NASHVILLE State Senator Mark Morris of Collierville was unanimously confirmed by his GOP colleagues Wednesday to the post of Senate majority leader - a job which he had held on a provisional basis since the Republicans' pre-session caucus two weeks earlier.
That circumstance led to two halfway decent jokes - one by new Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, who nominated Norris on account of his "vast experience" at the job and another from Knoxville senator Tim Burchett after the newly named leader began to ask Ramsey, who doubles as chairman of the state Building Commission, about a matter dealing with Capitol Hill monuments
"He's only been leader for two weeks, and he already wants a monument!" cracked Burchett to considerable laughter.
The high hilarity of things was consistent with the general air of euphoria in the Wednesday afternoon GOP caucus, a carryover from Ramsey's surprise election as Senate speaker a day earlier.
The Senate Republicans were put off only by one circumstance - the question of whether, as the undisputed majority party, they should move their offices from the adjacent War Memorial Building, where the meeting was held, or to Legislative Plaza, where deposed Democratic speaker John Wilder and other Senate Democrats have maintained their offices.
Though some of the GOP senators, like Memphian Paul Stanley, thought such a move was in order for "symbolic" reasons, a majority seemed content with the established camaderie of War Memorial's third floor, which, as Burchett noted, had windows, unlike the subterranean office spaces of the Plaza. The issue was left unresolved, although Ramsey himself will move to the large and centrally located space now assigned to Wilder, presumably next week.
Also elected by the Republican caucus on Wednesday was Senator Diane Black of Gallatin as caucus chairman, while former Memphian Matt King was named by Ramsey to serve as his chief of staff.
The rise of Norris, who has served as chairman of the Senate Transportation committee, to the position of party leader meant that Shelby Countians now hold the top Senate positions in both parties. Jim Kyle of Memphis is the Democrats' Senate leader.