Gas tax maneuvers: Haslam targets 15 House votes; Harwell may flip-flop

House Speaker Beth Harwell, who last week declared her support for an alternative to Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package proposal, now says she’s “leaning” toward support of the administration bill, reports the Times-Free Press.

The governor, meanwhile, has set up 20-minute private interviews with 15 legislators considered “on the fence” in voting for the bill, reports The Tennessee Star. There are 11 Republicans and four Democrats on the list of legislators getting an emailed invitation.

The House floor vote on Haslam’s bill is scheduled for Wednesday.

From the TFP on the Harwell shifting of positions:

“I’m trying to decide that,” said Harwell, a Republican, in a brief conversation with reporters following Thursday’s House session. “I’m leaning that way.”

The speaker recently caught some members of her own caucus, as well as Haslam and GOP Senate leaders, flatfooted when it was revealed Harwell was working with top House Republicans on an alternative funding plan.

… Asked whether she believes there is enough support on the floor for the alternative, Harwell said, “I can’t see that. No.”

Harwell spokeswoman Kara Owen later elaborated on the speaker’s remarks about leaning toward backing Haslam’s plan, saying, “She said she’s just keeping an open mind because this is such an important issue.”

From the Star on Haslam’s personal lobbying:

“The Governor has set aside 20 minute slots in his schedule tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday. He would like to meet with each of your Representatives in his conference room on the first floor of the Capitol,” the email (sent by the administration to selected legislators) began.

..The fifteen targeted State Representatives who received this emailed invitation from Governor are (parenthesis ID added):

Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis)

Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville)

Timothy Goins (R-Morristown)

Marc Gravitt (R-East Ridge)

Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport)

Darren Jernigan (D-Nashville)

Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown)

Sabi Kumar (R-Springfield)

Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville)

Mark Pody (R-Lebanon)

Jason Powell (D-Nashville)

Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro)

John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge)

Dwayne Thompson (D-Cordova)

Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg)

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