Speaker Harwell speaks to Brentwood Womens Club
By Carole Robinson, Senior Staff Writer
The first female Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Beth Harwell, addressed members of the Brentwood Women’s Club about her first term in office during the group’s annual December luncheon at the Brentwood Country Club.
“I know when I was elected there were some who wondered if I would be tough enough,” said Harwell, who was elected by her peers in 2012. “As a woman, I had to overcome the image of being too soft; too nice.”
During her first term, the no-nonsense speaker dispelled that too soft image using policies that eliminated the filibuster and required members wishing to address the body to be recognized by the Speaker.
“My job is to make sure parliamentary procedure is followed and make sure the ebb and flow of bills take place,” she told the membership recently.
“Women today have the most to lose so we need to get involved.”
According to Harwell, the founders designed the Constitution so domestic issues were dealt with at the local level where people have the most access and the most input on what directly affects them.
“I never thought being a legislator should be a full-time job,” she said. “To the founders, it was seen as public service not as a career. The worst thing that happened in Washington was the addition of air conditioning in the Capitol. I make sure no one makes a living as a state legislator. That means they go home and live under the rules they pass.”
She said she heard the people of Tennessee loud and clear on Election Day say that they are tired of a government out of control.
“We have allowed ourselves to go into such debt,” she said.
In an effort to insure Tennessee doesn’t follow the lead of the federal government, Harwell has vowed to watch spending and admitted she has had to inform representatives from her own party that projects in their districts would not funded because the money was not in the budget.
“The time for party politics is during an election. After the election, it’s the time for governing.”
“Now, we are the third lowest taxed state in the country,” she said. “When we bring additional revenue into the state, we look for ways to return it, not spend it.”
Lowering the tax on food, the total elimination of the inheritance tax by 2017 are just two ways money is being returned to the people.
For the first time in the state’s history, Tennessee has a Republican governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house, which Harwell concedes comes with a lot of responsibility.
“I vowed to treat every member with respect, and give them the opportunity to get a fair shake,” she said. “The people asked us to govern the way we would like to be treated. If we do, we can be in power as long as we want. We see what political gridlock has done in Washington, we don’t want that here in Tennessee.”
During a question and answer session, Harwell was asked about the most effective means of getting a message to elected officials and the annexation issue, which legislators tabled at the end of last year’s session. Harwell noted as she stepped down, no one questioned her about wine in grocery stores, an issue the Legislature has been tackling for several years.
After bringing it up, she had no comment.
Posted on: 12/12/2013