State Government Ops Committee Suddenly Cool

The Government Operations committee of the state House and Senate used to be sort of a thankless job; the chair was awarded to someone who had the seniority to be a chair, when the cool committees were already taken.

But with the Republican takeover of the House and Senate, suddenly the Government Ops committee is a cool place to be. Most state agencies or commissions are subjected to a "sunset" provision. This was a routine affair under the Democrats, but it has set up the possibility of a major shakeup in state government next session.

The Judicial Nominating Commission, the group that recommends judges for appointment, is up for sunset and if the bill to reauthorize them is tied up in a subcommittee they go into "wind down." The same is true for the Judicial Evaluation Committee that rules on whether judges are recommended for retention when they are on the ballot. That means they are in their last year of life, unless they get a reprieve the next session of the Legislature. They may be under sunset because a lot of legislators believe appointing judges—the entire rationale for these two commissions existing—is unconstitutional.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Commission is a governing board that attempts to run the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (game wardens) free of political interference. The irony is that the best way to get on the prestigious commission is to donate large amounts of money to gubernatorial candidates. The commission is in "wind down" mode. It was up for renewal last session and failed. If it isn't reauthorized next session it ceases to exist and the agency will go under a commissioner like all other state departments.

There is a lot of Tea Party angst about the judiciary and a lot of ill will from hunters of various stripes. The House and Senate leadership may lean on the committee chairs to get the authorizations out for a vote, but if the political heat continues from hunters and conservatives the bills could stall.

The inertia of inaction is much easier than passing a bill.