This year’s Lobby Day was a very busy day for TSEA. Several of our bills were heard in legislative committees, a few budget hearings took place, we presented on the TEAM-ACT, and, as mentioned, it was our annual Lobby Day.
Fortunately, this year we had some help from several legislators who were generous enough to make time to speak with our entire group, which this year filled the House Chamber.
Sen. Jim Tracy was our first guest speaker. Sen. Tracy began by thanking state workers for their service and encouraged them to stay engaged with their legislators. “Tell them what you think and why it is important to you. Tell them that you live in their district and that you vote. It is important for them to know that” Tracy said.
“When you work for the state, we know you are not the highest paid employees. And that’s why I appreciate the job you do. You are doing very important work, serving the citizens of the great state of Tennessee every day.”
Sen. Tracy continued to emphasize the need for state employees to continue building relationships with their legislators. “Don’t quit after today. When you go home, stay engaged with your legislators. You can do this in four ways: 1. Write a personal letter to them. 2. Write a personal email to them. 3. You can make a phone call to them. 4. Visit with them one on one – if you are working in the state of Tennessee in an office, you ought to ask them to come visit your office sometime. Passing legislation is about building relationships.”
TEAM-PAC Chair Pat Bowman was next to address TSEA members. Bowman emphasized getting state employees registered to vote and then getting them to turn out to the polls to vote.
Madam Chair Bowman then asked everyone in attendance to send a thank you note to their legislators upon returning home. In addition, she said she wanted to do something different this year, “I want you to ask your family members and friends to also send a note. And in their note, ask them to write ‘thank you representative/senator for supporting state employees because my niece works for the state, or my cousin works for the state, or my granddaughter works for the state,’ etc. What is this going to do to that legislator? He or she is going to recognize that you have power beyond your one vote.”
Next, Executive Director Randy Stamps and Government Affairs Director Paul Overholser took a few minutes to discuss legislation TSEA is now focused on, providing some guidance and talking points for TSEA members.
Following the instruction from TSEA leadership, Representative Bob Ramsey arrived and took a few minutes to speak with state workers. He said he appreciated everyone for making the effort to attend lobby day and for being members of TSEA.
“Please always realize your members are significant,” Rep. Ramsey said. “And we as representatives and senators do pay very close attention to communication with our constituents. The best thing you can do on your own behalf is to have a personal relationship with your representative and your senator from your district so that when you email or call them they will recognize your name. So please keep the communication up. Never be reluctant to call us and ask questions of us. I thank all of you for your contributions to Tennessee.”
Rep John Mark Windle stopped in for a few minutes to tell state employees that he appreciated the hard work they do for the state and for legislators. He also praised the members of the Morgan county chapter whom he credits for winning his reelection to the house.
Our last guest was the Speaker of the House, Beth Harwell. Speaker Harwell began by thanking employees for what they do for the citizens of Tennessee. “We can pass laws all day long, but you are the ones who really make the difference for us in state government,” Harwell said. Following a brief welcome message to employees, Speaker Harwell offered to answer a few questions from members.
One question from a state employee was about outsourcing. The member asked how the state believes a for-profit private company can provide better services than state employees while also earning a profit. Harwell answered, “That is a legitimate concern, and I will try to give you both sides. There are some folks who would say, ‘is that really the proper role of government to provide golf courses for people? Do we tax people and take their money so some people can play golf?’ I see that side. But there is something that made us all stop and question when we were going to tear down a building and put money in to build a building, and give it to someone else to manage it, and charge more. If we are going to build a beautiful new building, I think we can do the work, right? So I hear both sides of it, and I’m trying to keep an open mind. But ultimately, though, this is the governor’s executive decision.”
Another question sought some clarification on outsourcing, asking if it was true that the governor didn’t need legislative approval to outsource a state service. “That’s my understanding,” Harwell said. After some murmuring within the chamber about this answer, Speaker Harwell reminded attendees about the 3-percent raise included this year in Governor Haslam’s proposed budget as an example of something positive the governor is doing for state employees.
After addressing all of our members’ questions, Harwell again thanked employees for attending, and let everyone know her door was always open for them.
In addition to the morning activity in the House Chamber, attendees from Johnson City to Memphis were able to visit with their legislators throughout Legislative Plaza and the War Memorial Building to discuss the issues affecting state employees.
Thank you to everyone who was able to attend this year’s Lobby Day, and thanks to all of our members who provide us the strength and means to be an effective voice every day for all state employees. We truly appreciate each and every one of you.
Additional photos can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/TSEA-LobbyDay-2017