NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam today said he is not troubled that Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has written an "open letter" that seeks to draw conservatives into the growing dispute among Republicans over collective bargaining for teachers.
Ramsey wants to abolish teacher unions' ability to negotiate contracts. On Thursday, he posted a letter on Facebook, asking conservatives to weigh in, a day after Haslam announced that he was backing a compromise from House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.
The compromise would restrict collective bargaining in areas such as merit pay and layoffs but not eliminate negotiations entirely.
All three officials are Republicans and Haslam and Ramsey squared off last summer in the three-man GOP gubernatorial primary.
"If we have the ability to have merit pay, if we have the ability to have superintendents decide what happens in hiring and laying off decisions, that kind of flexibility is what's really, really important to me," Haslam told Capitol Hill reporters today.
Haslam said with teachers the only public-sector union having collective bargaining rights under state law, "I just don't think it's that big of a factor to us in Tennessee. And so that's why I haven't spent that much time on it. You know, the situation here is not the same as it is in Wisconsin."
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