Decades of total control of the state Legislature allowed the Democrats to fill legislative jobs and jobs in the state bureaucracy, which was a source of irritation for the incoming Republicans taking control for the first time in over a hundred years.
Republicans quickly replaced the House Clerk and the Constitutional Officers and other jobs. One source of tension has been between conservative Republicans and the executive director of the Fiscal Review Committee. Jim White, an eight-year veteran in the job, resigned last week. Stories conflict. He was about to be replaced. He saw the way things were going and decided to just leave. He is joining a law firm.
Bills go to White’s office to get a “fiscal note” that tells legislators what the bill will cost state government if implemented. There is wide discretion in determining the cost of legislation, because predicting the consequences of legislation is iffy at best. More an art than a science. A big number on a bill makes it much harder to pass, giving the office the ability to doom legislation.
The office was created to give the Legislature an alternative to financial information independent of the governor’s office and state departments. Conservatives think White listened too much to the governor’s office and to state bureaucrats and not enough to the new regime in the Legislature—his employers. They also complained that the office was lawyer-heavy instead of having finance people in place. Gov. Bill Haslam is said to be angry about White being replaced. A subcommittee of mostly Tea Party-sympathetic members, led by conservative state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreeesboro, will make the hire to replace White.