NASHVILLE - A GOP-backed bill limiting teachers' collective bargaining rights scraped through the House Finance Committee 13-12 today, with Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell providing the tie-breaking vote.
Three Republicans joined Democrats in voting no and another abstained. They fear the bill will be changed on the House floor or in a conference committee to mirror the Senate version, already passed, which abolishes collective bargaining rights entirely.
Democrats called the bill is an "attack on teachers."
Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, alluded to efforts by Republicans in other states to weaken or abolish collective bargaining by teachers or other public employees.
"I know the game plan," Brown said. "But I always hoped somewhere deep in my heart that we were bigger and better than that in Tennessee, and now you have demonstrated we really are not."
Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, said the bill isn't aimed at teachers but their primary union, the Tennessee Education Association.
"I'm here to tell you again we are not, for the record, attacking teachers," Maggart argued. "We're trying to make sure we have every tool available to advance student achievement."
The bill now goes to the House Calendar Comittee.
For complete coverage, see Thurday's Times Free Press.