NASHVILLE - Tennessee Tea Party leaders today called on supporters to put pressure on 20 House Republicans they contend are "waffling" on legislation that would strip collective bargaining rights from teachers.
They also lashed out at Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who is backing a compromise version that passed the House Education Subcommittee last week. The compromise limits but does not repeal collective bargaining rights as does a Senate bill championed by Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.
Last week, Ramsey issued an "open letter to conservatives" calling on their support for the original bill.
Tea party leaders charge in their emailed alert/newsletter that House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, is "in lockstep with Governor Haslam, who has proved himself weak on a variety of issues confronting our state."
Haslam had no immediate comment.
The newsletter says Tennessee Tea Party leaders have been "instructed" that that 47 House members support the complete ban. The bill needs 50 votes to pass. There are 64 House Republicans, 34 Democrats and one independent. Democrats all appear opposed to the ban.
The email identifies 20 Republicans, including two local Republicans, as among those waffling.
"We have asked for and been given the (growing) list of House members that are, indeed, waffling," the Tea Party's newsletter says, citing anonymous sources. "These members have varying degrees of allegiance to the unions; many are tied to and closely related to the TEA [Tennessee Education Association]."
Among those listed was Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga.
"I don't know where they got their information," he said. "Listen, I support the Senate bill that's out there."
House Majority Floor Leader Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, was also named in the email.
"They (tea party leaders) are entitled to their opinions," Dean said. "As far as I can recall - and I think that I would - I haven't cast a vote yet. I don't know how I'm waffling on anything."
For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.