State Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, has a modest proposal he believes can promote "better communication" between the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Tennessee's GOP-dominated congressional delegation.
"Will better communication lead to a more responsive system that will lead to more accountability and protection of our besieged rights? I believe the answer is a resounding yes!" said Matheny, a tea party-allied legislator.
Matheny's idea is for a "Bilateral Session of Congress" in which state legislators and the state's two U.S. senators and nine congressmen meet openly in a dialogue. That "will leave both levels of government with a clear understanding of each other's needs and actions we'll rebuilding public confidence," he said.
Various federal and state officials are offering noncommital responses, starting with state House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. Noting that Harwell earlier this year named Matheny to the House Government Operations Committee, Kara Owen, the speaker's spokeswoman, said Harwell believes that while Washington "is broken, we are on the right path in Tennessee. She wants to ensure members have the opportunity to share their thoughts with our federal elected officials."
"The actual mechanism of how that will take place has not yet been determined," Owen said.
Left unsaid by Owen was the fact that then-House Speaker Pro Tempor Matheny last year briefly flirted with challenging Harwell for the top slot. He ultimately decided not to, but his open consideration stirred up a successful challenge to his own leadership post in the GOP Caucus by Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, who defeated Matheny.
Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's spokeswoman, Laura Herzog, said the senator and his staff "stay in regular touch with state legislators, appreciate the work they do and have enjoyed many meetings with them over the years throughout Tennessee, in Washington and at the state Capitol. He looks forward to continuing that dialogue."
Ditto for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said spokesman Brian Reisinger, who notes Alexander talks to state lawmakers "regularly" and in January addressed a joint session of the Legislature while later co-hosting a reception honoring "our Republican legislators," Reisinger said. "He looks forward to more visits."
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann "greatly appreciates the open and strong relationships he has with Tennessee's elected leaders and has talked to most of the representatives from the 3rd District in the last few days," said spokesman Tyler Threadgill. "He looks forward to continuing that dialogue."
Matheny lives in the 6th Congressional District where U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., serves. In 2012, Matheny endorsed Black's Republican opponent in the GOP primary.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org 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, ...