“I’m in favor of drug-testing for people who are on any kind of benefits, whether it’s unemployment compensation or workers’ compensation, whatever it is, because I don’t think we need to be supporting that lifestyle with government money,” Ramsey told reporters today. “I’m very much for that. I think you’ll see that passed this session.”
What about drug-testing politicians? he was asked.
“Let’s do it. I’ll all for it. My Diet Mountain Dew will show up and that’s about it, I guess,” he said, lifting a glass of his favorite beverage to toast the media in his office.
On other matters, Ramsey said (1) he wants to drag his heels as long as possible before setting up Obamacare’s state health insurance exchange (2) he’s for eliminating the Hall income tax on the elderly in the next session (3) he’s against weakening the state’s Sunshine Law (4) he’s for school vouchers (5) he’s for amending the state constitution’s language on judicial elections (6) he’s against significant new expansion of gun laws.
As for his relationship with Gov. Bill Haslam, Ramsey said, “It could not be better than it is now.” But the Senate speaker conceded the governor battled the learning curve in the beginning.
“He’ll tell you that in two seconds. When he came in, I don’t think he knew that the legislature met from January until the end of May, that you actually have to deal with these legislators to pass a bill. That’s just human nature. When I came down here in 1992, I didn’t understand the process. So yes, absolutely, he understands it better. And I hope I’ve been part of educating him on how the system works. If we’ll work together and stay on the same page, we can make Tennessee a better place to live and I think we’ve proven that.”
On the possibility of a special legislative session on Obamacare:
Ramsey might favor waiting until the end of next year to set up the Obamacare-mandated health insurance exchange in Tennessee. That could happen in a special legislative session only if necessary if Obama wins reelection and if the Supreme Court upholds the law’s constitutionality, he said. He emphasized he has yet to discuss this with the governor or House Speaker Beth Harwell.
“There are a couple of historic events happening next year that could change the whole debate,” Ramsey said. “The reward is not passing something that you hope never happens. I hope it’ll be a moot point” by the end of the year.
On cutting the Hall tax on interest income:
“It’s my goal to do away with the Hall income tax for people over the age of 65. What do we as policymakers want citizens to do? We want people to save for their retirement, put a nest egg back, have something to live on besides Social Security. But in the state of Tennessee, by the way, when you start drawing out that money, we’re going to tax it. That’s completely a wrong message.”
He wants to eliminate the state’s inheritance tax on estates worth at least $1 million in phases, but perhaps not beginning in the upcoming session.
On changing the state’s Sunshine law to allow private meetings of two or more members of city or county governing bodies:
"I believe in open government. Nine times out of 10, the problems you have in life, the problems you have in government is either a lack of communication or miscommunication. Any time you even talk about moving from here to there on that issue, the press goes berserk. ... Man, I am for open government. But there’s got to be some little something somewhere to allow people to talk without the fear that they’ll be prosecuted for it. I’m not going to vote for any weakening of the Sunshine laws in the state of Tennessee, period. But I can see where there’s a technical problem there with it, OK?"
On a state constitutional amendment to delete language on judicial elections:
"I have never, ever been for the election of Supreme Court justices in this state. But I do believe, if we’re going to go with the system we have—and I’m all in favor of that—we need to amend our constitution because our constitution says judges shall be elected by the qualified voters of our state. … I want to propose a constitutional amendment to get those words out."
On changing the Court of the Judiciary, the agency that enforces judicial ethics:
"It’s my gut feeling that we’ll probably have to sunset the Court of the Judiciary and start something else. The bottom line it’s dominated by the judges. And I think the judges have come to this realization. …I think we’ll reconstitute the Court of the Judiciary in some manner, working with the court when we can, to make sure they more accountable to us."
On expansion of gun laws:
"I think we’re a Second Amendment-friendly state now and I can’t think of a whole lot of things we need to do. There is one that I do think is commonsense that I hope passes this year. … If you have a gun carry permit, you ought to be able to keep it in your car, locked, while you’re at work. That would be the only thing that I can think of that needs to be addressed."
On school vouchers:
"I am for a system that will allow on a limited basis, let’s see how this works, that these kids who are in these failing schools and they are trapped, that they’ll have the opportunity to take this money and go somewhere else. In the end, competition lifts all boats."