Live from Music Row, Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Senator Joey Hensley in studio to discuss his top legislative items for the 2023 session.
Leahy: We are delighted to have in studio, State Senator Joey Hensley. Joey, you have been in the House of Representatives for 10 years.
Leahy: And you’ve been in the state Senate for 10 years?
Leahy: That’s a long time.
Hensley: It’s a long time. Yes. And certainly, when I first got elected, I never dreamed I’d still be here after 20 years. But I’ve been fortunate and blessed to be able to represent the people in my district and represent the people in the state. Because when you get elected, you pass laws that affect the whole state. But I have been blessed and fortunate to be able to do that.
Leahy: There are 33 members of the Senate. And they alternate; they have four-year terms. And this last session, I think 16, we’re up for re-election. And now, the next session, 17, you’ll be one in the next election in 2024.
Hensley: I’ll be one of ’em. The even-numbered districts will be running next time. The odd-numbered districts all run together, which was the last election. And now next year or the next election, the even number of districts will be running. So half of the Senate runs every two years now. All of the House members run every two years. But the Senate, half of ’em run every two years. So I’ll be up again next election.
Leahy: Now, here’s a fun question for you. You spent 10 years in the House. Ten years in the Senate. What’s the difference between those two chambers?
Hensley: There are more people in the House. There are more committees to get bills through. That’s the biggest difference. The house has subcommittees, and then more committees that get a bill through the Senate generally just have one full committee.
So if you get a bill through a committee, it goes to the floor. If it doesn’t have a cost, It’ll go straight to the floor after a few days in the house. It just takes longer for bills to get to the floor and there are more people. So you have to deal with more people in the committees than 99 people in the house and 33 in the Senate.
Leahy: Now you serve on the very important finance committee.
Hensley: I do. Yes.
Leahy: Tell us what your duties are there and what’s on your agenda today when you run up to the capitol right after this and work on your committee. (Hensley chuckles)
Hensley: I’m the second vice chairman of the Finance Committee and Chairman of the Revenue Subcommittee. So it’ll be meeting after the full finance committee today, the revenue subcommittee. All of the tax bills, if it has anything dealing with taxes it comes through the revenue subcommittee and either gets a negative or a positive recommendation.
I chair that committee. The finance committee, any bill that’s got a cost to it has to go through the finance committee, and we have to make sure the funds are available. Because even if a bill passes the House and the Senate, it has a cost to it, and that’s not funded in the budget, then the bill doesn’t go into effect.
So every bill has to have a cost that is applied to the bill, the fiscal review committee, and then puts the cost to the bill, and we have to make sure there’s that amount of money in the budget.
Leahy: And the state of Tennessee is, I think, top-rated, if not the top-rated state in the country, for fiscal responsibility.
Hensley: It is. It’s either number one or right at the top because we are a very fiscally responsible state. This year we had about a $9 billion surplus, which means money that some money rolled over from last year that we had spent as one-time money.
And then other money that we had where we collected more taxes than we had budgeted Tennessee’s attracting businesses to our state. And we were able to collect more money than we had budgeted at the first of the year. We put a budget in place, and we estimate how much money we’re going to take in.
If we take in more than that, we call it a surplus, but it really just means people have paid in more taxes than we had budgeted so that money can be spent until we come back in the legislature and designate where it’s going to.
Leahy: Do you have any bills that you’ve introduced that are part of your personal agenda this session?
Hensley: I have several bills, some dealing with Maury County. We’re trying to make part of the Duck River a scenic river. So I have that up.
Leahy: What does that mean if you make part of it a scenic river?
Hensley: Part of the river is already a scenic river. And for people that don’t know it, the Duck River is the most biodiverse river in the country because of the aquatic life in the river. Part of it is already scenic river we’re trying to make the rest of it is scenic river. Why is that special? What is that designation, scenic river? What does that mean?
Hensley: It protects it from certain development, ah, along the river and you can still have agricultural development, but certain other developments can’t be in a scenic river.
Leahy: Like residential development.
Hensley: Landfills and things like that. You can still have residential development, but mostly agricultural right up to the river. So part of it’s already a scenic river. We’re trying to make the rest of it a scenic river.
Leahy: Is that a state or federal designation, scenic river?
Hensley: This would be a state designation. We can only do things at a state level, but that’s one big thing because that’s very important to people in Maury County. We’re also trying to pass a bill that would make counties able to do the same thing cities can do like putting impact fees on new residential development. So that’s a big issue.
Leahy: I know Mayor Sheila Butt and Mayor Joe Carr are supporting that.
Hensley: Yes. They are supporting it because it is difficult for counties to be able to provide infrastructure when you have rapid growth like Maury County, the fastest-growing county in the state.
Leahy: Perhaps in the country. It’s way up there.
Hensley: It’s way up there in the country. And you see that in Spring Hill. (Chuckles)
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Joey Hensley” by Joey Hensley. Background Photo “Tennessee State Capitol” by Kaldari.