The following two snatches of dialogue which speak for themselves, occurred Wednesday morning during the climactic hearing of the state Senate Health and Welfare Commitetee, whose ultimate 7-4 vote against Governor Bill Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” health-insurance plan doomed that reform proposal, prevented it from reaching the floor of either the House or the Senate, and caused the abrupt termination of the special session called by Governor Haslam to consider his plan.
DIALOGUE BETWEEN SENATOR JEFF YARBRO (D-NASHVILLE) AND SENATOR TODD GARDENHIRE (R-CHATTANOOGA).
COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN RUSTY CROWE (R-JOHNSON CITY) WAS MODERATING.
YARBRO: ..Mr. Chairman, I would just note that virtually every member of the Tennessee General Assembly receives some form of subsidized health care. Before we make the decision to do nothing, I just think that any members who are opposed or have doubts about this would offer some type of suggestion about what the governor’s plan should do that would actually allow us to accomplish this.
: Senator Gardenhire is recognized.
: Senator Yarbro, I’ve heard you twice take a slap at some of us, and I’m getting a little resentful of it. I have very nice health care provided to me through my private employer. My wife is on Social Security. I guess some people say I should be on Social Security but I’m not.
Number Two, when you said while ago that we ought to take this seriously, would you name the ones on this committee that’s not taking this seriously? And if you can’t, how about apologizing. This is not a campaign. This is serious.
: Oh, Senator Gardenhire, I completely agree it’s not a campaign, and it is very serious, and I don’t think there’s anyone who’s not taking the job seriously.
: Then why did you say so?
: I did not say so.
: Yes, you did. I know you’re new, but you need to learn how to respect us
: Senator, with all due respect, I do respect this body , and this body gives serious consideration of the issues. The only thing that I’m offering is to say that…
What you said was, we should take this seriously, and I want you to understand it so you don’t misunderstand it, I’m taking this seriously. I’m taking my time off from my job to be here to look into this and spend my time looking at every aspect of it. So please treat us with respect.
: Yes sir, I will absolutely treat you….
: That’s enough.
...with respect, and I really do look forward to discussing both this plan and any other plans that anyone would have.
Point well taken. Okay, we’re good….
Despite his protestations, Senator Gardenhire is indeed on state insurance, as several press reports indicated on Thursday. Minutes after the exchange above, the witness was Charlie Howorth of the Tennessee Business Roundtable, a blue-ribbon business panel..
DIALOGUE BETWEEN WITNESS CHARLIE HOWORTH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF TENNESSEE BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE AND SENATOR MIKE BELL (R-RICEVILLE)
...This has positive health benefits. It has positive benefits for business….What Governor Haslam has proposed is unique. I’ve seen a lot of these plans...I thnk the Governor has come in with a unique plan that presents conservative values and all the things we were looking at. It is true health reform, which is what we need….If [a business offered the same benefits] ] I don’t think there would be any discussion about it….[Insure Tennessee] is the biggest economic impact that will occur in this state this year. It’s like several Volkswagens [Volkswagen plants, like that in Chattanooga] coming into this state….It’s a great plan....
: Mr. Howorth, I don’t have a question, but I do have a statement. And it’s for the committee members and those in the audience as well. I want to remind them who the Tennessee Business Roundtable is. I have a copy of a press release here, April 9, 2002. They were one of the main proponents of the state income tax in the state of Tennessee, and again I’ve got a copy of the press release in front of me right now. They ‘re also one of the main proponents of Common Core.
Now they’re here supporting Insure Tennessee. It doesn’t surprise me that they’re wanting to expand government more. From this 2002 press release it shows that they represented 153 of the largest businesses in the state of Tennessee, and I would remind the committee members and those in the audience that we just last week received a survey from the NFIB [National Federation of Independent Businesses] saying that 65 percent of our independent small businesses in their state oppose Insure Tennessee, and again I just wanted to remind the committee members of that.
: I wasn’t there in 2002. We do support education reform and educating our children. We certainly do….
In case anyone is wondering, Senator Yarbro voted for "Insure Tennessee;" Senators Gardenhire, Bell, and Crowe voted against.