TN senator has awkward exchange with child over welfare bill - WSMV News 4

TN senator has awkward exchange with child over welfare bill

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One of the most discussed bills of the current Tennessee legislative session died on the Senate floor Thursday morning but not before a big showdown between the lawmaker sponsoring the bill and an 8-year-old girl.

It seemed onlookers didn't know whether to laugh, cry or run and hide as the girl tried to tell state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, how she feels about his bill while the senator took a verbal jab in front of the child's mother instead.

Aamira Fetuga, 8, arrived at the state Capitol with an important message for Campfield and his proposal to dock the welfare payments of parents whose children struggle in school.

"We're going to like try and make him feel bad and stuff," Aamira said. "He will be thinking like, 'Wait, that's a child doing that stuff, not a grown-up.' Because it's easy grown-ups doing it, not children."

But things didn't exactly go as planned when Aamira handed over a stack of signatures opposing his bill.

"Thank you, I love it when people use children - I love it when people use children as props. It's so wonderful. Thank you for using a child as a prop. Have a nice day," Campfield said.

The senator continued his comments as he walked away.

"I appreciate her coming down, but I don't use children as props. I don't think it's appropriate," he said.

Ultimately, Aamira and her mother got what they and many other opponents across the state wanted. After about a 40-minute debate on the Senate floor, Campfield decided to pull the bill so it can be studied over the summer.

Campfield added he's open to suggestions on ways to make the proposal better.

"I want to make it good. I want to get it where everybody is comfortable with it," he said.

And he said his welfare legislation that led to a hallway showdown with a child will be back.

"I'm just trying to get parents involved in their kids' education," Campfield said.

Both Republicans and Democrats have previously expressed concern about the legislation, which sought to cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits by 30 percent if a child fails to advance to the next grade.

The money could be earned back if a parent attends two conferences with teachers, takes parenting classes or enrolls the child in tutoring programs or summer school.

Opponents of the legislation said it's constitutionally suspect and that it could lead to repercussions for a child in the home of an abusive parent.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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