The Good And Bad On Kent WilliamsA lot of people have asked me my opinion of the legislative session in light of Kent Williams being Speaker of the House, and how I think things have gone so far. The question is especially timely since The Tennessean did a story on Williams this week.
I don't think I will ever completely get over what happened on January 13th. It is one thing to have heard about it on the news and shrugged one's shoulders, but it was quite another to have actually been there. No one who witnessed the three-ring circus that day can realistically believe that Kent Williams is Speaker of the House because, in his words, he "changed his mind" about voting for Jason Mumpower. It was clear that he did everything in his power not only to lie to Mumpower, but far more importantly to deceive the House Republican Caucus. If Williams had simply admitted the plan, which he had known about since last November, no one on the Republican side would have liked it, but they could have better dealt with it, in much the same way as if a Republican might have voted for Jimmy Naifeh.
It would be wrong to claim, however, that this session has been a disaster because Williams is Speaker. Disaster and daily discord is what many of us feared after the debacle in January. Readers likely recall that I feared that the General Assembly would become unworkable, because the atmosphere of that first week (which I said was akin to what the feel of the chamber is said to have been like shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War) would remain for the entire year and perhaps for the entire sitting of this General Assembly. I am compelled to admit that this isn't what has happened, and that in fact it hasn't even come close to being anything like it was in the history books.
An entire slew of bills has passed the House that would not have passed under the previous Democratic Leadership, largely because they never would have made it to the floor. Republicans have gotten huge portions of our collective agenda passed, including nearly every gun bill that we wanted, and will pass (for the first round) a Constitutional amendment that will be but the first step in the protection of every life in this State from conception until natural death.
Furthermore, Kent Williams has breathed new life into the ability of my own Representative to serve Jefferson County and our district:
"I think it's worked very, very well," said Rep. Frank Niceley, an East Tennessee Republican who believes Williams' approach harkens back to the bipartisanship in the state legislature a generation ago. "I think he's done a good job with that. There's nothing really fair about one person having control over everything."
Frank has good reason to feel the way that he does. Kent Williams has ended Frank's long isolation in the legislature under Jimmy Naifeh, who despised Frank Niceley, and returned Frank to the House Agriculture Committee from which Naifeh stripped him. Furthermore, Representative Niceley is now Mr. Chairman Niceley, Chairman of Agriculture's General Subcommittee.
Everything hasn't been sweetness and light under Williams, however. He hasn't voted with the Caucus at times when the Caucus has needed his decisive Speaker's vote on key legislation in committees after asking to be readmitted to the Republican Caucus in the wake of his own betrayal. At the very least he should stick with the Caucus after the Caucus stuck with him. Worse, however, Williams is allowing the Democrats to use him like a prophylactic-because they plan to throw him away like yesterday's trash if they get a majority:
Leaders of both parties, however, say that they would prefer to put their own people in charge and that they have the discipline to do so in the next election. "Given the choice, we'd rather be in power," [House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike] Turner said. "I think we're going to take it back."
It seems that despite Williams' dreams to the contrary, the Democrats who put him in power will throw him to the wind as soon as they have the chance. People in Carter County should pay attention, because any benefit they thought they could get from Kent Williams being Speaker could be short-lived.