Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee Grassroots Director Grant Henry Discusses Recent Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act Ruling

Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee Grassroots Director Grant Henry Discusses Recent Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act Ruling

 

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 Grant Henry of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee in the studio to weigh in on the recent decision made the court citing the unconstitutionality of the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act, therefore, preventing it from proceeding to a vote by Davidson County citizens.

Leahy: We are joined now in studio by our good friend Grant Henry. He’s the grassroots director for Americans for Prosperity, Tennessee. Good morning, Grant.

Henry: Good morning, Sir. Good company in this room right now.

Leahy: Yeah, we’re having a good time. Also in studio with us, the mayor of the turbocharged bastion of freedom, Maury County, Andy Ogles. Good morning again, Andy.

Ogles: Good morning.

Leahy: Grant, what on earth happened with the judge’s decision to basically declare that the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act, which received all of the signatures necessary to get on the ballot for the second time, why did the judge throw that out?

Why did the judge, in my view, deprive Davidson County residents who are supporting a common-sense conservative referendum get thrown out when a left-wing referendum that actually had fewer signatures than this that set up the left we hate the police, Community Oversight Board sail through without any judicial opposition?

Henry: First and foremost, this ruling silences the Nashville voters and taxpayers’ voices who continue to be saddled with harmful tax increases. Nashvillians are tired of Mayor Cooper and Metro’s spending addiction to put the city in jeopardy again and yet one more time.

And to answer your question directly, this ruling made by Chancellor Russell Perkins, I’m reading directly from News Channel Five here stated, “given the six proposed amendments are not severable, none of 4 Good Government’s proposed amendments to the Metropolitan Government’s Charter permitted to be considered for a referendum and Election Day of July 27.”

Now, you’ll know this clearly, but that idea means if one of them fails, they all fail. And in my personal opinion here, let me draw a hard line of delineation between myself and Americans for Prosperity.

In my personal opinion here, it seems quite clear Chancellor Perkins was desperately searching for justification in his analysis pertaining to this allegion severability situation.

Leahy: We’ve had Jim Roberts here in studio who said very specifically that these six proposals were, in fact, severable. In other words, you could reject one but still vote on the other.

Apparently, the judge disagreed with that. I’m not a lawyer. I don’t play one on the radio. You however are a graduate of a law school. What’s your view on the decision?

Henry: The decision felt like an overtly partisan interpretation of both previous case law and the petition language itself. Again, that’s as far as I’m concerned. But here’s what I think ended up happening is for several of those amendments, Chancellor Perkins realized and ruled that he didn’t have jurisdiction.

Now, what this meant was that he was then forced to say that at least if one of them doesn’t work, then all of them are going to have to fail, because otherwise, the other result would have been, hey, amendment one, we have to keep that off.

But the ones where I don’t have jurisdiction say amendment two, three, four, and five, those have to stay on. There was no way he was gonna be able to get away with that. And I put big air quotes here.

Leahy: By the way, our listeners. Yes, he did. I can verify he did put those air quotes on ‘to get away with.’

Henry: I personally believe the course decision only perpetuates the fiscal mismanage we’ve seen in places and an even greater need on the state legislature. Let’s shift here for just a second and greater need in the state legislature to strengthen our truth and taxation law that will insert some fiscal responsibility into this city’s finances and allow voters to reject corporate welfare and massive tax hikes.

We at Americans for Prosperity are going to continue to advocate for taxpayers throughout the state to work to bring structural reform that reigns in not just Nashville’s outrageous spending, but other cities across the state, too, with a super high debt ratio. But look, I will say there is some sliver of hope left. I’m sure Jim Roberts has talked about that.

Leahy: I’m glad we had at least a sliver of hope. What, pray tell, is that sliver lining?

Henry: The Election Commission decided last Friday that they will appeal this decision. I’ve been told there will be an expedited appeal going through here now in legalese I suppose that still means we’re going to have to wait about a month for any real ruling to come down.

But in the meantime, the Election Commission, I suppose in some way to show how confident they are about this decision going their way has actually set a provisional date out towards the end of September.

So Americans for Prosperity, we’re going to sit back, wait for a minute, see how this thing rolls out. But again, we are going to continually fight strongly for things like truth and taxation for when this comes up again on the ballot, possibly in September.

And we’re going to hit the ground running. But I’m saying I’ll pay attention to the state legislature next year. The truth and taxation certification process is going to be an incredible thing.

Leahy: It strikes me again not being an attorney. A couple of things strike me about this. Jim Roberts told us they were clearly severable. They wrote it so that it would be severable. This was an issue the previous time that they lost that the judge brought up.

I will say, however, to me it seemed like it was a mistake to put six elements on the ballot. I think there should have been just two, one being the rollback of the property taxes from the 34 percent increase and then the second that would have prohibited the City Council from introducing a smoke screen alternative that would confuse voters.

That would have been my view on the best way to go. But I guess, reading the opinion from what I saw, I think that the judge ruled that the rollback of the 34 percent property tax increase apparently was not constitutional. Is that right?

Henry: Right. And that’s why he kept citing the case called the City of Memphis versus…I don’t remember. But the idea behind that is as long as something is deemed facially and constitutional, that is on its face, you can tell it’s unconstitutional.

The judge, the Chancellor here can get in before the vote happens to deem something unconstitutional which is absurd.

Leahy: I have a vague recollection of that case City of Memphis. I think it is a misinterpretation of that ruling. And there’s a legal term where you take something that is sort of an aside comment, and you say that that was the ruling.

Henry: Dicta or something.

Leahy: Yeah, exactly. It’s dicta. In other words, if it’s a side comment and not the court of the ruling. And I think I’ll have to get our legal experts on that. I think that the City of Memphis precedent would fit in that category. Well, the appeals court will take it up I think at some point.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Attorney Jim Roberts on Pending Litigation with Metro Legal and Nashville Business Coaltion

Attorney Jim Roberts on Pending Litigation with Metro Legal and Nashville Business Coaltion

 

Live from Music Row Friday 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 Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line to confidently assure listeners that despite metro government’s fear-mongering the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act will 100 percent be on the July 27 ballot for a vote.

Leahy: We are joined by our good friend Jim Roberts, going to get an update on the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. Good morning, Jim.

Roberts: Good morning to you.

Leahy: How goes the litigation from Metro Legal and the very Nashville Business Coalition? Where does that stand now?

Roberts: Those folks have used a lot of your tax dollars trying to keep the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act from being on the July 27 ballot, but we are still on for the election that day.

The court has not ruled and suggested that it would rule today. So we’re all watching the court filing system with anticipation. Truthfully, only a dishonest opinion would keep this off the ballot.

The Davidson County Election Commission has made the decision to let the people vote on it as they should have and accept the vote on July 27, and only just the dishonesty of the Metropolitan Government is the only thing standing in the way. And they don’t have a very good argument.

Carmichael: Who is the attorney that’s arguing in favor of the referendum?

Roberts: That’s Jim Blumstein and the folks of the vote comments that are supporting his team. The Election Commission is on our side this time. They understand what we did, how we did it exactly as recorded rules, and they’re defending their decision, as they should.

Carmichael: One of our listeners sent me a text and the name of the listener will not be revealed, but this is what the listener says. I think you’ll get a kick out of it Jim. I am one of the few nerds who watched the Metro Council meetings.

If anyone has watched those meetings at all since the passage of the 34 percent tax increase, you’d realize they’re spending money as if there’s no tomorrow and throwing it out the window.

They even talk about how much money they have and their huge budget. The more money a government agency has or government entity has, the worse it becomes in serving the people.

That’s a Crom axiom. (Roberts chuckles) If we want good government in Nashville or the best government we can get under the circumstances, the amount of money they get needs to be constrained to a four to five percent increase a year.

Which is at this point the natural increase. And it may even, given all the teardowns and all the building that’s going on, it may actually be in the five to the six percent range. I don’t really know what it would be in the absence of the tax increase.

But I’m very happy to hear Jim that you are optimistic that the court will rule in our favor because all of the law is on our side. And then the trick is going to be because the forces that want Metro to have more money, they’ll spend probably over a million dollars to convince people to vote no.

If they vote yes, they constrain the government and give us a better government and force the mayor and the City Council to make some decisions that they should make. But they have no constraints to make them make these decisions.

And they need to be forced to make some tough decisions. And the only way to do it is for the voters to step in. I don’t know if you heard this, but Cooper actually said that the problems for the state of California had to do with the fact that their voters out there get to do things by referendum. Did you hear him say that?

Roberts: (Laughs) I did hear him say that. And the problem with California is the politicians won’t listen to the people even when they vote by referendum.

Carmichael: That’s exactly right. There’s a sense of desperation because I think that the mayor knows that the voters of Davidson County don’t want a 34 percent tax increase and will vote yes on the referendum.

Roberts: That’s right.

Carmichael: But then they’re going to spend a lot of money trying to convince the citizens of Davidson County that a 34 percent tax increase is necessary.

Roberts: Let me take one issue, though. I don’t think they’re going to spend any money trying to convince people that it’s a bad idea. What they’re going to do is try to scare people.

If you look at the advertisements from the pro-tax folks, it’s all scary, fear, police, and firefighters are going to be on the streets, and old people are going to die. There is no intellectual argument. It’s just dishonest fear-mongering.

Carmichael: That’s a very good point. And by the way, that’s exactly what Governor McWherter did when he was trying to pass the state income tax. He said things are so terrible at the state that will have to stop the school buses on April 1.

Don Sundquist, when he was trying to pass the state income tax, all of the media claimed that in the absence of a state income tax, that the state bond rating would fall to a junk rating or interest rate rates would skyrocket and our state would completely disintegrate.

And, of course, the income tax did not pass. And Tennessee has one of the highest bond ratings of any state in the country. So all of the fear-mongering, all of the things that these people say are, just as you say, are just merely fear-mongering.

And if the voters vote yes, then it’ll be up to Mayor Cooper to do his job and make the best decisions he can under some constraints that he doesn’t want to have put on him.

Roberts: That’s right. Last night I sat down and I looked up the budget from Metro from 10 years ago. I was trying to compare Memphis to Nashville. Our budget 10 years ago was about $1.5 billion.

Last night or two weeks ago, or when the Metro Council met, they voted a $2.6 billion budget. That means spending in Davison County has gone up to $100,000,000. a year for a decade.

What do you think is going to happen in the next 10 years? Another $100 million a year, at least. They’ve been on a spending spree that is well beyond our growth. Our population has increased.

Everybody knows that. But it’s gone up about since 2010. But our budget has more than doubled.

Carmichael: Wow!

Leahy: Jim, a question for you. What do you think the odds are that the people win? And what’s the probability that the decision will say the election is on for July 27th?

Roberts: I think it’s 100 percent. This is one of those situations that I just really believe in my heart that the court will know that it’s doing the wrong thing. If the court appeals it we will probably have to straighten it out if it does.

But I don’t see that. This is a good chancellor. And this is the chancellor that ruled in the FOP. He knows the law. He knows how it applies.

Carmichael: Let me say this, I think our judges are very good. I think our judiciary, the chancellors. This is not Chicago. This is not New Orleans.

We’ve got good judges here, and we should be thankful for that because our judges don’t get paid as much as they could make if they stayed in the private law business. And so I’m confident that the ruling, in this case, will be the right one, because I think we have good judges.

Leahy: When will we know something about this Jim? What time today?

Roberts: We’re waiting. The judge could have rolled the trial on the Metro, sued the voters originally. That trial was last week, and the order could have gone down any time. There was a second lawsuit by Metro against the Election Commission trying to get the Bob Mendes confusing ballot initiate on the ballot. As you know, the Election Commission chose not to put that very deceptive and confusing initiative on there.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Attorney Jim Roberts Talks Davidson County Election Commission Upcoming Vote and Metro Legal Impending Infinite Litigation

Attorney Jim Roberts Talks Davidson County Election Commission Upcoming Vote and Metro Legal Impending Infinite Litigation

 

Live from Music Row Friday 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 Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line to give updates on the Davidson County Election’s vote to put the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act on the ballot and the possibility of endless litigation from Metro legal.

Leahy: On the newsmaker line, our good friend attorney Jim Roberts, the man behind the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. Jim, the big question, has the Davidson County Election Commission put your proposal of the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act to roll back the 34 percent property tax increase on the ballot for the voters in Davidson County to go to the polls and decide on?

Roberts: They haven’t done it yet, but they are meeting on Monday, and we believe that they will vote at that time. They have been recommended by their legal counsel that I met all the requirements and that they are going to vote, hopefully unanimously to put this on the ballot. And we can end all this sort of preliminary dancing that Metro is doing to us. And we’ll move forward towards a campaign.

Leahy: Jim, it seems like this thing is just taking longer and longer than we thought to get it on the ballot. They were going to, I thought decide it last week. What has happened in the interim?

Roberts: I’m not in control of the Election Commission. I thought based on all the information I had, that they would meet either Wednesday or Thursday of this week and vote. For whatever reason, they waited until next Monday. I do know that they were waiting for an independent legal counsel’s opinion on the issue.

One of the complaints the Election Commission has had, they didn’t feel like the lawyer that Metro had recommended last year really had the people or the Election Commission’s interest at heart. That was one of our complaints is that the law firm they hired really was carrying water for Metro the whole time.

They wanted an independent opinion. And I think that opinion is going to be very clear and forceful. I think they know they’re going to get sued. If they vote to put this on the ballot, the Metropolitan government is going to sue the citizens and the election Commission to try to stop it. They’re just that desperate.

Carmichael: There was not an Election Commission meeting last evening, is that right?

Roberts: No, there was not. I had thought and I believe there was going to be one, but it never got noticed. The notice went out, I think, late last night that they’re having a meeting on Monday. They have to give notice under state law.

Carmichael: It has been resolved that the election that matters was the last Metro election, which was in August, not a general election, which is in November. And so that threshold has been passed, is that correct?

Roberts: That’s right. Even though there were four different general elections in August, we had enough signatures for all of them. So it didn’t matter which one they used. (Inaudible talk)

Leahy: Walk us through the timeline here. We think it’s likely that the Davidson County Election Commission will vote on Monday to place the initiative to roll back the 2019 property tax increase next time around and all the other elements on it. What then happens? Does Metro legal immediately sue the citizens again to keep this off the ballot?

Roberts: I certainly know they want to, but of course, the optics on that are going to be pretty bad. The mayor’s budget, which I haven’t had a chance to look at, was due to be given to the Metro Council this week. And so there’s a lot of focus on the Metropolitan government and the Metro Council. I think it’s going to look bad if they turn around and try to raise our taxes for next year while fighting a referendum to lower taxes. I think they’re a little nervous about that.

Leahy: They may be nervous but they looked bad last time they sued and the judge had a ruling in their favor. You didn’t appeal that and you probably could have, but you chose tactically which I think was the right choice to go with a new one that complied with the Chancery court judge’s ruling. If they sue, what will happen?

Roberts: Most likely we would intervene, which means we would ask to join the lawsuit. We would be backing the Election Commission’s decision. And I think the Election Commission knew it was going to get sued and it wanted to be on some firm ground to push back against Metro. I think they know what Metro is trying to do here.

They’ve heard those dishonest arguments being advanced by Metro illegal, and they’re going to fight back, which is what they’re supposed to do. The Election Commission doesn’t exist to represent Metro. It’s supposed to represent the voters, people who want to vote, people who want to run for office, people who want to have a ballot initiative.

That’s who their constituents are.  Metro has thrown up the same terrible arguments. No matter what we do they’re never going to say it’s good. They’re going to nit-pick it to death, and that’s just their job. They are still arguing that people were confused and didn’t know what they signed. Try that when you rent a car, saying, I was confused.

I didn’t know what the rental contract was. Anywhere in society when you sign a contract. But they’re just acting like people don’t have any sense at all. They just can’t get over the fact that people want to restrain the government from a decade-long series of bad decisions.

Carmichael: How does somebody argue that the voters are unable to read a ballot initiative? How do you argue that?

Roberts: Well, you can’t do it honestly. We know that there are certain groups probably funded by Metro and we’re not sure who has been sending out letters to people that that basically say very clearly that you didn’t know what you signed. You didn’t realize that there were six amendments, even though the petition has on it in at least two places.

There are six amendments everywhere on there that say six amendments and each one separate. We made that very clear because of what happened last time. And yet people are out there saying trying to confuse people to fearmonger, that they didn’t know what they signed. The real problem, Crom is real simple.

By doing it as six amendments, there’s almost no possible way that, or at least the majority of the six amendments complied with what the judge said. No matter what Metro argues we’re going to have an election. And the real question is are we going to go ahead and vote on all six or are we just going to have endless litigation and possibly have to have a second election?

Leahy: So back to endless litigation. If they choose to sue the citizens and the Davidson County Election Commission to stop this from getting on the ballot and this proposal to roll back the property tax increase, how long will that process take?

Carmichael: And which judge gets it? Do you know?

Roberts: We don’t know but it’s likely to be Chancellor Lyle, because that seems to be the only judge that will take these cases. The real timeline is once they vote to put it on the ballot, things start to happen. I have to pick a date. It’ll probably be mid-July, which is later than we wanted. It might even be towards the end of July, but they have to pick the date because they have to work backward for absentee ballots and military ballots and all those kinds of things.

I expect Metro to file suit almost immediately. They’re trying to derail this. And part of that is because in their Community Oversight Board case two years ago, the oversight board for the police, it was Metro’s argument that once the process started, you might as well go ahead and have the election. We’re going to bring that up this time if that was their argument last time. And so they don’t want the election process to start. So they probably already got their pleadings ready to go.

Leahy: Well, here’s the good news. You’re making progress one small step at a time.

Listen to the third hour here:

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Attorney Jim Roberts on Pending Litigation with Metro Legal and Nashville Business Coaltion

Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act: Attorney Jim Roberts Updates on Verified Petition Signatures and Election Commission Stall Tactics

 

Live from Music Row Friday 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 Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line to give updates on the validation of sufficient petition signatures needed for the Davidson County Election Committee to vote and why they are stalling.

Leahy: On the newsmakers line, our good friend attorney Jim Roberts, the guy behind the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. Good morning, Jim.

Roberts: Good morning. How are you all doing on this beautiful day?

Leahy: Well, we’re doing great. Tell us where this charter amendment to roll back the property tax of 34 percent based upon the assessed value of the properties. Where does this stand?

Roberts: Well, we’re moving the ball down the field. As some of your listeners probably know last Friday, the mayor went on the offensive and tried to fool people into thinking that he was going to be lowering the tax rate so we wouldn’t have to have any sort of Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. I think that backfired on him. He was clearly not telling the truth to people. We’re moving forward. The Election Commission has now finally voted and acknowledged what we all knew, which was the August election last year is the election that it’s based on. And they’ve admitted we have enough signatures.

Leahy: Have they confirmed that you have enough signatures to get on the ballot?

Roberts: They have. They confirmed that we had 12,300 and something signatures. And they have said that all we were required to have was 12,100.

Leahy: Have they officially said, you have enough? You have passed the test on signatures. You will be on the ballot. Have they communicated that to you?

Roberts: No. What they said is we had enough signatures, but they didn’t vote to put it on the ballot. For some reason, they are holding that up.

Leahy: When will that happen?

Roberts: Well, we thought it was going to happen yesterday actually. We are not sure why the Election Commission is dragging its feet. We think it’s because the opposition is gearing up to Litigate and they’re expecting to get sued and they want to wait to see if anybody follows them a lawsuit. As you know, there have been some secret groups put together using phony names to contact and harass people who signed the petition.  And there’s been a real concerted effort of that to intimidate people. I don’t think it worked very well. But at least they’re trying very hard to intimidate people who signed the petition.

Leahy: But there’s a reason.

Carmichael: Jim, are you saying then that officially the Election Commission has ruled that you have met the number of signatures requirements? So is that now done?

Roberts: No. The commissions and bodies like that operate through their votes. So they have said in the meeting that we have enough signatures, but they haven’t voted to put it on the ballots. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make any sense.

Carmichael: So they haven’t voted that you have enough signatures either. Can the opposition still get people to unsign and then present those to the Commission? And then the Commission then changes their mind and says, well, it looks like, Jim, that you now don’t have enough signatures. Can they still do that?

Roberts: Well, there’s no provision in the law to do that. But these folks aren’t really obeying the law. They don’t really care. Part of the way they gather the signatures is like getting a secret copy of the database that was released to them prior to the public knowing. And we know this for a fact now that they were given a copy and that they use that to reach out to people.

There is no provision for, quote, unquote withdrawing a signature. We actually have several hundred more signatures that we could turn in that came in after the day we turned them in. So if they want to get into the, well I want to withdraw the signature game, and we’re going to say, well, look, we got more people who want to turn in signatures.

Leahy: Jim, we have a story, the transcript of the attorney, Jamie Hollin who, you know, who’s representing the Nashville Business Coalition. On Saturday, he made a case. He spoke to the Election Commission, and I think he alleged that some of the signatures were not valid. And there was a problem with the verification process. Have you followed that? Is that a factor in this at all?

Roberts: Well, of course, we expect him to say that because he’s against it. The opposition of this is going to do everything they can to nitpick this step, can submit, pick this death, and no other valid initiative ever been. It fixes as much as this one. And it’s because, of course, the mayor doesn’t want it on the ballot. One of their argument is to say that somehow the addresses aren’t the way they want them. What Jamie Hollin sort of glosses over is that the Metro Charter doesn’t require me to gather or 4 Good Government to gather any addresses. All it requires is the voter’s signature. So to go in there and argue that somehow the address wasn’t the way he liked it is just patently dishonest.

Leahy: But Here’s the problem. There is a red flag here. The Election Commission has not voted formally to say you have enough signatures. And do you know when they will meet next and when they will make that vote?

Roberts: We certainly expected it yesterday, actually. No, I don’t know. They announce their meetings about two days in advance, and we’re just waiting to hear that. There is nothing wrong with those signatures. This is just pro-tax people trying to undermine the public confidence in this.

Leahy: But don’t they have a timeline in which they have to review these signatures?

Roberts: Absolutely. They absolutely do. And they are running out of time. The Election Commission is running out of time because how much time do they have approved?

Carmichael: How much time do they have? What is the time limit?

Roberts: I believe they have about another eight days because the ballot has to be approved by the State Election Commission and then it has to be mailed out. We have early voting. We have overseas ballots. There’s more to it than just having an election on that day. It is my belief that the mayor is putting tremendous pressure on certain election commissioners and that there are people who just don’t want people to vote on it. Remember, the whole goal here is to get it on the ballot to let the citizens vote on it.

Leahy: But haven’t they publicly stated that they verified more than the 12,000? Has that been publicly stated?

Roberts: They said that on August eighth, actually.

Leahy: So why not the vote? Why not the vote? What’s going on there?

Roberts: Unfortunately, I’m not on the election Commission, so I can’t tell you that. Again, I think they are being pushed to stall in delay because possibly Jamie Holland or other Protax forces are going to try to file some sort of preemptive lawsuit.

Leahy: What are the odds? What’s the likelihood that within eight days, the National Davidson County Election Commission meets and says the National Taxpayer Protection Act has met the standard, and it will be on the ballot? What’s the probability that will happen?

Roberts: We think it’s 100 percent. We already admitted that we have the signatures. They verify the signatures. This is just game playing at this point.

Carmichael: Does it make any sense if you’ve got six to 800 or 1,000 or whatever it is additional signatures, if the other side is trying to reduce the number that you turned in before during this time period before the official announcement, does it make any sense for you to turn in the hundreds of additional signatures that you have so that they would then rule, I’m sorry Jim you can’t turn any additional signatures. Wouldn’t that strengthen your position? Well, if you can’t turn in any additional signatures, then the opposition can’t subtract any signatures.

Roberts: Well, you’re way ahead of we were giving them to yesterday to have a vote to see what happens. And you’re absolutely right. That is our next step to go ahead and turn those signatures in. And I would note to your listeners, the Election Commission has said that they have to be a little over 12,000 signatures. We believe that’s wrong. That’s based on the number of people entirely devoted. But a lot of those people voted in a state and federal primary back in August. Only about 93,000 people voted in the election that matter.

Leahy: Jim Roberts, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it. Come back next week and give us an update if you would please.

Roberts: I’ll do it.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Americans for Prosperity’s Grassroots Engagement Director Grant Henry Explains the ‘Tennessee Truth in Taxation’ Bill

Americans for Prosperity’s Grassroots Engagement Director Grant Henry Explains the ‘Tennessee Truth in Taxation’ Bill

 

Live from Music Row Monday 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 Grant Henry of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee to discuss the Truth in Taxation bill and the transparency it would provide Tennesseans from the reckless spending of cities, counties, and municipalities across Tennessee.

Leahy: We are joined now by Grant Henry. He is the Grassroots Engagement Director for Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee. Good morning, Grant.

Henry: Good morning, sir. It’s a pleasure to be on the program.

Leahy: Interesting bill here. Truth in taxation, which sounds like a common-sense bill to me. It’s a response to the failure of the courts to allow the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act to go through last year. That issue is in the news again this year. But your truth in taxation sounded like a common-sense transparency solution for that. It got caught up in some skullduggery up on Capitol Hill. (Henry chuckles) Tell us about that.

Henry: That is one word for it. That’s correct. And as you said, it was our response to the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. The first one of that being shut down by Judge Lyle, which is an entirely separate conversation there. But after that shutdown, we took this idea, which we currently have a little bit of. We have a form of truth in taxation in Tennessee already.

Most people know this through the certified tax rate. And the obvious idea behind the certified tax rate, which has been law for quite some time is you don’t pay more in the property tax amount that you should pay and couldn’t increase simply because your property value increased. This is currently what Mayor Cooper is trying to do to pass it off as if he is lowering the property tax rate.

The law itself is requiring that to happen. Nevertheless, back on the point, this bill here, truth in taxation would have done something very simple and it would simply propose that when a city or a county has reckless spending and debt problem like Nashville, it will be required to mail in a detailed notice to all citizens of the property tax increase.

People will know exactly how much their individual taxes might go up, what their current tax rate is, when the vote will be held, and they’ll have an opportunity to be heard by these officials before they cast their vote. And you understand the scenario here obviously. It’s that officials can choose to listen to their constituents’ concerns during these public hearings, or they can choose to ignore those concerns.

They’re hoping to go after accountability, reliability, and competitiveness. Now, this was brought up two different times in the same subcommittee. And I don’t know how much you want to get into this right now, but the process of a voice vote in the Tennessee House is one that can seem sometimes be quite problematic when you have the number of votes necessary but the subcommittee chairman hears more no votes than yes votes.

Leahy: He’s got the illusionary ear that he’s sort of a Van Gogh. He hears the no votes but not the yes votes.

Henry: (Chuckles) That’s right. And just to give people some understanding as to what happens here, in the Tennessee House, when the votes go in the subcommittee, and I’ll do a little bit of a mock role play here for you. If I’m the committee chair and I say ayes, the ayes yell, nays, the nays yell. And then I just sort of hear who has more ayes or nays.

So occasionally when the nays are more vocal, that is, you can hear them audibly louder than the yes votes then I will gavel down and say, well the nays move on. On this day, in particular, about two weeks ago, this truth in taxation bill, we, meaning Americans for Prosperity, had ensured that we had five yes votes. And there were eight people on the committee that day. So obviously we had the five yes votes. Four recorded yes votes and our bill sponsor being the fifth yes vote. There were only three individuals that were against this bill. Nevertheless, the nays were still heard audibly than the yes votes.

Leahy: So let’s be very specific about which committee, which subcommittee, and which subcommittee chairman had the hearing problem here.

Henry: This was the property and planning subcommittee. The individuals who voted no on this were the committee chairman, Dale Carr. Representative Dave Wright and Jason Hodges. They were the ones that initially voted no on this bill. And again, if anyone out there appreciates this idea, simple truth in tax station accountability, government transparency bill, one that would allow you to have your voice heard before exorbitant property tax increases are placed on the people. And if I could real quick please give me the luxury to just say Truthintaxationtn.com.

This website is now solely devoted to thanking those individuals that voted yes on this piece of legislation. And the individuals that voted yes, obviously, our bill sponsors, Representative Ready. He voted yes. Representative Moody, Representative Sexton, and Representative Tom Leatherwood.

Leahy: And you’re talking Jerry Sexton?

Henry: Jerry Sexton. That’s right.

Leahy: Not Speaker Cam Sexton.

Henry: No. Representative Jerry Sexton that’s right.

Leahy: Now, did you have a chance to talk to subcommittee chairman, state Representative Dale Carr before this, and did you have an indication that he was opposed to this bill?

Henry: We did. And complete transparency on our end, yes we knew that Dave Wright was against this bill, and we knew that Dale Carr opposed this bill. I suppose Dale Carr had his reasons why, and I’m not exactly sure what the reasons were.

Leahy: So let me just stop for a moment. We’re going to invite State Representative Dale Carr to come in and explain his opposition to this bill, not only his opposition to the bill but shall we say the skullduggery practice in shutting it down. I mean, it seems a little bit unfair in the process. But I’m trying to understand, why would anybody oppose this bill? Do you have any idea?

Henry: Well, I’m trying to sort of steelman the argument here, if I could. And I think people understand what that means. I’m trying to be as fair as possible to Dale Carr’s argument. I think his understanding was that he just doesn’t like the idea of sort of a statewide imposition on East Tennessee. He doesn’t like the idea of some type of mandate that his local governments would have to follow. To be fair to our side of the legislation, we understood that going into it. This bill would only apply to areas that have a debt ratio above 10 percent.

Leahy: Now, let’s just stop there for a moment, because when you described the bill initially, you said this was designed for local governments, county governments, municipal governments that are reckless in their spending. Now you’ve just added a definition of reckless spending, and it looks like what that definition is that these are bills where the standard is local governments that have a spending problem that is a debt to asset ratio where the debt is more than 10 percent of the assets. Is that right?

Henry: That’s correct. Exactly. (Inaudible talk)

Leahy: And by the way, where is Nashville on that list?

Henry: The exact calculation I’m not exactly sure. Don’t quote me. I want to say around 13 to 14 percent. Someone’s going to have to look up those numbers.

Leahy: So Representative Carr is from East Tennessee. Is that correct?

Henry: The Sevier County area. Yes.

Leahy: But in that county in his area, are there any counties that would fit into this category of reckless spenders?

Henry: Well, you have Alcoa City that’s out there. But it’s obviously not in Sevier County. And again, on the date that these votes go down trying to be fair to Representative Carr here, it could have happened that he heard more no votes audibly. I need to go watch this video recording back. It’s all placed on these hard drives out there. You can literally go to the state website and watch this hearing for yourself. He could have heard more no votes than yes votes.

But at the same time, it seems somewhat coincidental that he was against this bill and also heard no more. East Tennessee doesn’t have these kinds of problems. But I can tell you, after working on the Nashville Taxpayer  Protection Act over this past summer how terrible and disheartening some of these personal stories were some of the people that I worked with to gather just 27,000 signatures indicated to me that they have small businesses and they are going to have to figure out whether to shut their small business down, paying for certain types of medicine, or pay for some property tax increases.

And this is not just a sense of fear-mongering. I heard this on multiple different occasions from everybody all the way from the Belle Meade areas all the way to the Antioch areas. We have these stories out there by people that are least able to afford the property taxes are the ones that it hits the worst. And it’s time to have these people’s voices heard.

Leahy: Now, speaking of the voices being heard, sometimes the Tennessee General Assembly is still in session, and sometimes bills that you think are dead come back. Is there a chance for the Tennessee truth in taxation bill for 2021 to come back to this session?

Henry: No. We tried that actually last week to bring it back one time through a procedural motion that would allow someone in the non-prevailing party meaning someone who is not recorded as yes to cite a motion to bring the bill back. And we needed six votes that day. We, unfortunately, could not get to six yes votes.

So this year it will not be coming back. But part of the reason why I like to stress it so much and part of the reason why I appreciate you indulging me this morning with this is that we will obviously be bringing this back next year. And I think it plays a little bit into currently what Mary Cooper is talking about as Nashville is sort of trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes by saying you’ve got to lower the property tax rate.

Listen to the full first hour here:

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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.
Image “Grant Henry” by Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee.