner. 

Republicans want real solutions, not political promises that would result in more bureaucracy, higher costs, and drive a bigger wedge between patients and doctors. Obamacare has caused insurance rates to skyrocket to a point where the middle class can no longer afford coverage. 

Medicaid expansion has been an abysmal failure for those states that have participated. Here in Tennessee, we are committed to improving the health and quality of life for all Tennesseans through free market principles that demonstrate real results.

Note: The House Democratic Caucus press release is posted HERE.

Harwell on ‘elections not auctions’ & being a cemetery groundskeeper

Campaigning for Republican gubernatorial nomination on Friday, Beth Harwell was quoting state Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) when asked about facing multi-millionaire opponent  and a Virginia politician on what it’s like to be speaker of a state House of Representatives.

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Medical marijuana task force hears cannabis critics

The first meeting of the legislature’s Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis ran about five hours with much of the lawmakers’ time spent listening to concerns that legalizing use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is a slippery slope, reports WPLN.

At the meeting, lawmakers were repeatedly told medicinal use of marijuana would lead to abuse. Experts spoke of supplies contaminated with other drugs, the difficulty of keeping legally purchased marijuana from being resold and stories of underage children dying after ingesting marijuana.

The testimony drew pushback from one of medical cannabis’s big supporters.

“You need to be fair,” said state Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby (the committee co-chair). “If we’re going to hold marijuana use for medical purpose to a standard, then compare it to what’s going on right now that’s legal and that’s encouraged by a lot of doctors.”

Faison argued that marijuana is less dangerous than many opioids and psychotropic drugs.

An excerpt from WTVF TV’s report:

The state Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer, David Reagan, said he believes medical marijuana hasn’t been studied enough to legalize in Tennessee.

“We support doing additional research. The FDA, more the DEA from our perspective, has traditionally been, for 100 years, has been an organization that exemplifies getting us safe and effective medicines,” said Reagan. Until marijuana’s schedule one designation changes, Reagan said he doesn’t think it will be studied to the level it needs.

And House Speaker Beth Harwell, who appointed House members of the panel, continues to be asked about the subject as she campaigns for governor. From WJHL TV, reporting on her campaigning in the Tri-Cities last week:

“We’re not talking about recreational at all, I’m not for that. I’m not even for smoking marijuana, that causes cancer,” Harwell said. “I’m for oils and edibles and something that can help a lot of people who are suffering from chronic pain.”

The panel plans future meetings in the Knoxville and Memphis areas.

Harwell, McNally establish medical marijuana panel

In accord with an agreement reached back in March, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally on Friday appointed a joint House-Senate committee to study medical marijuana and make a report to the Legislature for next year’s session.

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Democrat Bob Freeman eyes run for Harwell’s House seat

Bob Freeman, a real estate professional and son of prominent Tennessee Democratic donor Bill Freeman, is considering running in 2018 for the House seat that’s being vacated by Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell, a candidate for governor, reports The Tennessean.

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After sister’s Colorado experience, Harwell ‘open’ to medical marijuana in TN

House Speaker Beth Harwell, campaigning for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, says treatment of her sister’s back injury has caused her to reevaluate Tennessee’s ban on medical marijuana, reports the Associated Press.

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Black bashes ‘meek’ Nashville Republicans; Harwell bashes Washington Republicans

Excerpts from a Times Free Press report on a Sunday forum for Republican gubernatorial candidates in Williamson County, hosted by state Sen. Jack Johnson.

We can find Republicans who are too weak or too meek right here in Nashville as well,” (said U.S. Rep. Diane Black)… “The people of Tennessee did not give us a majority to be meek. They made us the majority so we could do what we say we can do. And that’s the job of our next governor. To lead this state in a way with a firm hand and a strong spine. And that’s what the state of Tennessee needs is a strong leader.”

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Beavers, Black and Harwell on hopes of becoming first woman TN governor

Comments collected by The Tennessean from three women running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination on the prospect of becoming the first female to hold office as Tennessee governor:

Diane Black: “It would be truly historic but I will tell you even more historic to me is to know that I would be the 50th governor of the state of Tennessee. That is the history that we would make.”

Beth Harwell: “I don’t think anyone should vote for me because I am a woman but I would tell you the historical significance is great. And it’s especially so because in the year 2020 this state will celebrate a hundred years of being the state that made it possible for women to earn the right to vote. I think it’d be nice to have a female governor at that point.”

Mae Beavers: “Of course it would have significance. It would kind of be overwhelming I would think. But it’s all about doing what’s right for the state of Tennessee.”

Harwell, Stevens back Rep. Sanderson — criticized for tax vote — in reelection bid

House Speaker Beth Harwell and state Sen. Ed Jackson praised state Rep. Bill Sanderson at a luncheon held in his honor Thursday, reports the Dyersburg State Gazette. Sanderson, facing a prospective challenger in the House District 77 Republican primary, said he’s under attack for supporting a package of tax legislation this year that included an increase in fuel tax levies.

Some excerpted quotes:

Jackson: “I believe in Bill so much, I have written a check to Bill Sanderson for his re-election in the amount of $2,500. We’ve got to keep Bill in Nashville. He does great work for this district.”

Harwell: “Bill Sanderson is one of the finest, highest-quality individuals you can send to Nashville to represent you…. There was no doubt who I wanted to chair one of my most important committees and that was Bill Sanderson. He is that high of quality legislator. You are blessed to have him. I want to extend my appreciation for you.” (Note: Harwell appointed Sanderson as chair of the House State Government Subcommittee.)

Sanderson: “I work hard every day up there, but now this group basically wants to send me home. And some say, ‘Well, don’t take it personal’. Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way, but I do take it personal. Speaker Harwell, you know, we helped pass the largest tax cut in the state of Tennessee’s history this year. We’ve had industry locate to Dyer County solely because we lowered the franchise and excise tax in Tennessee… But yet, I’m being judged because I voted for the largest tax cut in the state of Tennessee’s history. That one element, a lot of folks said, ‘We don’t need it’. But that’s not true. We do need it.”

Note: The newspaper had an earlier story on Jerry Wright, mayor of Newbern, saying he’s considering a run for the Republican nomination against Sanderson. Wright contended Dyer County and Lake County (also part of the House district) have been shortchanged as compared to other areas in road funding and declared “the bottom line is people want someone that’s going to Nashville and fight for them, and what they want.” Jackson, whose district includes Dyer and Lake counties, faces a primary challenger who has criticized his vote for the tax bill. (Previous post HERE.)

Harwell appoints PAC treasurer to TN State Museum governing board

House Speaker Beth Harwell has reappointed Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel to the governing board of the Tennessee State Museum, but is giving her own seat on the panel to Tina Hodges, CEO of Nashville-based Advance Financial.

Harwell had previously appointed herself to a four-year term on the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission that officially expired June 30, but she continued to serve through the panel’s July 3 meeting, as allowed under relevant rules allowing an appointee to stay aboard until a successor is appointed, said Kara Owen, spokeswoman to the speaker in response to email inquiries.

Subsequently, Owen said, Harwell appointed Hodges, who already serves – by appointment of Gov. Bill Haslam – on the board of directors for Volunteer Tennessee, a group that has the declared mission of promoting “volunteerism and community service” by Tennesseans. She is currently listed as vice chairman.

Hodges also serves as treasurer of Advance PAC, a political action committee operated by Advance Financial. A check of the Registry of Campaign Finance website for 2015 and 2016 shows Advance PAC giving Harwell’s reelection campaign for her state House seat $10,000 and it also donated $8,000 to the leadership PAC operated by Harwell.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

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

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