The 108th Tennessee General Assembly convenes today amid greater security at the Capitol in Nashville and an apparent forthcoming maneuver to change the rules of the House to limit the number of bills that each member of the House can introduce to ten bills per year. It is unknown if House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) will get her way on that proposed change, since it has apparently resulted in some disquiet among members, but the basic principle behind the change is a good one. Members of the General Assembly can and do come up with good laws and good ways to use law to expand our liberties through the law, but as a general rule it can be said that the more laws which are on the books, the less real freedom the population has. Harwell’s proposal appears to be rooted in that idea, and if the House adopts the change, the Senate ought to follow suit.
The Senate discussed a motion at its open by Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) to place the Senate under the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, the rules for which presently do not apply to the General Assembly. Kyle’s idea isn’t as bad one in theory, but it is more than a bit curious that the Democrats had decades of control of both Houses of the General Assembly and had an opportunity to apply the Open Meetings Act to the General Assembly, the late Lieutenant Governor John Wilder and former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh never made any substantive move to do so.
In Lieutenant Governor Ramsey’s remarks after being re-elected , he did say “the days of a session of the General Assembly stretching into May and beyond are over forever.” Its a wonderful goal that he and Speaker Harwell should be held to with all reasonable expectation. Also noteworthy was House Speaker Harwell’s reaction when Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) chaired the committee from the Senate announcing that the Senate had perfected its organization to the House. Niceley, long a favorite of Harwell in the House, was addressed by Harwell as “Senator” for the first time in an almost melancholic tone.