Republican lawmakers unveiled the third and final installment of their “Tennessee Trust” public policy announcements Monday, promising to try to change the rules of government in Nashville.
The 104th General Assembly, during 2005 and 2006, dealt with more than 4,000 bills and added 1,020 laws to the books in Tennessee, they said.
“That’s just way too much to handle,” according to a joint press release issued by state Reps. Bo Watson (R-Hixson), Gerald McCormick (R-Hixson) and Vince Dean (R-East Ridge) and candidates Jim Cobb (District 31) and Richard Floyd (District 27).
“We have too much fluff legislation and not enough time to give the bills that do matter the time and attention they deserve," officials said.
Further, Rep. McCormick said, “(D)ealing with so much legislation is making it difficult for us to maintain our citizen legislature.”
Another major problem facing legislators is the massive amount of legislative that gets introduced during the last few days of a session, when there simply is not enough time to study all of it, they said.
“The Tennessee Constitution only allows us so many days to meet, and in those last days so much legislation is flying. . . that important matters impacting the state are shoved through the system without the careful consideration they deserve,” Rep. Watson said. “Debate that should last two hours is reduced to 10 minutes.”
To fix those problems, Republicans want to set limits on the number of bills that can be introduced and on the length of time that a bill can linger after it is introduced, before it is considered dead for the session.
GOP lawmakers have created a task force to study possible reform measures – including counting additional days spent on Capitol Hill toward the constitutional cap set on the length of a legislative session – aimed at changing current legislative rules.
The task force will report its findings in 2007, they said.
“This legislature is made up of everybody from tree trimmers to firemen to farmers,” Rep. Watson said. “That’s as it should be. The members of this body should be a reflection of the people of this state.
“But when you start dealing with more and more legislation, sessions start running longer and longer . . . (T)he average citizen cannot commit the time necessary to serve, and you end up with a body of full-time career politicians. That’s not what was intended for out legislature and I do not think that is what the people of Tennessee want.”