Wonder why all the talk the last few days about whether to extend the legislative session or even set a special session?
Ramsey and Harwell have been positively loquacious recently about the possibility of a veto session. Ramsey has said “it’s nothing personal” towards the governor.
The hell it ain’t.
Legislators have a palpable and growing distrust regarding this governor, his motives, his priorities, his consistency and his conservatism — and that is starting to affect legislation and policy. For the last four years, there has been little talk, or need, for a veto by the governor. After all, everyone and their mother is a Republican in this government, so everyone is of like mind, right? (Once you stop laughing, continue reading…)
Up until this session, Haslam has either gotten pretty much what he wanted or has backed down before he was handed an embarrassing defeat. He has only vetoed a handful of bills. When he did veto something, he did so after the legislature had adjourned, and loathe to return to Nashville if they didn’t have to, the lawmakers just sucked it up and went along making no attempts to override.
But this time it may be different. Everywhere one looks, the Haslam agenda is in disarray. His premier program, Common Core, is under assault and the governor and his people have vehemently fought any attempts to change one word of it, despite enormous pressure from legislators on both sides of the aisle. The Hall income tax repeal has upwards of 100 legislators signed on to support the repeal (thanks to AFP), even though the governor repeatedly and publicly opposes it. And the TVAAS legislation is going through both houses like crap through a goose, but the governor — in a fit of apparent masochism — actually flagged the legislation.
Haslam has threatened, cajoled, browbeat and even sent his minions out to try and recruit people to run against Republican legislators who have the temerity to disagree with him (more on that in later RTP editions).
But the bottom line is this: How many more public butt-kickings can a governor endure before he feels the need to fight back? Preserving a semblance of political manhood is important for any chief executive, but particularly so for Bill Haslam. He got elected with tons of money and a touchy-feely Rodney King style (“can’t we all just get along?”) campaign message.
Thus, the Veto Kubuki Dance that Harwell and Ramsey are performing for the governor to see. The LP is swirling with rumors and conspiracy theories about which bills Haslam may veto and why and how legislators might respond. The mere fact that Haslam refuses to say what bills he would consider for a veto indicates he may something up his sleeve.
Will the governor risk the power and prestige of his office by vetoing one or all of the above bills, thereby daring the legislature to do something about it? Will Harwell, McCormick, et al risk losing their leadership positions if they “look the other way” on such vetos? Will the ineptness of the administration’s legislative liaison “Kiddy Korps” be exposed? Will Lassie finally get Timmy out of the well? Can Ashton and Mila find true love?