View from the Capitol hilltop: It's not that clear to some
Buzz Trexler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Here’s a glimpse of comments made during the legislative review session held this morning at the Doubletree Hilton in downtown Nashville:
Haslam on No Child Left Behind waiver
Governor Bill Haslam spoke during a lunch gathering and responded to this morning’s news that Tennessee was one of 10 states to receive a waiver from the White House on “No Child Left Behind” requirements.
“No Child Left Behind, in its early days, provided a great and valuable service,” Haslam said, adding that over time the requirements had become “impossible to meet” and were, in fact, “demotivating.”
The governor said the White House is not alone in recognizing Tennessee’s progress in education, pointing to his invitation to speak to North Carolina business leaders and lawmakers earlier this week.
“As you know, Tennessee has not historically been thought of as a hotbed of education reform,” Haslam said.
The governor also took the opportunity to promote the state’s Achievement School District, headed by Chris Barbic, who was founder and chief executive officer of YES Prep Public Schools in Houston. Barbic, who was named to the post in May 2011, will lead efforts to turn around the state’s lowest performing schools.
Haslam noted his efforts to provide local school districts with more “flexibility” on average and maximum class sizes have received “mixed reviews.”
On presidential politics
Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee Member Jerry Maynard and Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney squared off somewhat over the upcoming election.
Devaney, a transplanted Texan who lives in Chattanooga, said President Barack Obama’s “abysmal leadership with the nation’s economy” will contribute to the GOP’s success in Tennessee.
Concerning the current slate of Republicans seeking that party’s nomination, Maynard said, “The reason there’s no enthusiasm for GOP candidates is because their policies are the same as in 2007 or 2008.”
Referring specifically to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, the Nashville pastor said, “Their message is not clear as to the difference between their policies and (former President) Bush’s policies that got us into the mess we’re in.”
Ramsey on open government
Lieutenant Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) told members of the Tennessee press, “I think that we have the General Assembly more open to the process, more accessible to the public than in the history of the state of Tennessee.”
Ramsey pointed to streaming video of the Legislature’s business and national recognition of its website as evidence. “Every citizen has access to that,” Ramsey said with certainty.
Still, when it comes to how to handle the state Open Meetings Acts and a concrete understanding of what the word “deliberate” means in the context of that law, Ramsey is admittedly not so certain.
The Tennessee Open Meetings Act (TCA 8-44-101-201) states, in part, “‘Meeting’ means the convening of a governing body of a public body for which a quorum is required in order to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter. …”
Ramsey asked, “Exactly what is ‘deliberation?’ and went on to strongly suggest a definition is needed “to allow one, or two, or three commissioners not to be ‘persecuted’ for meeting together.”
“I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how you define 'deliberation,'” he said.
When asked whether the Republican Caucus would be open to media attendance, Ramsey said, “Yes, most of the time.”
The Senate speaker said he would talk to Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) about giving notice of the meetings.
And while he is uncertain about the word “deliberate,” Ramsey is certain that the constitutional exemption of the General Assembly from the sunshine law should continue to apply, saying the “system is not broken and is working well.”
“I believe that from the bottom of my heart,” Ramsey said.
During lunch, Haslam was asked about Ramsey’s difficulty with defining the word “deliberate,” and the former Knoxville mayor said he was aware of Ramsey's concern about whether two lawmakers talking about legislation would be at risk of violating the law. However, the governor went on to say he supports the Open Meetings Act “because it works.”
Minority party to media: We need your help
Senator Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) told media representatives the minority party needs their help.
“When you are in a minority, if you don’t have an active media presence … society is damaged,” Kyle said. “People’s right to know damaged.”
While acknowledging the constitutional exception for the Legislature, Kyle said he has attempted to change the rules toward openness.
“I proposed a rule of the Senate that the Senate would be under the open meetings law and the Senate rules committee has yet to take up that rule,” Kyle said.
Buzz Trexler is managing editor of The Daily Times. Email him at email@example.com.