Lawmakers aim to wrap up session
Posted: Monday, May 16, 2011 9:27 pm
By ERIK SCHELZIG
NASHVILLE (AP) — If lawmakers can really wrap up their business by Thursday it would be the earliest date the Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned in 18 years.
But to conclude the session, lawmakers will have to clear a host of bills off their docket, not least of which is Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s $30 billion annual spending plan. The budget proposal has been met with little dissent, but the final version is a complicated document that must incorporate funding for bills that may not have passed yet.
Haslam has two other major initiatives pending. The House would need to agree with the Senate’s technical changes to a bill to place caps on payouts from successful lawsuits against doctors and other businesses before it could head for the governor’s signature.
And Haslam’s proposal to lift a cap on charter schools is scheduled for votes in both chambers’ finance committees later this week.
The House could vote as early as today on its version of a contentious bill to limit teachers’ collective bargaining, but the measure is still on a collision course with the Senate version, which wants to more thoroughly dismantle union negotiations.
If neither side yields, the bill would head to a conference committee to try to hammer out a compromise that would be palatable to both chambers.
Republican leaders call a Thursday adjournment their “most optimistic” timetable, and lawmakers have been urged to bring extra clothes to work into the weekend if it looks like they can complete their business by Saturday.
Democrats have chafed at the suggestion of a Saturday session because they have a party scheduled for that day in Jackson. And they may be right to question whether the session could come to a conclusion over the weekend: Only five sessions have ended on a Saturday in the last 44 years, and none on a Sunday.
Thursday has been the most common day of the week for lawmakers to adjourn. That’s happened 20 times since 1967, followed by Friday with 11.
An early end to the session is a perennial hope among lawmakers, though that goal has been met with little success. Just finishing in May would mark an accomplishment, as three of the last four sessions have run well into June.
Rep. Joe Carr has proposed several measures aimed at trying to curb illegal immigration in Tennessee, though most appear to have stalled for the year. But the Lascassas Republican told The Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro that he’s confident he can pass a bill to require businesses to check employees’ immigration status using the federal E-Verify database.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville has rescheduled a vote on his bill to ban public schools from teaching about gay issues for Wednesday. And Republicans are still hopeful about a bill to allow direct political contributions from businesses that would also raise the maximum amount of money that can be given to candidates.
Published in The Messenger 5.16.11