published Friday, January 11th, 2013

Tennessee House passes cap on lawmaker bills

The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.
The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.
Photo by The Tennessean /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — The House on Thursday approved a 15-bill cap on the number of bills members can file annually.

Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel, R-Lexington, said the move will help streamline the legislative process and save taxpayers money.

But Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, likened the move by the Republican majority to measures imposed by Russia or communist governments.

"I see more censorship and draconian tactics ... to stop the members from discussing what they want to talk about," he said.

Republican critics this week charged the caps would benefit Gov. Bill Haslam.

Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, sought to counter that, saying, "Moses did a really good job with just 10 laws, and we're getting 15 apiece."

The rules package, including the cap, passed on a voice vote. Members then voted down a minority report from House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh that would have given each party's two top leaders an additional 15 bills per session.

The cap does not apply to private acts affecting a locality or a general bill with local application. Nor does it apply to honorary resolutions.

The governor's legislative package would be restricted to no more than 75 bills. Last year, Haslam had 55 administration bills.

But the legislation doesn't apply to the administration's or members' bills dealing with the budget or bonding authority.

According to House figures, Tennessee is the second-highest among Southern states for the number of bills introduced. Beginning in 2005, according to House figures, Tennessee lawmakers averaged 4,682 bills in their two-year sessions.

State senators have not imposed caps. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said he didn't think a cap is needed. He would prefer eliminating the bill filing deadline, saying that it causes many lawmakers to deluge staff with bills.

Ramsey said the House bill would affect senators because of the need to find House sponsors of their bills.

After wrapping up this week's organizational session, the 108th General Assembly will stand adjourned until Jan. 28, when Haslam delivers his annual State of the State address.

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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