A number of Tennessee lawmakers aren’t sent to Nashville to become political stars.
They are elected primarily for one reason — to take care of non-controversial local interests.
This appeared to be the case in 2008 for state Rep. Mike Harrison and state Sen. Mike Williams, who teamed up on legislation aimed at helping out their rural constituencies in Hawkins and Hancock counties.
But one bill they steered through the legislature could have statewide impact.
The Harrison-Williams legislation specifies each local school board’s plan for compliance with nutritional breakfast and lunch programs should consider using local agriculture products.
“This gives local farmers preference ... and gets the farm product into the schools,” Williams, a Maynardville independent, said. “I carry legislation the locals ask me to carry. I feel like the legislator’s job is to try to help alleviate the problems of the locals. I’ve never been one to carry a lot of legislation.”
Within Harrison’s 9th House District and Williams’ 4th Senatorial District, the bill could help out The Jubilee Project, a Sneedville-based mission program that serves Hancock and surrounding counties in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The project’s Clinch-Powell Community Kitchens program, for instance, is capable of producing 2,000 jars per day of vegetable or fruit products for legal commercial sale.
This legislation also builds on the “Pick Tennessee Products” campaign put together by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The main task of the department’s Market Development Division is “to maximize economic opportunities for Tennessee farmers and agribusinesses through innovative and effective marketing and promotional services.”
Its aim is to increase farm income.
A separate local Harrison-Williams bill passed by the legislature directs juvenile court judges in Hawkins County to hold an extra day of court per week subject to local approval. The bill also increases the salary of the county’s juvenile court judges relative to the general sessions court judge salary.
These are the kinds of legislative measures that could help Harrison and Williams withstand opposition in their re-election bids this year.
Harrison, R-Rogersville, will face the winner of the August Democratic primary, either Richard Gabriel of Mount Carmel or Lewis Hopkins Jr. of Sneedville, and independent Leonard Merritt of Rogersville in the November election.
Williams, who changed his party affiliation from Republican to independent in 2007, will go up against Republican Church Hill attorney Mike Faulk in the November election.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has thrown his support behind Faulk. The Senate’s current makeup is 16 Republicans, 16 Democrats and Williams.
“I’m just going to do my job and let the chips fall where they may,” Williams said of his re-election campaign as an independent. “We’ll let the people make their decision and be happy with it. I’ll just go out and campaign.”
Harrison was contacted but could not be reached to comment for this story.
For more information about Harrison and Williams go to www.legislature.state.tn.us.