published Saturday, May 14th, 2011

State GOP legislative leaders hope session ends next week

Republican leaders in the GOP-led Tennessee General Assembly had been planning on winding up their annual session the week before Memorial Day but are now keeping their fingers crossed they can finish late next week.

“I think there’s a real possibility of us adjourning next week,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Republican Senate speaker from Blountville, as he told colleagues on Thursday to pack extra clothing for the coming week. “I think we have a real shot.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, also thought it was a possibility.

For that to happen, lawmakers would have to pretty much have a glitch-free week as they try to wrap up work on the 2011-12 budget as well as seek to resolve outstanding differences between the House and Senate over a collective bargaining bill affecting teachers.

That’s not counting a spat over some Republican leaders’ efforts to pass legislation aimed at compelling Amazon.com, which is building two distribution warehouses in Chattanooga and near Cleveland, to collect sales taxes from its in-state customers.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he initially thought lawmakers could get it all done by next week.

“It’s getting harder,” McCormick said Friday afternoon, noting many Democrats will be in Memphis on Monday for at least part of the day because President Barack Obama is speaking there. “That could take us down a little bit.”

Meanwhile, McCormick said, Democrats had long ago made plans to hold a fundraiser next weekend.

Watson wins praise over Amazon stand

Speaking of Amazon, the company’s chief of global public policy, Paul Misener, on Friday gave a shout out to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eric Watson, R-Cleveland.

Watson has been a staunch supporter of the project, criticizing colleagues he says “have taken their eye off the ball and want to try to force Amazon to pay sales taxes in Tennessee.” He calls their effort unconstitutional.

Misener noted in an email that “supportive, pro-growth public statements” from Gov. Bill Haslam and lawmakers like Watson “led Amazon to extend our commitment to Tennessee by bringing additional jobs and investment to Nashville and Knoxville.”

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said it is not too late to move his bill that seeks to require Amazon to charge its Tennessee customers state sales taxes.

But the bill is seen by several lawmakers and lobbyists as having rougher sledding ahead in the House Finance Subcommittee.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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