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.

 

 

 

 

 

Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act Attorney Jim Roberts on Metro Legals Attempt at Adverse Outside Council and Ominous Group Harassment of Petition Signers

Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act Attorney Jim Roberts on Metro Legals Attempt at Adverse Outside Council and Ominous Group Harassment of Petition Signers

 

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 who revealed Metro legal foiled plans to hire independent counsel with adverse interest to the Election Commission and exposes an anonymous group harassing Davidson County petition signers.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line by our good friend Jim Roberts. Jim, you’re going to give us an update on where the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act stands. Good morning, Jim.

Roberts: Well, good morning, sir. How are you doing today?

Leahy: We’re doing great.

Roberts: Let me tell you where we are. A lot has happened since we last spoke. We’ve had two Davidson County Election Commission meetings. They have hired an independent counsel. The chairman of the Election Commission admitted in a public meeting that the law firm recommended by Metro had an interest adverse to the Commission.

And I was happy to see that they terminated that relationship. The law firm that they hired before was clearly in Metro’s pocket. It was good to see them gone. There’s going to be another meeting tomorrow. The Election Commission is meeting on Saturday to review this independent legal opinion. And I’m pretty sure they’re going to vote then to put this on the ballot and just end all of this nonsense.

Leahy: So to bring our listeners up to speed on this, just summarize what you’ve done with the petition and what the purpose of the petition is, and what has to happen to get it on the ballot?

Roberts: So right now, we’ve got enough signatures filed with Jeff Roberts who is the administrative relations. And he has admitted that we’ve turned in more than sufficient signatures. And I think they’re going to vote to put it on the ballot. It does several different things as we’ve talked about over the weeks.

It rolls back that very massive 34 to 37 property tax. But it does a lot of other good things. It protects our parks. It ends permanent lifetime benefits for elective officials. It makes certain that we get our city back because we give cities away to sports teams and they leave us. I mean, there’s a lot of good government elements to this.

Leahy: Let’s talk about tomorrow. The Davidson County Election Commission will review the independent assessment of a law firm as to whether or not the 14,000 signatures you gathered and submitted are sufficient beyond, I think you argue that 12,000 were needed. They’re going to see if they agree or disagree with that characterization, and then they’ll vote on whether or not to put it on the ballot. Do I have that right?

Roberts: That’s my understanding. I’m not on the Commission, but that is the way I understand that their agenda is set up. They didn’t hire just a law firm. I think it’s important for your listeners to know. They hired probably the best well-known, internationally known constitutional professor at Vanderbilt Law School who I was honored to be in his class from 25 years ago. He is internationally known scholar on these type of issues, and he’s going to give them a fair and less Metro-biased opinion. And I think that’s what Metro is scared about.

Carmichael: Jim, let’s assume that the recommendation is to put it on the ballot, and the Election Commission votes to put it on the ballot. Metro is unlikely to sue, just as they did last time. And what is it about what you have done this time? What have you done to change it so that it comports with the ruling from the judge from the last time?

Roberts: What we did is we took the court’s ruling we know disagreed with part of it and we just accepted it. And we said we’re going to modify this petition to do exactly what the judge said. And we did that. And so I think the Election Commission is going to look at that and say, hey, we did exactly what we were told we needed to do, even though some of those rules were made up or not evident before, we did it.

And so I don’t think the Election Commission is going to have a problem with us. This is going to be very different. Last time, of course, we actually sued to get the Election Commission to put it on the ballot. This time, it’s going to be Metro suing the Election Commission to try to stop the election.

Leahy: Do you think they’re going to do that?

Roberts: I know they are. They’re already beginning dirty tricks in this town already. Yesterday and the day before, people in Davidson County started receiving letters from a fictitious group, a group that does not exist, made up telling people that they have they shouldn’t sign the petition. They’re trying to get them to withdraw their signatures. They’re sending people out to people’s houses. They’re texting them, which is illegal. They’re calling them with robocalls, which is also illegal.

Leahy: What’s the fictitious group and who’s funding them?

Roberts: Of course, we don’t know. They call themselves The Citizens for Responsible Government. And that was an entity that existed about 10 years ago, but it’s been defunct for over a decade. It was dissolved by the Secretary of State’s office. So they’re using a phony organization and a phony name, and it’s all just a complete fraud. I presume the mayor’s office is behind it. But this is sort of dishonest tactics. I mean, just total scare tactics.

I mean, they’re going to people’s houses. They’re calling people. I had a young lady who called me yesterday whose name, you may not realize that when you sign up to register to vote, a lot of people give them their phone number. This woman had not done that. And so somebody got a hold of the list of people who signed, ran it through a database, got her phone number, and called her up and harassed her.

Leahy: They’re harassing the citizens who signed the petition.

Roberts: That’s right.

Leahy: This sounds like voter suppression to me. (Chuckles)

Roberts: Absolutely no difference. This is just intimidation down the line. We think they may have gotten an advanced copy of the database from the Election Commission. I’ve talked to the Election Commission and they claim that they gave out a printed copy of the list last Tuesday. But letters were arriving Wednesday and Thursday, which that’s a pretty fast turnaround. So we think they got an electronic copy so they could run labels and print envelopes ahead of time.

Leahy: I suppose The Tennessee Star ought to do a public information request to see what was given out by the Election Commission.

Roberts: Well, I hope they will. I’ve already asked. I wrote a letter to the administrative elections yesterday asking for the identity of the group that got this advanced list and he was refused so far to give it to me. But there are some dirty politics going on here. You just have to understand how absolutely crooked and dishonest the other side is on this. The letters they’re sending out are incredibly deceptive from a phony group. That’s what we should expect.

Carmichael: Can you get us a copy of the letter?

Roberts: I’m working on it right now. I’ve had people send me pictures from their phone and I’m trying to get a hard copy in my hand so that I can post it. It really is dishonest. It just accuses people of not knowing what they were doing. A very condescending and arrogant type letter. But honestly, the real sad part here is the fact that it’s a made-up group. No one is going forward and saying hey, I’m against this, and here’s what I’m standing up for.

The text messages people are getting direct people to a website that was created five days ago six days ago and whose ownership is hidden. We don’t hide anything. You go to 4goodgovernment.com That website domain is owned by me. You can look me up. You can find me that way. It’s a long way to do it. Just looking at on the internet, I’m pretty available. But this is a hidden group, probably using outside money trying to roll this back. This is just corrupt to the core.

Leahy: Jim, what about the litigation? What will the courts rule on this when the Metro illegal opposes it?

Roberts: Well, that’s a good question. I’m not sure Metros got the well, I shouldn’t say that they’ve got a real problem here because they don’t have the Election Commission being their lackey this time. I think the Election Commission realizes that we did exactly what we were supposed to do. And so Metro is going to have to sue.

And I think they’re going to try to argue that people didn’t know what they were doing and that people signed something and just didn’t know what they were doing. They were stupid. And that sort of arrogance that you get out of government that we’re smarter than everybody and everyone else is stupid. So people must not have known what they were doing when they signed a petition.

Carmichael: So, Jim, are there things that are supposed to happen next week before next Friday when we have you on again?

Leahy: Yes. We do have a hearing set next week, we may ask the court to bump it a little bit, because we don’t know what the Election Commission is going to do tomorrow. We sue to force the Election Commission to verify the signatures and put it on the ballot. And they may do that on Saturday, so it may make this unnecessary. So we are sort of dealing with that at the moment. It’s a moving target. I mean, it’s a battlefield.

Listen to the full third 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.
Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.