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VOL. 130 | NO. 51 | Monday, March 16, 2015

Tenn. Republicans Hit Each Other on 'Social Hour,' Expenses

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick drew hoots and hollers of agreement from his colleagues when he suggested that members of the Senate had met during recent winter storms in the interest of padding their expense accounts.

Now fellow Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is firing back in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, suggesting that House members aren't concerned with completing legislative business in timely fashion.

"I am certain that Tennesseans prefer legislators who use their work time productively rather than adjourn committees early to partake in social hour," Ramsey said.

Even while Ramsey professed "no interest in fanning the flames of inter-chamber discord," the heated words are the latest example of the two GOP-controlled bodies chafing over priorities and pace.

Legislative sessions normally get off to a late start following elections years, but a special session on Medicaid expansion and the recent winter storms have added further delays.

While the House took off several days because of the weather, the Senate plowed ahead. And Ramsey still wants to conclude the session by mid-April. That's causing some heartache among House members, who worry that their proposed legislation may fall by the wayside if their companion bills don't get a chance to be heard in the upper chamber.

"The Senate is set up to move quicker than us, we go through these bills a little more thoroughly than they do," McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said to applause on the House floor on Thursday. "We'll take the time to do what we need to do."

McCormick said Senate will just have to wait if the House takes longer to work through its bills.

"They can stay up here that week and walk around the halls, collect their per diem," McCormick said. "They will fight through snow and ice to make sure that happens, as they proved a couple weeks ago."

Lawmakers who live at least 50 miles from the Capitol receive $198 per day to cover meals, accommodation and other expenses for every day they are in Nashville on legislative business.

Ramsey in his letter expressed "great surprise and disappointment" in hearing of McCormick's comments, and noted that the Senate's committees have often met deep into the evening to take up legislation. For example, he said, the Senate Judiciary Committee has met for an average of three hours each while the panel's two House counterparts averaged just 40 minutes and 26 minutes.

"Senate committees have been dynamic, working thoroughly and efficiently," Ramsey said. "By comparison, House committees remained static and idle for almost three weeks."

McCormick on Friday declined to respond to Ramsey's allegations in the letter.

"He may have fired off after being offended my comments," McCormick said in a phone interview. "So I'm not going to fire back at it. We'll probably get together and work it out."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 57 57 1,266
MORTGAGES 48 48 964
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 1 1 152
BUILDING PERMITS 85 85 2,836
BANKRUPTCIES 34 34 652
BUSINESS LICENSES 10 10 286
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0