NASHVILLE - Drug testing for unemployed workers collecting jobless benefits as well as injured employees getting worker's compensation are among changes Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, plans to push in the upcoming legislative session.
"I'm in favor of drug testing for people who are on any kind of benefits, whether it's unemployment compensation or workers' compensation, whatever it is, because I don't think we need to be supporting that lifestyle with government money," Ramsey told reporters. "I'm very much for that."
He predicted the measure will pass in the session, which begins Jan. 10.
Meanwhile, Ramsey, the lieutenant governor, predicted lawmakers will "reconstitute" the state's Court of the Judiciary, which is in charge of disciplining judges. Republicans have held hearings for months on complaints from people who say the panel has been too easy on misbehaving judges.
More citizen members are needed on the Court of the Judiciary, Ramsey said. He claims lawmakers' hearings deserve credit for the panel issuing a public reprimand of Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge David Bales.
Bales drew the reprimand after twice publicly criticizing two Criminal Court judges over their decisions to change his rulings on bonds for criminal defendants.
"I don't think that would have happened if we hadn't been looking into this ... and [judges] knowing we're looking over their shoulder," Ramsey told reporters at the state Capitol.
Asked about the case of former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, who resigned and was subsequently disbarred following a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation inquiry that found he had bought and abused prescription painkillers, Ramsey said he could support drug testing for judges.
And politicians in general?
"Let's do it. Let's do it. I'm all for it," Ramsey said. "My Diet Mountain Dew will show up and that's about it, I guess."
Trouble for DesJarlais?
State Senate and House GOP leaders met last week to begin discussions on two congressional redistricting plans for Tennessee's nine congressional seats.
Republicans control seven of the nine districts as a result of 2010 electoral victories. One of the plans, details of which are unclear, would result in an 8-1 GOP majority.
A less risky plan, aimed at protecting the current 7-2 majority, may concern U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a Jasper physician who unexpectedly ousted then-U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., in the sprawling 4th Congressional District.
Sources say Plan No. 2 puts Republican areas of Rutherford County into the 4th. State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, had previously floated the idea of doing just that. And he hasn't ruled out a congressional bid.
GOP leaders remain in discussion about the respective plans.