Hours before the Tennessee House of Representatives was scheduled to begin floor debate on his controversial bill to increase gas taxes on Wednesday, Governor Haslam joked in an interview with Ralph Bristol, host of Nashville’s Morning News on 99.7 FM WWTN, that he used ‘standard’ wattage lamps in his recent private meetings to pressure or “hot box” 15 targeted on the fence legislators.
“I read a report anyway that you recently set aside some time to meet with specific House members to discuss this issue and it was described in that report as ‘hot box, meetings,” Bristol told the governor.
“Now what wattage of lamp do you use for these hot box meetings, because I might need to borrow that some day,” Bristol asked.
“It’s the standard. It involves the chains,” Haslam responded, attempting to make light of his pressure tactics.
“I think anybody who knows me knows I’m not the hard pressure type,” he added.
But conservative legislators and activists have a different view of Haslam’s efforts to pass the gas tax increase.
“Governor Haslam is holding private meetings with legislators he has barely spoken to over the last several years. So this is a new level of pressure and intensity that we have not seen in the past,” media strategist and conservative activist Steve Gill tells The Tennessee Star.
“Governor Haslam is concerned enough about the final outcome of next week’s proposed gas tax increase vote on his
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” to set up a series of private 20 minute meetings with state legislators who are on the fence,” The Tennessee Star reported last week:
In an email sent to staff assistants of fifteen members of the Tennessee House of Representatives on Wednesday obtained by The Tennessee Star, one of the governor’s administrative assistants “requested” these targeted legislators appear in “his conference room on the first floor of the Capitol,”beginning on Thursday. The purpose of these meetings appears to be for the governor to give these state legislators the “hot box” treatment.
“Hot boxing” is a method of interrogation in which the person being interrogated “is locked in a ‘hot box’ – a small, hot room,” according to List Verse.
In the political world, “hot boxing” usually refers to intense one-on-one pressure applied by a powerful political figure to a less powerful political figure. The treatment is delivered in an environment totally controlled by the more powerful political figure. Its purpose is to coerce the less powerful political figure to comply with the political will of the more powerful political figure.
Capitol Hill insiders tell The Star that today’s expected vote on Haslam’s gas tax increase proposal on the House floor is likely to be very close.
Haslam’s appearance on Nashville’s Morning News with Ralph Bristol on Wednesday morning is an indication that the governor believes the outcome hangs in the balance.
On WPLN radio Wednesday morning Democratic Minority Leader State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) said the Democrats have told Governor Haslam if he supports a $250 million education expenditure they will support the gas tax increase.
Fitzhugh indicated the governor had not agreed to that deal at this point.
On WWTN, Bristol put Haslam on the spot about a potential deal with the Democrats.
“Did you make any agreements with Democrats?” Bristol asked Haslam.
“No,” the governor responded.
“If the Governor Haslam agrees to that deal it would be the worst kind of bad math. It would be ridiculous to spend $250 milion to get $300 million for roads while we’re claiming a budget crisis,” media consultant and conservative activist Gill tells The Star.
Haslam made some more news on Bristol’s program when he refused to commit to signing the Harwell-Hawk alternative plan, which does not raise gas taxes but funds road construction by reallocating general sales tax revenues, should it pass in the House.
He also set forward a unique constitutional proposition in which he appeared to assert the supremacy of the State Senate over the State House of Representatives.
“A plan that relies on general funds is a non starter over there [in the State Senate],” Haslam told Bristol, who noted that it was very possible that the House could pass the Harwell-Hawk alternative and the Senate could pass the gas tax increase plan.
Bristol asked Haslam if he would commit to signing whatever plan emerged from the Conference Committee in such a situation, but Haslam refused to make such a commitment.
You can hear the full audio of Ralph Bristol’s interview of Governor Haslam on Nashville’s Morning News Wednesday here: