For a variety of reasons, a number of Tennessee state legislators will not be returning to take part in the 108th General Assembly next term. Some have lost primary elections, while others have decided not to run for re-election.
Two retiring senators shared parting thoughts with their constituents this week. Sen. Andy Berke is running for mayor of Chattanooga, while Sen. Mike Faulk decided not to run for personal and family reasons.
For the past five years, I have been honored to represent the people of Hamilton and Marion Counties in the Tennessee General Assembly. I am incredibly thankful for that opportunity.
From the first day of our campaign in 2007, I have been humbled by the people who wanted to share their struggles, their hopes, and their aspirations with me. Terry, a supervisor, told me about his inability to get a check-up for his grandson because neither he nor his son had benefits at their full-time jobs. James, a small business owner, let me know about his difficulty keeping his cabinet shop open against competition from Chinese makers. Nicole, a teacher, helped me understand what she needed to help the kids in her classroom succeed.
I tried to reflect these stories in my service. It was apparent to me that my constituents weren’t interested in the bickering and small-mindedness that is all too prevalent in politics today. They wanted someone to stand up for their values and get things done.
Every day for five years, I have tried to do that. In education, I worked with Democratic and Republican legislators and Governor Bredesen to write and enact two major pieces of education reform, First to the Top and the Complete College Tennessee Act. To help Tennesseans move from the unemployment rolls to the work rolls, I worked with Governor Haslam to enact Tennessee Works. To use our tax dollars effectively, I sponsored and passed EFFECTS, a law that ensures Tennessee measures outcomes when making budget choices. With these bills and others, I tried to push the practical ideas that will help create opportunity for Tennesseans.
Yet I will also remember the urgent constituent calls I received. Whether it was the worker who recently lost his job but couldn’t get in touch with the Department to file for unemployment, or the woman whose house was up for foreclosure but couldn’t get a return call from the bank, I was honored to play a part in helping solve their problems.
At 8 p.m. next Tuesday, I will no longer be your state senator but I will never forget the lessons you taught me. Make sure you vote in the election. As I have seen firsthand, it is critical that we have good leadership at all levels of government.
My wife and I had a deal when we first talked about running for office. I promised her that I would only run if I planned on working hard everyday to make a positive difference for our community. It has been an amazing opportunity to try to live up to my side of the bargain.
Thanks to many, many people who have helped me along with the way. Most of all, thanks to the people of Hamilton and Marion Counties for trusting me to represent them the best way I could.
The close of this year’s General Assembly meant I completed my duties as a lawmaker during my term in office. I thought I’d take the time to update you on my time in the State Senate.
It pleases me to tell you that we have less state government, fewer state employees, less spending, less pork and no general tax increases throughout my term in office! In fact, we passed reductions in Tennessee taxes!
The e-mails and calls received in these four years number in
the thousands. We read every e-mail and every message. I published this eNewsletter report weekly during our legislative session. Over 125,000 of my weekly reports were sent.
I’ve averaged driving over 32,000 miles each of the last
four years traveling back and forth to Nashville and to events and meetings within Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union counties.
I also want you to know about my concentrated efforts as
lawmaker during the most recent session of the General Assembly. I carried an passed a number of bills for Governor Haslam and his administration including laws reforming the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, reorganizing the Department of Corrections and the Board of Pardons & Paroles, and establishing a fuel hedging program for the Department of Transportation. I sponsored and passed the bill that saved the Tennessee Game & Fish Commission from extinction. The board that oversees the discipline of Tennessee’s judges was reformed by a bill I sponsored and passed. And, perhaps most significant to northeast Tennesseans, I was the Senate sponsor of the bill that finally banned bath salts and other synthetic drugs that are such a plague on our young people.
While it’s the highest honor of my lifetime to serve in the
State Senate, I awake every day having learned something new about what a special privilege I’ve been given. For that honor and for those privileges, I will be eternally grateful.
Once again thank you for your help. Don’t hesitate to call on
me if I can be of service to you during my last days in office.
House of Representatives members who won’t be returning include Reps. Tommie Brown, Scotty Campbell, Bill Harmon, Phillip Johnson, Mike Kernell, Richard Montgomery, Gary Moore, Jimmy Naifeh, Mary Pruitt, Jeanne Richardson, Janis Baird Sontany, and Harry Tindell. Senators include Beverly Marrero, Joe Haynes, Roy Herron, Kerry Roberts, and Eric Stewart.
A few more House members have left their seats in order to seek Senate posts, and those chips will fall next Tuesday.