As we begin the opening ceremonies and family festivities of the 108th TN General Assembly (lots of kids and grandkids come to this part of the session), one of the more interesting segments that happened on Day 1 was newly re-elected Speaker Beth Harwell's proposed rule change that limited the number of bills each house member could submit. Speaker Harwell noted that TN Republicans have campaigned on a philosophy of less government for years and that a bill cap would move the General Assembly in that direction.
One of the shocking stats that came out of Speaker Harwell's office concerning her rule change highlighted the fact that the Tennessee General Assembly had the second-highest average of filed bills among 13 Southern states.. The most recent session had an astonishing 3,887 bills.
A humorous example of legislative excess came from a recent CTFP Editorial "Among the nearly 4,000 pieces of legislation introduced last session were bills that created a hummingbird awareness license plate, regulated the production of honey, stiffened the penalty for selling a cat without a license and increased the minimum age for strippers from 18 to 21."
Some of the concerns raised by legislators were addressed in the Rule Committee, such as exempting general bills that are written to affect one locality from the cap or creating a pathway for potential exceptions to the limit. Other concerns were raised by tea party members who felt this could be a power grab by the moderate wing of the party.
This writer is compelled to err on the side of less government. If less bills mean less laws, bring it on. With a decline in the sheer volume of each year's legislative load, maybe the shenanigans of the dark underbelly of our system will be exposed, letting the citizens decide how each legislator defines their priorities.
Final voting on the rule change is scheduled to occur on Thursday.