Last week, this column discussed whom Gov. Haslam might name to replace Justice Gary Wade on the state Supreme Court. Space did not permit a full discussion. In fact this column mentioned only two well-known names, state Attorney General Herb Slatery and U.S. Rep. John Duncan.
Duncan actually has more experience in public office than Slatery, having served as a Criminal Court judge for seven years, plus his 27 years in Congress. He is a few years older than Slatery. Slatery gets good reviews on his first year as state AG, and he has more experience practicing law. Both could easily be confirmed by the Legislature.
House Speaker Beth Harwell has urged that part or all of the $400 million in additional state tax collections should go for new roads and existing road repairs. This is new money coming into the state treasury that was not anticipated when the state budget was enacted a few months ago.
What is significant here is that Harwell is voicing a game plan for the Legislature to tackle the road issue in a way that would enable it to avoid a gas tax increase vote in the 2016 session starting in five months. This would be new money one time for roads and would allow the lawmakers to skip a gas tax vote in an election year.
Recently I wrote the odds favored Gov. Haslam getting Medicaid expansion passed in the special legislative session. Little did I think that it would fail so overwhelmingly in less than 48 hours at the hands of fellow Republicans.
Never has a major initiative from the governor been scuttled so quickly and decisively. What happened?