Niceley should keep pushing for up or down vote on redistricting and sovereignty bill

David Oatney
Knoxville Examiner
March 10, 2010

Representative Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) put forward the legislation that he promised that would create the "joint legislative committee on congressional communications" and could subject Tennessee's members of Congress to redistricting every two years if they ignored the General Assembly:

Rep. Frank Niceley's bill authorize reapportionment of congressional districts every two years and set up a "joint legislative committee on congressional communications" has failed in a House subcommittee on a tie vote - three Republicans for it, three Democrats against it.

Under his plan, a joint House-Senate committee of state legislators would be assigned to meet annually with the state's congressional delegation, periodically presenting them with a legislature-passed resolution telling them "things we want Congress to do and things we don't want Congress to do."

If congressmen, "fail to show respect for this institution (the legislature)" by failing to follow legislator wishes, they would be subject to being redistricted. Niceley called it a political "hard ball" approach.

Niceley asked for a roll call for on the bill, saying, "Let the Tea Party boys see who's voting no here."

Those voting for the bill were Republicans Joe Carr of Lascassas, Ryan Haynes of Knoxville and Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga. Those voting no were Democrats Ty Cobb of Columbia, John Litz of Morristown and Mary Pruitt of Nashville.

Many have said that Frank Niceley's legislation is a very extreme measure, and that it is, but the tendency of Congress in particular and the federal government as a whole to ignore the wishes and desires both of the States and the people in this day and age is very great. Note that Niceley's bill likely would have at least made it out of subcommittee if the Republicans had a one-vote advantage corresponding to the one-to-two vote advantage the GOP has in the full House of Representatives.

While Niceley's legislation may be unlikely to pass, he is correct that the people deserve to see who favors holding the federal government accountable, and who is opposed to it. Hence, I propose that Representative Niceley engage in a radical and unusual political maneuver. While it is normally (and correctly) considered terribly bad parliamentary etiquette to attempt to resuscitate a bill on the House floor after it has failed in committee, if I am not mistaken the rules to not expressly prohibit doing so. In one of his last acts in the Tennessee Senate, the late former Lieutenant Governor John Wilder attempted to bring back his Judicial Selection Commission after its re-authorization failed in committee. He was unable to do so, but if the House should choose not to vote on Frank Niceley's redistricting bill in an up or down fashion, it would show the people where their legislators really stand.