NASHVILLE - Plans to abolish 10 legislative oversight committees and save an estimated $850,000 prompted a lively partisan debate Tuesday in the Senate State and Local Government Committee before it passed on a 6-3 party-line vote.
"The bottom line is, I think we can do away with this duplication," Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, the sponsor of the measure, told Senate State and Local Government Committee members.
Ramsey said the oversight panels amount to unnecessary duplication because standing committees can easily pick up their functions.
But minority Democrats said panels such as the Select Oversight Committee on Corrections and the Selection Committee on Children and Youth have served pivotal roles over the decades, helping a number of lawmakers develop expertise and exercise and oversight over the executive branch.
Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, offered an amendment that would have continued funding for the Corrections and Children and Youth panels.
"We put millions of dollars into ... corporate welfare," Haynes complained. "Yet we're going to come along here and cut out or save $162,000 [Corrections] or $177,000 [Children and Youth]. Holy cow. That's being penny-wise and pound-foolish."
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, disagreed.
"There's not one child in this state that's going to be affected," he said. "There's not going to be one less bed filled."