Tennessee Dems pave way for Naifeh to resume Speaker's chair

Promoted by Caleb. Don’t forget to send your silly putty.

The macabre, yet perversely attractive, theme of many horror film series is the inability of the good guys to rid themselves of the monster regardless of what they do. Dracula has been staked, crossed, burned, thrown into sunlight, Holy Watered, garlic-ed, silvered and more. But. He. Just. Won’t. Die.

Jimmy Naifeh was first elected to the Tennessee House in 1974’s 89th General Assembly. After his first term he served as Majority Floor Leader for 8 years and then as Majority Leader for 6 years.  In 2006 he received the William M. Bulger Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award.  He was first elected Speaker of the House in 1990 and so served Tennessee until voted out on January 13, 2009; replaced by Kent Williams after 18 years of service as Speaker.

On Tuesday, January 13th, the GOP thought they had Dracula cornered. Armed with crosses, stakes, holy water, garlic and more – 50 vampire hunters entered the Tennessee Legislature to put an end to him. 49 hunters aimed true … one hunter betrayed his fellows and the monster escaped, wounded but not dead. He sought the succor and healing of his minions and began to plot his return. If he is successful, the villagers will be made to pay a horrible price.

Today’s sunrise brought, not the obligatory grisly death of the Count via the fiery caress of dawn. Nay … stunned villagers were greeted by an ominous decree nailed to the doors of their homes while they slept. Dracula would rise again!

House Resolution #1 for the 106th Tennessee General Assembly, introduced by Democrat Craig Fitzhugh from Ripley, resolves to establish the position of “Speaker Emeritus” as a legislative office “… with unique qualifications and requirements to evidence the magnitude of accomplishment, dignity, and character of any person qualified to hold such position…” and to recognize Jimmy Naifeh Tennessee’s first “Speaker Emeritus”. Unsurprisingly, the minimum qualifications for such a position are precisely and exactly met by Jimmy Naifeh. Indeed, the qualifications for said office are identical to the details of Naifeh’s career.

… a minimum service of 18 years as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a minimum service of 14 years in other leadership positions associated with the House, and receipt of the coveted William M. Bulger Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award …

If that was all the resolution called for, I’d vote for it if Democrats would then agree to get on to the People’s business afterward. But the resolution does far more than just honor Jimmy Naifeh. Near the end of the resolution’s text, we find the real purpose of the Legislation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Speaker Emeritus may perform such functions and duties as are assigned by the Speaker of the House.

Given the extreme detail with which the rest of the document details the qualifications for Speaker Emeritus, the lack of detail concerning the office’s powers, functions and duties is startling. Would Naifeh refuse to perform any function or duty assigned to him by the Speaker unless he gets to be Speaker Emeritus? Is it customary for the Speaker to specifically assign functions and duties to a particular member? Given that Kent Williams chose, as his first official act as Speaker of the House, to turn the Speaker’s gavel back over to Naifeh is it possible Williams could simply step down as Speaker for an unspecified time and appoint Naifeh as Speaker in his stead?

Tennessee has a Speaker of the House. For good or for ill, it’s Kent Williams. This morning, instead of discharging their responsibilities to the citizens of Tennessee, Democrats are busy cooking up ways to resurrect Jimmy Naifeh’s Speaker career. It’s a transparent attempt to keep political power they’ve held for 140 years and thwart the clearly voiced views of Tennesseans when they sent Republican majorities to the Tennessee House and Senate.

There’s a danger here for Democrats, of course. The villagers might take this as the last straw and storm Castle Dracula with their own ensemble of stakes, crosses, holy water, garlic and dismantle the place piece by piece until they find the Count. They might. But haven’t we done that before? Haven’t we thought Naifeh is gone and can’t be resurrected? I’m going to rally the villagers. But I’m buying a kevlar turtleneck or two to be on the safe side.

Also posted at my Examiner site.