From Senator Bryson:
Happy New Year!!!
My family and I wish you and your family a Happy New Year and Best Wishes for2005.
This update contains some reflections on 2004 and a look ahead at a couple ofissues likely to create an interesting 2005.
2004 was quite a year. Legislatively, the major accomplishment was the passingof Worker's Compensation Reform. As a member of the Commerce Committee, I wasprivileged to participate in shaping the bill as it came through committee. There were numerous attempts by labor and the trial lawyers to weaken the bill. They all failed. In the end, the legislature passed a bill that will stimulatejob growth in Tennessee. As a result, in contrast to growth in Worker's Comppremiums in previous years, this year Worker's Comp premiums will actuallydecrease.
In addition, we passed the framework the Governor requested for TennCare reformin May. At the start of 2005, we still do not have significant changes in theTennCare program. Worse, we hear that the program continues to grow faster thanthe budget and will need an additional infusion of money to pay its bills.
Of the bills I sponsored last session, there were two of which I am particularlyproud.
1. The first was a change in the lottery legislation to guarantee virtually all lottery corporation records will be open to public scrutiny. Exempting lotterycorporation records from public scrutiny was a major flaw in the lotterylegislation that we were able to rectify despite opposition by the LotteryCorporation.
2. I also passed legislation to level the playing field for homeschoolerscompeting for lottery scholarships. Homeschoolers were required to score 4points higher on the ACT than other students to be eligible for a lotteryscholarship simply because they were homeschooled. This was not fair. Mylegislation leveled the playing field so that homeschoolers are now required tomake the same scores on the ACT or SAT as public or private school students toqualify for a lottery scholarship.
In 2004, I also received two distinct honors of which I am very proud. 1. The first honor was to be selected one of the Top Five Legislators byBusiness Tennessee magazine. 2. The second was to be elected as Majority Whip by my Republican Senatecolleagues. I appreciate the confidence they have shown in me to elect me tothis position.
The November elections were the political story of the year in Tennessee. Forthe first time in 140 years, Republicans hold a majority in the Tennessee StateSenate. Now, as we look to 2005, it is time for Republicans to lead and fulfillthe charge placed in our hands by the people of Tennessee. As a part of theRepublican leadership team, I promise you we will lead and we will lead withcourage and vision.
2005 has the potential to be a wild year in the legislature. The SenateDemocratic Caucus has signaled their intention to be more combative by electingSen. Jim Kyle as Democratic Leader over long-time Leader Ward Crutchfield. Senator Kyle is close to the Governor and can be very combative on the Senatefloor. With the Democrats hungry to regain control of the Senate, look for alot of fireworks on the Senate floor this year.
The fireworks will start off immediately on January 11 with the election of thenew Senate Speaker who also serves as Lt. Governor. John Wilder (D) has servedin that position for 32 years. He has the support of 16 Democrats and 3Republicans, more than the 17 needed to elect him once again.
If these three Republicans vote for a Democrat Speaker, they will have strongopposition in their re-election campaign. These men plan to vote for JohnWilder out of a sense of friendship and loyalty to a Democrat who has been fairto Republicans. However, Speaker Wilder should honor their friendship andloyalty by not requiring that they put their political careers on the line so hecan keep his title. Lt. Gov. Wilder is an honorable man. I hope he will do thehonorable thing and let his friends off the hook.
TennCare appears to be another major issue in 2005. If the Governor has notimplemented a plan by the end of January, the legislature will probablyintervene. The Governor won election on the promise that he can â€œfixTennCare.â€ The legislature has given him all the tools he requested. It'stime to get it done.
TennCare must be contained so we can turn our attention to education. Thissession, I am filing bills related to education initiatives as well as tortreform, campaign finance reform and some innovative solutions to our healthcareproblems.
Thank you Cube, for your support and interest in our state government.
May you have a happy and successful 2005.