Does UT get bang for lobbyist buck?

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The University of Tennessee spends over a half-million dollars a year running its Nashville lobbying office to influence the legislature and state government. The top dog there is Anthony Haynes, who makes $201,088 a year with a pay raise due in July. But he has four others who help him – Carey Whitworth at $80,000; Lou Hanemann at $93,000; Valerie Yancey at $98,500. Connie Cantrell comes in 2 days a week at $31.29 an hour when the other four are overwhelmed with work.

Office space is $40,107 a year at $23.32 per square foot. These figures do not include retirement benefits, and the legislature is in session only four months of the year. So there is interest in what these folks do the other eight months of the year. It is hard to believe there is much heavy lifting when the legislature is away.

UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport still has not responded to letters sent more than seven weeks ago from State Rep. Jimmy Matlock and Martin Daniel. There should be a 10-day turnaround for all members of the General Assembly. Hard to tell what is going on here.

House Speaker Beth Harwell will likely conclude her service as speaker in November 2018 as she either runs for governor or simply retires from the state House.

The gas tax had Harwell on every side of this issue from support to opposition depending on the day of the week. It was enacted without her being a significant factor either way. She is actually a smart person with keen knowledge of issues but often seen as indecisive. A race for governor next year could be uphill for her given these difficult issues.

Gov. Bill Haslam, meanwhile, waded into the gas tax issue by working the phones overtime calling legislators. For some of these lawmakers, talking with the governor is the first time they have had a conversation one on one for an extended period with him in their whole career. It helped pass the tax hike.

The House was where the issue was most closely divided, with Democrats deciding the issue as the House GOP was almost evenly split. The big question is what was promised the Democrats, who are normally irrelevant, on the one occasion when their votes decided the issue. Something was promised but no one is really talking. Time will tell soon.

KUB CEO Mintha Roach turns 65 on Saturday, April 29. She previously headed up the Knoxville city civil service system prior to joining KUB over 20 years ago. She has led KUB since the death of CEO Larry Fleming. West Knox County Commissioner John Schoomaker turns 63 on Monday, May 1.

Mayor Madeline Rogero’s annual State of the City address is Friday, April 28, at Suttree Landing Park, 1001 Waterfront Drive on the river in South Knoxville. It is open to the public and a bag lunch is served. It is a popular event and worth going. Be there by 11:30 for a good seat. The Park is a new one and a credit to the city.

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