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Hill out as deputy speaker, appointed chair of new subcommittee

David Floyd • Updated Aug 26, 2019 at 5:15 PM

State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, will no longer serve as deputy speaker in the Tennessee House of Representatives, a position he was appointed to in January by embattled former speaker Glen Casada.

A Republican caucus spokesperson said newly elected Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who was sworn in last Friday during a special session, has chosen Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, to take Hill’s place.

Instead, Hill will have a new role as chairman of the new House Appropriations Subcommittee, which a press release from the caucus last week said was created to examine the size and impact of the budget and will oversee parts of the annual state budget process. The subcommittee will assess the process of formulating the budget as well as all components of the document and will also analyze the spending of state departments, ensuring they are running efficiently.

Hill said he has also been added to the Facilities, Licensure & Regulations Subcommittee, and he will no longer serve as the chair of the TennCare Subcommittee. He said the rest of his committee appointments will remain the same.

“With a new speaker comes a set of new priorities and new direction,” Hill said Monday.

Hill said Sexton met with him a couple of weeks ago to tell him about the House Appropriations Subcommittee. After learning about the duties and responsibilities associated with the position, Hill said it became apparent to him that he’s going to be very busy dealing with new tasks.

“We’re dealing with the entirety of the state budget — all of the appropriations, all of the departments, all of the money that comes through there and through that document that we vote on every year,” he said. “With that, he stated that that’s where he’d like my primary legislative attention to be, so we accepted that role and happy to get going on that.”

Sexton told Hill he liked the job he did as chairman of the TennCare Subcommittee, Hill said, which involved delving into the details of the department.

“He said he’d like me to be able to do that and use my institutional knowledge and the things I’ve gained over the years to apply that to the entire budget with all of the departments coming into the Appropriations Committee,” he said.

Hill said the speaker has empowered the Appropriations Subcommittee to take a detailed look at the spending of state departments. That information will make it easier find solutions to budget problems and determine how much funding agencies should or shouldn’t receive in the upcoming budget.

“Frankly, (the subcommittee is) being given a lot of power and a lot of ability to dig and do what we need to do to get the answers,” he said.

Hill said the eventual goal is for the House of Representatives to be able to produce a truly independent budget document.

“Well, you can’t do that until you have a good, strong baseline of knowledge of each department,” he said.

Both in terms of responsibility and the amount of sway Washington County will have in the budget process, Hill said the appointment is a significant step up.

“To be able to have direct influence on the budget, how the budget is formed, how the budget is presented to the body for a vote, what funding levels are in and not in the document, that’s a big deal,” he said.

Hill said he and Johnson joined the legislature at the same time.

“Curtis is a good guy,” Hill said, noting that Johnson has previously served as speaker pro tempore. “I think he’s got experience in that area, and I know he’s going to do a good job.”

As deputy speaker role, Hill was fourth in line for the speakership and was the first Northeast Tennessee lawmaker to serve in that position in at least 23 years.

Hill said he’s grateful to be taking on this new role.

“I look at it as a big step up for our area and our end of the state and for my district specifically,” he said. “I’m excited to get to work and make sure we continue to pass balanced budgets and that we continue to have responsible, conservative spending in them.”

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