Haslam and Ramsey post dueling Facebook messages
Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:03 pm
By ERIK SCHELZIG
NASHVILLE (AP) — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says he hasn’t left himself without “wiggle room” over a bill seeking to curb teachers’ collective bargaining rights, despite calling on Facebook for conservatives to rally to his position seeking to do away with union negotiations altogether.
Gov. Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell have endorsed a revised version of the bill that would exclude only certain areas, such as merit pay and evaluation standards, from collective bargaining.
“There’s always wiggle room, there may be an amendment that I can agree to,” said Ramsey, R-Blountville. “I don’t know exactly what that is yet, but I hope we end up a lot closer to the Senate bill than we do the House bill.”
Haslam on Monday posted a Facebook message of his own that noted the spirit of cooperation among both parties in helping Tennessee win $500 million in federal Race to the Top education grants last year. The Republican governor also lamented the “partisan tone” that has emerged since then and could threaten efforts to improve education standards.
“There will be disagreements as the details are worked out, but the issues that divide us cannot be allowed to sidetrack the education reform path that we are on,” Haslam wrote in the Facebook post that was also printed in the opinion pages of The Tennessean and The Commercial Ap-peal newspapers over the weekend.
Ramsey last week posted what he called an “Open Letter to Conservatives” on Facebook, urging the rejection of a compromise on the contentious collective bargaining measure.
“Stand with me in this cause to make sure we as Republicans are who we say we are,” Ramsey said in the Facebook message on Thursday. The same statement was issued as a press release the next day.
Ramsey said Haslam might not have a complete picture of the influence of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union with 52,000 members.
Ramsey said the group only went along with last year’s Race to the Top changes because of pressure from former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and the amount of grant money involved.
“The governor doesn’t have that institutional knowledge and experience that I have,” said Ramsey, adding that it’s unrealistic if Haslam thinks “that if we just be nice, it will all work out.”
Published in The Messenger 3.22.11