Thursday, January 17, 2013

Harwell Shenanigans Confirmed in Tennessee House

Last night, I posted on the possibility of shenanigans in how Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell managed the most recent set of committee appointments for the current legislative session.

I questioned whether it was possible that House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (District 82 - Ripley) was removed from his Education Committee seat because of his strident opposition to vouchers.

I don't make it a practice to try to break news, but this had me just fired up enough to reach out to Representative Fitzhugh to see if he was willing to comment on this to a little ole blogger that nobody's ever heard of.  I received a quick response.

A senior staff member to Rep. Fitzhugh has confirmed that Fitzhugh was removed from the House Education Committee, despite numerous requests to remain on.  The staffer confirms that the new composition of the Committee will place minimum barriers to a statewide voucher plan.

Nothing like stacking the deck.  With a supermajority, there is little question that voucher legislation is going to pass.  It will probably be unconstitutional, just like in Louisiana, but that is of little concern to our esteemed state legislature - home of legislators gnawing their names into their desks and relitigating the Scopes trial.  But this kind of maneuvering - perfectly legal, of course - shows that the supermajority is simply not interested in brooking any honest discussion of these very important issues.  It's not enough to vote in favor of vouchers - they don't even want to hear the debate over it.

Jan. 17, 3:15 p.m. update:  Who is on the Education Committee?  KnoxNews posted a few days ago:  "Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis. StudentsFirst spent more than $100,000 to help him defeat a Democratic primary opponent -- the most the group spent on any campaign. DeBerry was appointed last week to the committee that will first act on the legislation StudentsFirst is pushing by House Speaker Beth Harwell, whose PAC received $5,000 from StudentsFirst. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's PAC also got $5,000 from StudentsFirst." 

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