State Sen. Raymond Finney recently announced a new network that would team volunteer constituents from across the state with legislatures to create laws that are friendly to families.
Finney told Blount Today that the Tennessee Family Legislative Network should be fully organized by the time the next state legislative session begins in January. The network is designed to make state government work better for Tennessee families, he said.
“Our entire state benefits when families are strengthened,” Finney said. “This network will in no way act contrary to the needs of single persons or older couples with grown children. The network merely recognizes that a segment of our citizens needs a sympathetic and supportive voice in Nashville.”
The senator said “family” would be defined to include single parents with children, couples without children and traditional father-mother-children families. Shortly after the General Assembly convenes in January, Finney said he will call upon all 132 legislators for an organizational meeting.
“I anticipate there will be legislators from both parties and houses to show support and interest in trying to work on this. We will put out in all districts calls for people to volunteer to be advisory constituents. We will post legislation of concern and interest. We’ll also post alerts for families, and progress we’re making and allow them to comment,” he said.
Finney said the network will have a blending of legislators and their constituents back home working on family legislation. “I don’t know if it’s unprecedented but it is going to be unique where we’ll have this sort of cooperation between citizens back home and the legislatures they send to Nashville,” he said.
Finney said he started work on this initiative at the end of this year’s legislative session. “I’ve talked to colleagues in Nashville, and they’re excited about it. We’re going to make this work,” he said. “This will be a network of citizens through the state volunteering to review legislation that comes through that affects families and support legislation if it is good, and amend or defeat legislation if it against families.”
Finney said lawmakers need to make government friendly to families through taxes and other means to help them support their families and raise their children.
The senator said he could’ve made this into a caucus but chose not to do so.
“That would have been limited to legislatures, and we want people in the community to be intimately involved in the process. By calling it a ‘network,’ we can have people in the community help us on these issues,” he said.
Finney said he first became interested in creating the network about a year ago when a constituent called and was interested in a bill. “I told her there was a lot of opposition by several lobbyists, and I said that the bill would have a tough time passing. She said, ‘Who is my lobbyists and who’s going to represent me in Nashville?’
“It made me start thinking. Most lobbyists are for special interests, and there are not any lobbyists for families. You could argue that these different lobbyists do represent families indirectly, but we need someone whose interest is just families and who will make sure we keep government friendly toward families and keep legislation aimed at being as helpful as possible to the family.”
Finney said the network will get more people involved in the legislative process.
“This is the reason we’re doing this -- to get more people involved in the legislative process. We hope we’ll get many volunteers across the state who will have input on legislation,” he said.
Finney said often because of the tax process, families feel like they’re working for the government. “We need to change that around so that government is working for families,” the senator said. “Government should be a better servants of the people.”