Monday, May 14, 2007

Casada fights the power

Last week Tennessee House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada challenged the ruling of the Chair on a tort reform bill-namely the ruling that the bill should be sent back to committee. Speaker Jimmy Naifeh made the move to send the legislation back to committee on Wednesday after the Republicans managed to defeat an amendment that would have weakened the bill. Republicans objected to the motion to refer the bill back to committee, and Naifeh refused to recognize the objections of members.

“It was a blatant rule violation. The Speaker clearly saw those that objected, but was heavy-handed with the gavel, and ignored those of us that should have been recognized,” Casada said. “This is an example of why it’s time for a change in the legislature. We need a Speaker that does not ignore the law, but stays within the boundaries of the rules."

The issue at this point is no longer the legislation at hand. Whether a person agrees or disagrees with this kind of law, using dictatorial tactics to have your way with a bill that is likely headed for passage only shows that the ordinary conventions of parliamentary rules do not apply with Jimmy Naifeh in charge of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Within the
National Conference of State Legislators and among people in-the-know about State and national legislative affairs, Jimmy Naifeh is considered a master of parliamentary tactics and procedure. I do not doubt that Naifeh knows Robert's Rules of Order very well indeed-likely better than the Speaker of the federal House. I think he knows how to manipulate the rules, but as he has shown on at least three occasions during this session of the General Assembly that he simply ignores them at his pleasure.

Many times those who criticize Naifeh are simply labeled as excessive partisans-but it seems that it is Naifeh himself who is the uber-partisan. For most of his career as Speaker, he has enjoyed an overwhelming Democratic majority. That is no longer the case in 2007-his overall majority is down to four seats, and even when his turncoat Republican support is factored in, he has enough opposition in the House that if the rules were applied in a fair and equitable way the majority would not have their way all the time, as would have been the case with the tort reform bill. Since he can no longer have his way constantly, he reacts by simply ignoring the opposition and pretending objections to the motions of his backers are not present, and claiming that seconds on motions that he does not like simply do not exist.

It is wonderful to finally see the House Republican Leadership taking a strong stand against these kinds of tactics. As has been
chronicled here, this is not the first time this session that Naifeh has engaged in blatant and open abuse of power. I have been critical of Republican Leader Jason Mumpower for not standing up to Naifeh enough, and very often for allowing his own members to be left in the lurch. I think it is fair to say, however, that Glen Casada did not take this action of objecting to Naifeh's ruling without Mumpower's approval, whether implicit or explicit. Perhaps Jason Mumpower is joining the rest of us in finally having had enough of Coon Supper Jimmy-and it is none too soon. Late as it may be, I welcome the sudden fighting spirit in the GOP corner.

On top of all of this, parts of the video archives of the Tennessee House of Representatives
have mysteriously disappeared from the General Assembly's website. The portions which have disappeared are sessions or segments of sessions of the House which show Jimmy Naifeh engaging in abuse of his office for the world to see. In previous weeks during this legislative session, intelligent Tennessee bloggers have taken segments which chronicle Naifeh's abusive actions and placed them on YouTube for the world to see and disseminate. Now some of Naifeh's worst abuse yet (and certain Democrats' complicity with it) is missing from the archive.

Speaker Naifeh knows that his days as Fuhrer of the House of Representatives are numbered, and he is acting like the two-year-old whose lollipop is being taken away.

Audio: Kleinheider, Ben Cunningham, Rep. Stacey Campfield)



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