After what the Knoxville News Sentinel's Tom Humphrey has referred to as an "end of session spat" between Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), both Speakers said they were "getting along" in an article in the Knoxville paper yesterday. In a piece published in today's Chattanooga Times-Free Press, Ramsey and Harwell confirm that the House and Senate Republican Caucuses will no longer raise funds jointly for legislative campaigns in the first outward sign of serious disagreement between House and Senate leadership.
The Lieutenant Governor says that he believes that such a split would have happened anyway, regardless of the outcome of particular legislation. on the final day of the legislative session, a flurry of bills were rejected by one House after having been passed by the other. These included judicial redistricting legislation that was favored by the Lieutenant Governor but was defeated in the House, and the expiration of the unconstitutional judicial nominating commission after the Senate refused to consider the legislation that would have extended that body when it was passed by the House after the House's defeat of the judicial redistricting bill.
At the root of the perceived rift between Harwell and Ramsey may be the failure of House Bill 643, which Ramsey supported, that would have removed the prohibition against insurance companies making campaign contributions to candidates in Tennessee and would say that candidates would report their contributions from corporations, but corporations would not have to report their contributions to candidates. Harwell said that she could not in good conscience support the bill, but neither did she vote against it or abstain. She merely exercised her prerogative as Speaker not to vote or be recorded. Two members formally abstained (were recorded as present but not voting), and with that the legislation was not approved because it failed to receive a constitutional majority, or 50 votes. The legislation did not fail because neither was it defeated, but when it became clear that the votes were not there to pass the legislation, it was taken off notice in the House Calendar and Rules Committee on April 18th.