Ramsey warns House against scuttling GOP measures

Associated Press • Mar 22, 2007 at 12:18 PM

NASHVILLE - A House subcommittee's votes to kill two prominent Senate Republican bills doesn't bode well for the relationship between the two chambers, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Wednesday.

If Senate Republicans can't come to terms with the Democratic majority in the House, there are up to 30 more bills that could be affected, said Ramsey, R-Blountville.

The House Public Safety and Rural Roads Subcommittee voted Tuesday to kill one measure that would have limited driver's license tests to being in English only, and another that would have allowed state troopers to begin enforcing immigration laws.

The Senate versions were sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris of Collierville. Both bills had gained full Senate approval.

The English driver's license bill failed on a 6-6 vote in the House subcommittee, with House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh casting the deciding vote against the bill. The speaker is allowed to sit in on - and vote in - any committee in the House.

The Department of Safety currently allows different languages for the written portion of the test, but the driving element is already only given in English.

Unlike the version that passed the full Senate earlier, the House bill sponsored by Rep. Tom DuBois, R-Columbia, would not have included provisions for the tests to be given in Spanish, Korean or Japanese.

Ketron acknowledged that narrowing the scope of the bill may have been a miscalculation, but added that "that's in hindsight now."

"I'm not sure they were going to vote for it either way," Ketron said. "We'll just let the people judge them from this point forward."

Ketron said he knew his bill was likely to fail when he saw Naifeh enter the room. But he said it was disappointing that the measure will not get a full hearing.

"At least let it get to the floor, that's all I ask," said Ketron. "Let everybody vote their conscience on it instead of trying to kill it based on one person's opinion."

Ramsey also questioned the need for Naifeh to get involved in the subcommittee vote.

"That's not good, it doesn't bode well," said Ramsey. "He has that prerogative, but I hope that that's not the atmosphere we're going to set."

Naifeh said Ramsey might be overreacting. "I don't expect any fallout," he said. "I think (Ramsey) was expecting it to go that way in the House."

Ramsey become the first Republican Senate speaker since Reconstruction when he was elected in January. His Democratic predecessor, Sen. John Wilder of Mason, had been speaker for the previous 36 years.

"It's a new day," said Ramsey. "We have a new speaker in the Senate, new committee chairmen in the Senate and I want to be able to work with (the House)."

Ramsey said he doesn't want to have to resort to retaliation on Democratic bills coming through the Senate - but he will keep that option open. "There will have to be if we can't work something out," he said. "That's not my style of governing, I don't want that to be my style of governing."

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