Gov. Bill Haslam this morning acknowledged the apparent legal deck stacked against a Republican measure that would require drug testing for welfare recipients in Tennessee. He did not indicate whether or not he supported the idea, except to say that he "understood" it.
"I understand the motivation behind it," Haslam said. "The attorney general has had a couple of opinions on that. Our own commissioner of Human Services, that oversees the [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] program, has expressed some concerns as well, in terms of whether we can legally do with those funds what that bill would require us to. We're working with that. Our Human Services department has been engaged in that and has expressed the concern that they have on that bill."
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Julia Hurley and Sen. Stacey Campfield, has been slowly progressing in the legislature, despite two unfavorable opinions from the state's attorney general. A welfare drug-testing program in Florida was halted by a federal judge and is currently being contested in court.
The governor spoke to reporters after an event to kickstart a Wal-Mart hunger-fighting initiative. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, executives from participating corporations, The Band Perry and Tony the Tiger were also on hand to show their support.
During the avail, Haslam was also asked about his thought process when it comes to deciding whether or not to sign a bill. A good question, from TNReport's Andrea Zelinski, and a particularly pertinent one given that the controversial bill dealing with how teacher's handle topics like evolution currently sits on the governor's desk. Last week, Haslam said he'd "probably" sign the bill, which he says changes nothing about the state's curriculum or science standards. So far, he's given the general impression that if legislation can make it to his desk, he doesn't feel it's his place to send it back.
"One of the things you have to consider in my deal," he said today, "is it just takes one vote to override a veto and so if something passes overwhelmingly, you do have to take that into consideration in terms of the will of the legislature. In the end, if I felt like a bill was bad for Tennessee, then I would veto it. If I felt like maybe it wasn't bad for Tennessee, but just added confusion to a situation, maybe I just wouldn't sign it."
Haslam said an announcement on his decision with regards to the science education bill awaiting his signature would likely come tomorrow.