A new legislative session always brings its share of changes, but with new House leadership and a new governor, the statehouse is especially busy this year.
In the House, not only are there new legislators, there are new committees. In contrast to former Speaker Beth Harwell, who reduced the number of standing House committees, Speaker Glen Casda has more than doubled the number of committees from last year.
From TTA’s perspective, the most relevant committee changes come to the Commerce and Finance committees. Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, will chair the Commerce Committee and Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, will chair Finance. The subcommittees under Commerce have now been split into three subcommittees: Utilities, Business, and Banking and Investments. Previously Business and Utilities were combined in a single committee.
The TTA lobbying team expects all telco services will fall under the Utilities Subcommittee. However, with the restructuring, it’s possible that matters pertaining to regulated telephone service would fall under Utilities with broadband and television service issues falling under Business.
Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, a familiar face for TTA members, will serve as chairman of the Utilities Subcommittee.
On the Senate side, things are more stable, but there have been a pair of recent departures.
Former Majority Leader Sen. Mark Norris resigned after being appointed to a federal judgeship. There will be a special election to fill his District 32 seat on March 12.
Also in the Senate, former Sen. Mark Green resigned after winning a congressional seat on the Seventh District. In January, the Montgomery County Commission appointed Rosalind Kurita, of Clarksville, to fill the seat until a special election on April 23. Special primaries will be March 7. Rosalind’s political career goes back to winning a successful run as a Democratic state senator in 1996. Upon her appointment, she was listed as an independent, but she has said she will caucus with the Republicans. She has said she will not run in the special election.
In Senate committee news, Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, has been named the chairman of the Commerce Committee. Bailey was named TTA’s senator of the year in 2017.
“Sen. Bailey always seeks to understand the various viewpoints on an issue and he’s proven to be a strong supporter of rural Tennesseans,” Knowles said. “I expect he will bring his practical approach and steady leadership to his new position.”
Both chambers have shuffled some office locations based on new leadership assignments and seniority. Taken as a whole, TTA members will have many new faces in new places for 2019.
“TTA and its members have made great inroads at the statehouse over the last few years,” Knowles said. “With all of the committee changes and new legislators, it’s going to take extra effort from our team and our members to communicate the importance of TTA’s mission in bringing broadband to rural Tennesseans.”