Friday, October 24, 2014 · 2:46 p.m.

General Assembly elects leaders

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Business is well underway at the 108th General Assembly, with lawmakers voting to elect both chamber leaders and constitutional officers. 

On Tuesday, House members unanimously voted to re-elect Speaker Beth Harwell to serve a second two-year term, and Senate members voted 28-4 to re-elect Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker. Today, lawmakers have voted to keep all three of the state's constitutional officers at their posts in a joint session. 

Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr. and Comptroller Justin Wilson were all voted to serve additional terms at their posts. For Hargett, it will be his second four-year term in the position, and both Wilson and Lillard will be serving their third two-year terms. 

All three officers will play a role in managing the state's finances, including appearances at annual meetings before agencies determining Tennessee's bond and credit ratings. In a news release, Harwell praised the group for their work. 

"Tennessee is in excellent financial condition—and the work of our three constitutional officers has played no small part in that," Harwell said. "As members of the state funding board, they set revenue estimates that are used by the governor, his staff and members of the General Assembly for budget-planning purposes."

Despite not having passed any major pieces of legislation, local Democrats have already begun to object to the makeup of the General Assembly, which holds Republican supermajorities in both chambers for the first time since the Reconstruction era.

Paul Smith, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, issued a statement Wednesday, chastising his political opponents for legislative items expected to be debated later this spring. 

"Poll after poll shows that Tennesseans want action on jobs and the economy, education and health care, in that order," Smith said. "But what can we already expect from this state Legislature? Bills to put guns everywhere, including the classroom, school voucher programs that gut public education, a refusal to accept TennCare expansion, and more tax breaks for the wealthy."

Smith's comments will likely have little bearing on the actions of lawmakers, as Republicans heavily outnumber Democrats 70-29 in the House, along with a 26-7 ratio in the Senate. 

Following this week's routine, organizational meetings, the General Assembly will break until later in January, when Gov. Bill Haslam will deliver his annual State of the State address.

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