Speaker Beth Harwell
Speaker Beth Harwell was unanimously re-elected by her colleagues to a fourth term as Speaker of the House on Tuesday. After the vote, she gave the following remarks:
Justice Wade, Members, guests, and my fellow Tennesseans:
Thank you for the honor of serving you as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives. To be elected by you, my colleagues, is a high honor. Thank you for your trust and for the confidence you have in me.
To my fellow members—congratulations to each of you on your election to the 110th Tennessee General Assembly.
It is a tremendous privilege to be elected by your constituents to represent them in this body.
I pledge to each of you that I will do my best to treat each of you fairly and to lead this body in a manner worthy of respect.
Today, each of us stands on the shoulders of those who helped us reach this point. If you are able, I ask every member’s spouse, children, parents, other family members, and supporters to stand up. Let’s thank them for the integral role they have played in helping us be here today.
Members, as Speaker and your fellow colleague, I ask you to serve with the highest degree of integrity and regard for the office you hold. The public trust in the legislative process must be our top priority. Although our districts are diverse, the views of our constituents differ, and our political philosophies vary, I ask you debate in a constructive manner worthy of our great state.
When I was first elected Speaker, I challenged you to ask three questions of every piece of legislation:
· Does it increase the size of government?
· Does it make it easier to start and operate a business in Tennessee?
· Does it keep us moving forward in reforming our educational system to meet the needs of the 21st century?
By asking these questions and working together, this body along with the Senate and Governor Haslam, have accomplished much since 2010, when I was first elected Speaker.
Thanks to your leadership, Tennessee’s students have become the fastest improving in the nation, according to the Nation’s Report Card.
We have enhanced the business environment of our state by enacting tort reform, workers’ comp reform, unemployment insurance reform, repealing unneeded regulations, and improving the effectiveness of many state boards and commissions.
By eliminating the death tax and gift tax; cutting the sales tax on food; and phasing out the Hall income tax, Tennesseans have already saved over half a billion dollars in taxes, reducing the size of government.
However, credit for these accomplishments must rightly be shared with our legislative staff, our state employees, our teachers across the state, and all Tennesseans, living from the banks of the Mississippi to the Smoky Mountains, who work every day to support their families and who want the best for their children and grandchildren.
However, there is more to do. This year, please join me in focusing on the priorities at hand.
Let’s work to discover what we can accomplish together this year to live up to our state motto, “America at its best.” In the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we may do so little; together we can do so much.”
Now, let’s get to work. Thank you!