David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee has waded into the gas tax debate, writing in a blog post last week that while the issue is outside the focus of his group, it is “just too interesting to let slide.”
“To appreciate what’s going on, you need to understand that the state House has always had a top-down management style,” wrote Fowler, who served in the state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as president in 2006.
“It works sort of like this,” Fowler wrote. “The Speakers typically give the rank-and-file Representatives (hereafter, the ‘Little Guys’) the freedom to represent their folks back home, so long as their views on something important don’t conflict with that of the Speaker or the Governor, to whom the Speakers for some reason seem to always take some kind of fealty oath. But when there is a conflict, the Speaker uses the loyalty of his or her committee and subcommittee chairs, engendered by their being given a position of ‘importance,’ to bring down the hammer and get the ‘preferred’ agenda rammed through.”
Fowler applauds the “Little Guys” who won’t “shut up and go along” with the gas tax, part of Gov. Haslam’s IMPROVE Act to fund roads. He praises Rep. Jerry Sexton, a Republican from “tiny Bean Station” who in a committee meeting criticized Republicans who campaign on lower taxes and then vote to raise them. A video of Sexton’s comments went viral.
“I think people were shocked to see a Republican courageous enough to call out Republicans for their efforts to massage an increase in the gas tax and publicly buck the Speaker and the Governor,” Fowler wrote.
Sexton later gave a press conference on the gas tax. Surrounded by more than a dozen of his House colleagues, he denounced what he viewed as questionable tactics in ramming through the legislation.
“I could see a huge fight on the House floor coming,” Fowler wrote, describing how he wants to see “the Little Guys rise up.”
“Too many of us feel like too often we have too little voice in what happens. So I say, ‘Little Guys, may your tribe increase! The process has got to change.’ ”