Lt. Gov. and Speaker of the Senate Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) announced Wednesday the state Senate committee assignments for the 112th General Assembly.
McNally praised his fellow Senate members in announcing the assignments.
“This Senate is made up of some of the smartest and strongest leaders with whom I have had the privilege to serve,” Lt. Governor McNally stated. “Each of our Senators could serve on any number of our committees and do well. I am grateful to have such a strong membership. I am confident we have assembled the best team to do the people’s business.”
Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) will continue in their roles as majority leader and caucus chair, respectively.
McNally reappointed Sen. Ferrell Hale (R-Gallatin) as Speaker Pro Tempore and Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) as deputy speaker.
Changes to Senate committee leadership, and even committee membership, reflected the departure of two key senators.
Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), who chaired the Senate Education Committee, announced last year that she would be retiring.
Former head of the Senate State and Local Government Committee Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) was bested by Democrat Heidi Campbell in the November 3 general election.
New committee chairs for the 112th General Assembly include Sen. Brian Kelsey, (R-Germantown) at education, Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) at state and local and Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) at ethics.
McNally made the following statements about the Senate committee chairs:
Education Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown)
“Brian Kelsey,” who was previously the Education Committee First vice-chair, “was the obvious choice to take over the Education Committee. He has the experience and the subject matter expertise to run this committee well. Through his tenure in both the House and Senate, Brian has been committed to education reform. He possesses both the talent and experience to succeed in this role.”
State and Local Committee Chairman Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville)
“As a long-time leader in local government, Richard Briggs,” who replaces Dickerson in the role as chair, “has the experience and insight to serve this committee well. A proven and effective chairman, I am confident he will take on this new task and excel. I am proud to appoint him.”
Ethics Committee Chairman Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin)
Replacing Briggs who will now chair the State and Local Government Committee, “Ferrell Haile has a servant’s heart and unquestionable integrity. A natural choice for Chairman of Ethics. He will serve with great distinction.”
Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta)
“Paul Bailey,” who continues in the role as the Commerce and Labor Committee chair, “is a business owner and a conservative. He intimately understands the needs of entrepreneurs and employers as well as workers and wage earners. He has done an excellent job as chairman and I am proud to reappoint him.”
Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Chairman Senator Steve Southerland (R-Morristown)
“Steve Southerland has been an exemplary chairman. He understands the subject matter and provides excellent leadership for the committee and staff. I look forward to his continued good work.”
Finance Ways and Means Committee Chairman Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson)
“Tennessee’s outstanding fiscal health is not a matter of luck. It is the work of dedicated public servants making smart and tough decisions. Bo Watson is one of the most critical of those servants. Bo’s hard work has kept Tennessee’s fiscal house in order under the toughest of conditions. I am proud to reappoint him.”
Government Operations Committee Chairman Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield)
“Kerry Roberts is a strong conservative leader. He is committed to keeping government small, efficient and accountable. Under his leadership, the Government Operations Committee provides the essential legislative oversight Tennesseans demand. He has been a great chairman and I am proud to reappoint him.”
Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City)
“Rusty Crowe’s leadership of the Health and Welfare Committee has been outstanding. Rusty’s steady hand and experience will continue to keep the committee on course. I appreciate his service and am grateful for his strong leadership.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville)
“Mike Bell’s commitment to judicial accountability and the rule of law is well-known and well-established. A conservative leader with unquestioned integrity, he has been an outstanding chairman of Judiciary. I am grateful he will continue in this important role.”
Transportation and Safety Chairman Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville)
Returning to the role as Transportation and Safety chair, “Becky Massey is a compassionate legislator dedicated to representing her constituents. She understands the importance of transportation to our economy and is dedicated to keeping Tennessee citizens safe. Her talents and abilities are perfect for this committee. I know she will do well.”
Calendar Committee Chairman Senator Ed Jackson (R-Jackson)
“Ed Jackson is a critical member of our Senate team. He serves his constituents well and makes a strong impact on the Senate. He is a respected servant leader. I am grateful he will continue to serve as our Calendar Committee Chair.”
The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee as well as the Health and Welfare Committee held their first meetings of the session on Wednesday to take up the Senate Joint Resolution that authorizes the governor to implement the first of its kind Medicaid demonstration waiver, known as TennCare III, that uses an “aggregate cap” financing approach recently approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
With both committees recommended the resolution be adopted, the measure moves on to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.