MURFREESBORO -- Top Tennessee Republican elected officials tore into federal environmental, financial and other regulations Monday, charging they are creating uncertainty for business and slowing private-sector job growth.
The setting was a congressional field hearing in Murfreesboro convened by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., pushed for the hearing in Tennessee, Issa said.
"The topic of this hearing is 'Tennessee Job Creation: Do Federal Government Regulations Help or Hinder Tennessee's Economic Development?'" Issa said in his opening remarks and then quipped: "Knowing the answer to that, I'll go on anyway."
DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, said "in many instances the reality of what has happened [is] that this idea of an efficient and effective government that should work for us is actually working against us."
About the same time as Republicans' event at Middle Tennessee State University, DesJarlais' Democratic opponent, Eric Stewart, held a much smaller, seven-person roundtable in downtown Murfreesboro at Pa Bunk's Natural Market and Cafe.
Stewart, along with the businessmen, farmers and students, discussed ways to help small businesses and protect federal student aid. Several said some types of regulations are necessary to protect people's health or consumers.
Stewart described DesJarlais' event as "a lot of folks coming down from Washington, and, as I understand, it's pretty partisan.
"We're not going to do that," he said.
At MTSU, a number of business leaders along with Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and two Middle Tennessee congressmen, Reps. Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn, all Republicans, complained about excessive regulation in areas ranging from small banking to farming.
At times, the event took on a distinct partisan tone with references to President Barack Obama.
"When the president says that jobs is all about math, I say yes, Mr. President," Blackburn said. "Here's an equation that works. It's called less regulation plus less litigation, plus less taxation equals more innovation and job creation."
Alexander said he met recently with chief executives of national restaurant chains regarding Obama's health care law, which the U.S. Supreme is expected to rule on shortly.
He said the president of Ruby Tuesday's told him that the law's employer insurance mandate would cost the chain more than his company's entire profit for one year.
He also criticized what he said were administration efforts to regulate dust from farming operations.
But noting that "even a stopped clock is right twice a day," Alexander reaffirmed his support of EPA rules he says would "stop dirty air from blowing into Tennessee from other states."
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester criticized Republicans, calling their event at Middle Tennessee State University a "taxpayer-funded diversion." He blamed DesJarlais.
"Scott DesJarlais' political sideshow at MTSU is nothing more than a shallow act of self-promotion to obscure the fact he has failed to create jobs and protect our working and middle-class families," Forrester said in his statement. "This pathetic political theater is just a shameless attempt to campaign on the job."
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.
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, ...