published Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Political Notebook: Tennessee House, Senate leaders insist relations good

Tennessee's Republican Senate and House speakers insist things are now fine between the pair, really they are, despite the end of this year's rollicking legislative session in which each leader saw his or her top priorities dashed in the other's chamber during the final days.

"There's zero problem between me and Beth," Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told reporters Thursday after he and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, were seen at the State Building Commission's meeting.

Said Harwell to reporters: "You saw us. We're good. We're good to go."

Among other things, a group of majority House Republicans joined with Democrats to torpedo Ramsey's bill redrawing judicial districts on the last day.

GOP members used the occasion to rail that Ramsey set too fast a pace in the session. Earlier, a campaign finance bill favored by the speaker, which among other things would have allowed party caucuses to collect more PAC money, got 48 votes -- two short of what was needed. Harwell didn't vote at all on it.

Meanwhile, Ramsey didn't allow a Harwell-backed bill to come up on the final day. It created a statewide authorizer to oversee and run some charter schools rejected by the state's four major public school systems, including Hamilton's.

"It came to a little boiling point," Ramsey said of the House, saying he became a "boogeyman" for some members and then a "mob mentality that something starts and it keeps getting a little bigger and a little bigger, and before it's over with it's too late."

Ramsey said he supports the Harwell school charter bill. Harwell, who voted for the judicial redistricting plan, said she doesn't back the campaign finance legislation for several reasons.

Harwell for governor in 2018?

On another note, Harwell isn't ruling out a 2018 bid for governor. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is seeking a second four-year-term next year but is term limited and can't seek a third term.

"You know, I really enjoy being speaker," Harwell said when asked about 2018. "Who knows what the future will hold. I've lived long enough to realize I don't even know what tomorrow's going to bring. But I enjoy state government, I enjoy working with this governor, so see where it takes [me]."

Ramsey, who ran for governor in 2010 only to lose in the GOP primary against Haslam, said he's more than happy where he is as Senate speaker.

"I think it takes a self-funding candidate" to win a governor's race, Ramsey said. "I thoroughly enjoyed running three years ago. It's an experience I wouldn't take anything for, but it's grueling. ... I can't imagine that [again]. I really can't."

Quick takes

• Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, announced this week that state election officials recently approved her selection of Kelvin L. Scott to serve on the Hamilton County Election Commission.

Scott, a county schools employee, has been active in the Hamilton County Democratic Party.

"I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to serve the citizens of Hamilton County and will work diligently to ensure the integrity of our democratic process," he said in a news release.

• State Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, was recently named "Legislator of the Year" by both the Tennessee Parent Teacher Association as well as the Southeast Tennessee Development District, a group of area municipal and county governments.

Compiled by Andy Sher, asher@timesfrepress.com or 615-255-0550.

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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