Open mic catches TN lawmaker's comments on constituent - WSMV News 4

Open mic catches TN lawmaker's comments on constituent

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With so much technology these days, people must always watch what they say and where, now one Tennessee lawmaker has learned that lesson the hard way.

After a recent hearing on a hot topic, an open microphone caught him saying some not-so-nice things about a constituent and her opposition to a bill he supports.

State Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, wants an overhaul of the state's workers compensation system, and his bill would create a state agency, moving the system from the court.

However, when discussing the bill candidly in a committee room this week he apparently did not notice a nearby microphone.

"I'm going to take care of that bill. That freight train is going off," Eldridge was overheard saying near a Legislative Plaza lectern.

Patsy Johnson does not support the legislation, and the constituent in Eldridge's district wrote that in their hometown newspaper:

"Chairman Eldridge has tremendous influence on the final version of this unwarranted attack on injured workers. Will he stand tall for injured workers or cave to the big money special interests?"

"She's on the state Democratic party. She won't be supporting me, or you, or anybody else," Eldridge said.

Eldridge spoke freely about the letter, the woman and the bigger issue at hand.

"She didn't write that. First of all, everything she wrote was erroneous. All they're trying to do is rouse the employees," Eldridge said.

In response, the group Tennessee Citizen Action fired back.

"Every piece of legislation like this, that will affect hard-working men and women of the state and their families, needs to be given the respect it deserves," said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action. "And to hear him say that he was just pretty much going to disregard that - disregard the process - was very disturbing."

Critics did not get the chance to speak at this week's hearing. Now, it seems they have something else to address the next time they do.

"All the interested parties will have the opportunity to express their views," Eldridge said. "And I welcome the healthy discussions and debate that's certain to take place in the coming days."

The bill comes up in a full committee meeting on Tuesday. Eldridge runs that committee and will limit the discussion to just 10 minutes on either side.

Some don't think that's enough time, but Eldridge said this bill will go through plenty of steps and plenty of discussion before going to the full floor of the House.

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