Haslam Marks 100 Days as TN Governor

On April 25, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris

By Erik Schelzig, MyFoxMemphis.com, BusinessWeek.com and CanadianBusiness.com
April 25, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gov. Bill Haslam marked his first 100 days in office on Monday, and the Republican says he is looking forward to the end of the legislative session as his administration’s next major benchmark.

All of Haslam’s major legislative initiatives appear on track for passage, including efforts to place limits on payouts from lawsuits against businesses and lifting a cap on charter schools in the state.

An administration bill to make teacher tenure rules more rigorous has already been signed into law, and the governor’s proposed spending plan has been met with little resistance so far.

“With our major initiatives, I’m pleased where they are legislatively,” Haslam said in an interview with The Associated Press last week. “I think we have a budget that is a good and fair budget that keeps us on the path we have to be, dealing with less money.”

Haslam said he looks forward to the legislative session coming to an end as soon as next month, so he can focus on other areas under his responsibility as Tennessee’s chief executive, ranging from more meetings with business leaders to making sure the state’s bridges are in a good state of repair.

“I’m excited about getting ready to spend a little more time on actually helping run the state as governor,” he said.

Republican lawmakers said they’ve been pleased with their relationship with the new governor.

“I’ve found him to be sufficiently adaptable,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville. “He’s learned to be quick on his feet. And we have processed a lot of legislation in a little bit of time here.”

Haslam has become the subject of criticism from tea party groups for not taking a hard enough line on some of their pet issues, though some of those attacks have quieted after a backlash from otherwise sympathetic Republicans over a newsletter that claimed the governor had exhibited “socialistic” tendencies.

Democrats, meanwhile, said that Haslam’s agenda has been overshadowed by more conservative elements within the party, like those calling for an end to collective bargaining for teachers and creating a voucher school program in Tennessee.

“If you had told him that after 100 days the issues that attracted more attention than anything else would be teachers and collective bargaining, I think he would have said ‘I don’t want that,”‘ said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville agreed.

“I think he’s in a difficult situation,” he said. “The governor’s a moderate Republican and he’s trying to kind of shepherd this right-wing train that’s running through Tennessee.

“I wish he’d be a little more aggressive with his own party to stop some of these things he doesn’t agree with.”

Among Haslam’s first major announcements as governor was to declare a 45-day freeze on new rules and regulations. But in the 55 days since that freeze expired, he has yet to produce a comprehensive account of what it accomplished or how state government will act differently.

The governor has dismissed as “partisan” the steady drumbeat of Democratic criticism over the administration’s failure to introduce a jobs package.

Haslam has instead argued that the state can improve its investment climate by capping payouts in successful lawsuits against businesses and a through a series of measures aimed at improve education standards.

“If jobs could be created on Capitol Hill, we’d be doing it all the time — and so would everyone else,” he said.

 

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