In an article in today’s Tennessean, Speaker Beth Harwell has apparently discovered that her caucus is and has been generally pissed off about the abuse of the placing of fiscal notes on legislation that can effectively kill those bills.
Harwell says she is working with the National Conference of State Legislatures to review Tennessee’s fiscal note process. Well, good for her. But one doesn’t need an out-of-state group to tell Harwell what she already knows: that GOP leadership has repeatedly violated their own rules and purposely and has maliciously gamed the fiscal note process to kill legislation and/or punish those who disagree with the leadership or the governor.
Fiddling with the size or the rationale of a fiscal note is only one part of the complaint. Unmentioned in the article is the abuse of the fiscal note process that allows leadership to anonymously place a fiscal note on a bill in the middle of the night or after the fact, derailing the bill in the process. RTP reported extensively on this phenomenon last session:
Why even the late malcontent senator, Stacy Campfield, had leadership’s number when it came to fiscal notes:
It’s interesting that while these complaints have been bouncing off of every wall in the legislature, Harwell has only now begun to address the problem. In doing so, she is adopting one of the main planks in the platform of her recent opponent for Speaker. Despite his quixotic attempt to topple Harwell, Rick Womick can and should be credited with raising the question to the level where Harwell feels she must act.
So excuse us if we have our doubts about the sincerity of the motives behind Harwell’s “discovery” of a problem that has been right under her nose (and under her thumb) for four years. Hope springs eternal she will do the right thing.
But don’t hold your breath.