Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville has achieved a significant measure of notoriety this legislative session for his initiatives on judicial selection (he wants changes but not a total overhaul), guns (yep, he’s for toting ‘em in all those new places), and ethics (he’s dubious about retaining the Tennessee Ethics Commission.
Another hobby horse of Ramsey’s has received less attention, but that’s surely about to change. With Ramsey and Democratic caucus chair Roy Herron of Dresden already declared gubernatorial candidates, and with his opposite number, Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis a likely add-on after the session concludes, many have wondered: How can they compete with self-funding opponents like Bill Haslam (Republican) and Ward Cammack (Democratic) if they can’t raise money during legislative sessions?
Current state law prohibits in-session fundraising by sitting legislators, and, while the current session probably wont’ extend beyond the month of May, there’s next year to think about, when from January to some point between April and June would be a Dead Zone for the three state senators, fundraising-wise.
So why won’t these three powerful senators do something about it? Well, they have. As Ramsey explained Saturday night at the Hamilton County Lincoln Day Dinner, “we got the bill out of committee this week.” The bill in question, sponsored by Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), did indeed issue forth this past week, from the Senate State and Local Government Committee. It would allow fundraising by legislators running for some office other than the one they currently possess.
“That could be county mayor or congressman or governor. It could be anything else,” Ramsey noted. Moreover, although the limits apparently aren’t set yet, the bill would raise contribution limits, as well.
Good chance for passage by both houses? Ramsey nodded vigorously. “Oh, yes.”
“Well, that should be helpful against some of your opponents,” someone said, nodding in the direction of Knoxville mayor and Pilot Oil scion Haslam, who was being chatted up by a nearby reporter.
Still nodding, Ramsey cracked a wry smile. “You got that right,” he said.