A veteran legislator who has served in multiple committee and subcommittee leadership roles over the past eight years, state Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) has been selected to chair the prestigious …
A veteran legislator who has served in multiple committee and subcommittee leadership roles over the past eight years, state Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) has been selected to chair the prestigious Senate Judiciary Committee during the 111th General Assembly of the Tennessee Legislature.
State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), whose 10th Senatorial District incorporates the portion of Bradley County not included in Bell’s district, will join the McMinn County senator as a member of the Senate Judiciary.
Senate District 9, which Bell has represented since 2011, includes McMinn, Monroe, Meigs and Polk counties, and a part of Bradley. Gardenhire’s district also includes a part of Hamilton County.
Bell’s appointment as Judiciary chair came Thursday in an announcement by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally.
“Mike Bell’s commitment to judicial accountability and the rule of law is well-known and well-established,” McNally said. “His leadership on the Government Operations Committee set new standards for excellence. I am confident he will do the same with the Judiciary Committee.”
McNally described the longtime Tennessee lawmaker — whose start in state government came as a House of Representatives member representing District 23 — as “… a conservative leader with unquestioned integrity.” The lieutenant governor, who serves as speaker of the Senate, praised Bell’s past leadership and stressed, “… I know he will be an outstanding chairman of Judiciary.”
The Judiciary, described throughout state legislative chambers as being a “powerful” committee, is responsible for hearing all bills dealing with civil laws, criminal laws, judicial proceedings, apportionment of elected officials and governing bodies, and all matters relating to the courts, as well as law enforcement, McNally explained in the announcement.
As one of the busiest committees in the General Assembly, members are expected to consider a series of key criminal justice reform measures during the current legislative session which got underway Tuesday, McNally said.
Bell, who is coming off the chairmanship duties of the Senate Government Operations Committee, said he is excited to accept the post and is eager to get started once the State Legislature ends a brief recess in order to focus on the coming inauguration of Gov.-elect Bill Lee.
Lee will be sworn in to the gubernatorial post on Jan. 19, succeeding Gov. Bill Haslam who is completing his maximum-allowed second consecutive term at the helm of Tennessee state government.
“I appreciate the opportunity to head this committee,” Bell told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “There are many important issues that will be heard during the 2019-20 legislative sessions. I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve public safety and our court system.”
Bell’s previous work as chair of Senate Government Operations spearheaded efforts to ensure state government departments, boards and agencies complete their mission in the most efficient and effective manner, McNally pointed out.
Bell will continue to serve as a member of that committee for the next two legislative sessions. He was also appointed a member of the Senate Education Committee which reviews all legislation regarding K-12 schools and higher education.
“I am very pleased to be joining this committee,” Bell said. “Nothing is more important to Tennessee’s future than providing a quality education for our children. I look forward to working with my colleagues to provide students with a world-class education.”
Because of the weight of his Senate Judiciary assignment, as well as the workload expected from his other committee appointments, Bell told the Banner he anticipates carrying a smaller load of legislative bills on his own.
“I’ll continue to work with Rep. [Mark] Hall, Rep. [Dan] Howell and Sen. [Todd] Gardenhire to make sure we take care of all legislative matters arising from Cleveland, Bradley County and the rest of our shared districts,” Bell said.
In his Judiciary role as chairman, the District 9 senator pointed out, “… I’ll be very involved in the governor’s criminal justice reform initiative. We don’t yet know what that will look like.”
Gardenhire also picked up an appointment to the Senate Finance Committee.
Along with the announcement on Bell, McNally confirmed several additional committee appointments. They include:
• Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) will chair the Commerce and Labor Committee.
• Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) will chair the Education Committee.
• Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) will chair the Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
• Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson) will chair the Finance Ways and Means Committee.
• Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) will chair the Government Operations Committee.
• Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) will chair the Health and Welfare Committee.
• Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) will chair the State and Local Government Committee.
• Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) will chair the Transportation and Safety Committee.
• Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) will chair the Calendar Committee.
• Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) will chair the Ethics Committee.
McNally, who was re-elected to the lofty Speaker of the Senate position, also pointed to additional posts within the Senate chamber. Among them are:
• Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), former chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee, was elected Senate Majority Leader.
• Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) was elected Senate Republican Caucus chairman.
• Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) was reappointed as Speaker Pro Tempore.
• Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) was reappointed Deputy Speaker.
“This Senate is made up of some of the smartest and strongest leaders with whom I have had the privilege to serve,” McNally said. “Each of our senators could serve on any number of our committees and do well. I am grateful to have such a strong membership.”
McNally added, “I am grateful to have such a strong membership. I am confident we have assembled the best team to do the people’s business.”
NOTE: Tennessee House of Representatives committee and subcommittee appointments for state Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) and state Rep. Mark Hall (R-Cleveland) will be published in a later edition, once full details have been received.
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE