A most historic debate
The so-called “teacher” collective bargaining bill passed the Tennessee House of Representatives yesterday, after some members were introduced to a new concept called “debate.”
Much of the debate was drawn out because of a series of amendments-which Maggart repeatedly had to move to the table. One amendment, which was offered by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Nashville) basically undid the entire bill. Several other amendments exempted Tennessee’s major metropolitan counties, including Shelby and Davidson, which also would have made the bill worthless, since those poor-performing and heavily-unionized districts-Memphis and Nashville-are a big reason why the State’s education system is seen to be in such a rut.
It was pleasing to see that there was actually a debate in the House Chamber, as opposed to the mere rediculous question-and-answer format that has prevailed by default for years that often makes debate in the General Assembly look like a television quiz show as opposed to a substantive parliamentary body. Yesterday’s proceedings produced real debate with passionate pleas from both sides, something Tennesseans should see more of. The debate dragged on for so long, however, that it was limited first to five minutes per speaker, then to two minutes each. House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) bemoaned that debate was being limited at all. Someone should have responded to Fitzhugh with the truth, which was that no one wanted to be at the Capitol until 3:00AM, and that carrying on debate past a certain point would simply act as a cheap Democratic attempt to filibuster the bill when they didn’t have the votes to carry out the real thing.
The reason debate was finally shortened was because the Democrats were going to try and use the amendment and debating process as a means to filibuster the legislation-something House rules would technically allow for, but which the party opposite did not have the votes to carry on. Passing this bill is but the first step in a more lengthy process of true education reform in Tennessee.
Just because a version of this legislation has passed both the House and the Senate doesn’t mean the process is over, however. Now the bill goes to a conference committee of the two Houses to work out the differences between the two bodies on the bill. Both Houses will then need to vote on the finished product. This process occurs against a backdrop of an end-of-session rush in which it appears that the Speakers of both Houses are trying to get the Legislature adjourned for the year before the weekend is out.