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Tennessee lawmakers adjourn legislative session after 5 months

Tennessee lawmakers adjourn legislative session after 5 months

Posted: Friday, June 19, 2009 8:01 pm
By: AP

Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers on Thursday adjourned the first session of the 106th General Assembly more than five months after it began with a tumultuous House speaker’s election.
House Speaker Kent Williams, R-Elizabethton, won the lower chamber’s most powerful post in January when all 49 of Democrats banded together to elect him by one vote over the GOP nominee, Rep. Jason Mumpower of Bristol.
“It’s been quite a trip,” Williams said. “But I feel like we as a group accomplished a lot this year.”
Lawmakers passed a $29.6 billion budget plan that includes $2.2 billion in federal stimulus money. The state share of the spending plan — $12.1 billion — represents a more than 10 percent reduction from the previous budget year.
The Legislature also passed a slew of gun-related bills, including to allow permit holders to carry their handguns in establishments where alcohol is served and in state, county and city parks.
On the last day of the session, lawmakers agreed to expand of eligibility for charter schools.
Gov. Phil Bredesen on Thursday praised lawmakers for agreeing on what he called “a difficult budget.”
The Democratic governor said in a statement that the budget gives the state “the tools we need to continue managing through this economic downturn.”
“This was a difficult budget to craft and navigate through, but I am pleased the General Assembly has passed a budget that largely reflects the plan I outlined in March,” Bredesen said.
Bredesen’s comments contrast with his characterization last week of an earlier Republican budget cut proposal as “stupid.”
The final version of the spending plan was approved overwhelmingly by lawmakers in both chambers. They also authorized the state sell bonds to complete building projects on college campuses and bridges.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville said he and many of his fellow Republicans had opposed the bond proposals amid worsening economic conditions.
“It was a compromise,” Ramsey said. “But that’s what it takes to pass anything.”
Under the agreement struck with Democrats and some House Republicans, the $350 million bridge bonds will be spaced out over four years and would require reauthorization by the Legislature each year.
Democrats took credit at a news conference for the final budget containing fewer immediate cuts than the Republicans had proposed.
“I think they just erred,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, referring to cuts first proposed by the Republican majority in the Senate. “And once they talked to folks and people started asking ’Why are you quitting on us?’, I think they decided we’re going to figure out how to vote (for our) proposal.”
Ramsey called Democratic claims of victory over the budget “almost hilarious,” emphasizing a provision in the budget that directs the governor to make $55 million in cuts if the state doesn’t meet revenue projections.
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Published in The Messenger 6.19.09

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