NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam has dropped legislation that would cut the number of Tennessee Regulatory Authority directors from four to three in order to study the issue further, according to Alexia Poe, his communications director.
The governor has also scratched his nomination of Memphian Andre K. Fowlkes as a TRA director.
“There were concerns about geographical diversity” among directors, Poe said in confirming Haslam’s decision to drop the Fowles nomination.
The TRA, which regulates utilities, already has one member from Memphis, Sarah Kyle.
Poe did not address reporters’ questions that legislative Republicans had raised concerns about Fowlkes, a Democrat who nonetheless supported Haslam in his gubernatorial bid.
Haslam had proposed cutting the TRA from four to three members as part of a cost-cutting and regulatory board-cutting initiative all across state government.
The bill and efforts to cut other boards and commissions will now be studied over the summer, Poe said.
The TRA currently has three Democrats — Kyle of Memphis, Eddie Roberson, who grew up in Chattanooga but now lives in Nashville, and Mary Freeman of Nashville.
There is one Republican, Kenneth Hill, of Jonesboro, in East Tennessee.
Haslam had planned to abolish the position held by Freeman, who is black. He planned on replacing Roberson with Fowlkes, who is black, in an effort to maintain racial diversity.
But with plans to eliminate Freeman’s position, the governor appears to have realized that in addressing racial diversity, he created a geographic diversity problem with two Memphians, one East Tennessean and no Middle Tennessean on the planned three-member board.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...