The House Transportation Subcommittee adjourned suddenly on Wednesday after State Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) presented his alternative road funding plan.
A report late Wednesday in The Chattanooga Times Free Press makes it clear that State Rep. Barry Doss (R-Leoma) (pictured in the headline image), a member of the subcommittee, “who is chairman of the full House Transportation Committee and who is carrying the governor’s bill” is the force behind the surprise adjournment.
“[W]e were about to get the governor’s bill out today. But evidently there were some people who were uncomfortable, maybe, with the Hawk plan. And they weren’t ready to vote on the Hawk plan,” Doss told The Times Free Press:
Doss said he sees the adjournment vote as a response to the Hawk bill.
“And I think there’s a lot of people uncomfortable with that bill,” Doss said. “We come back next week and I think more people are comfortable with the governor’s plan.”
The “Hawk Plan” increases road funding in Tennessee without increasing taxes and has been embraced by conservative legislators seeking an alternative to the plan presented by Governor Haslam which dramatically increases gasoline and diesel fuel taxes for Tennessee drivers and guarantees automatic future increases through “indexing”.
Immediately after Hawk concluded his presentation to the subcommittee, State Rep. John Mark Windle (D -Livingston), one of only two Democrats on the subcommittee, proposed an amendment to remove the sales tax from baby formula. After Subcommittee Chairman State Rep. Chair Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) ruled that amendment out of order for not being timely filed Windle responded by moving to adjourn. The subcommittee then voted by a 5 to 3 vote to adjourn without any action being taken on the Hawk Plan.
State Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station), State Rep. Courtney Rogers (R-Goodlettsville) and Weaver voted “no” to adjournment.
State Rep. David Alexander (R- Winchester), Doss, and State Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin), all Republicans, joined Democrats Windle and State Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis) in voting “yes” to adjourn.
Until Monday night, when he had dinner with Gov. Haslam, Alexander was thought to be an opponent of the governor’s proposed gas tax increase.
There were no questions asked about the Hawk Plan, no debate or discussion on the bill, and no vote taken.
“Let the games begin!” Andrew Ogles, Tennessee Director of Americans for Prosperity told The Tennessee Star in response to the action, or lack of action, in the subcommittee.
“The gamesmanship being played by proponents of the Haslam Plan is an example of why there is so much public distrust about the legislative process in Tennessee,” Ogles said, adding:
The Hawk Plan would dramatically increase funding for Tennessee road construction, bridge repair and maintenance without raising taxes. It is clear that the Haslam Administration and those supporting his massive tax increase on Tennessee drivers are more interested in raising taxes than they are on actually funding better roads.
Ogles promised that AFP will continue to encourage voters across Tennessee to call their legislators and oppose higher taxes, particularly when Tennessee is enjoying billion dollar surpluses.
Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) immediately expressed outrage on her Facebook page at the way things transpired in the House Transportation subcommittee.
“What happened in this committee is a travesty of the political process and I am astounded and ashamed. This is not how elected officials are to carry on the people’s business. This is political posturing and not statesmanship. This is why so many people hate politics. Thankfully, was a roll call vote,” she posted.
Subcommittee Chair Weaver was quick to express her disappointment with the actions of her colleagues.
“I am really saddened that Republicans acted as they did in this committee. There are three equal branches of government and I find it appalling that legislators are being strong armed, threatened and bullied for standing up to protect the people’s purse,” Weaver told The Star.
The Transportation Subcommittee is scheduled to meet again next week, on March 1, at which time further action, or inaction, may occur.