published Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Tennessee General Assembly has full plate as session starts

There may be mixed feelings as the Tennessee General Assembly begins a new legislative session in Nashville.

We always hope for the best, but we justly may be a little on guard against troubling and difficult issues that often arise when lawmakers convene.

In any event, 99 members of the Tennessee House of Representatives (64 Republicans, 34 Democrats and one independent) as well as 33 members of the state Senate (20 Republicans and 13 Democrats) will be working, deliberating and voting in the Capitol over the coming weeks.

For their efforts, they are paid a bit over $19,000 per year, besides a daily expense allowance of about $170 when they meet as a legislature or in committees in Nashville. That may be a bargain or a steep price -- depending on the wisdom or lack of wisdom with which they conduct themselves.

Their debates and votes on both important and lesser issues will be widely reported by the Times Free Press and other news media. But their job is not easy, and neither is it always easy for us as voters to have a clear understanding of their actions. So we urge all Tennesseans to inform themselves about what our elected lawmakers are doing and to be in touch with their senators and representatives on the issues.

What will happen with taxes, including proposals to scale back the economically harmful death tax? What further cuts in state spending may be proposed to keep Tennessee's books in balance in a time when revenue is not exactly plentiful? Will proposed redistricting maps be approved?

Those and a host of other questions have to be asked, and we hope they will be answered with wise legislation by the General Assembly.

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