Live from Music Row Thursday morning onThe 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 all-star panelist and The Epoch Times’ editor-at-large Roger Simon in-studio to discuss the status of the Tennessee state three-year residency bill and the AP‘s false interpretation of where it stands.
Leahy: We are joined in-studio by a good friend, all-star panelist, my former boss at PJTV, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, and senior editor-at-large for The Epoch Times – and I forgot, mystery novelist, author, Roger Simon. Good morning, Roger.
Simon: Good morning. I actually got up early this morning because I knew there was big news in Tennessee.
Leahy: So here’s the news I’d like to get your comment on. First, yesterday afternoon we broke the story that the three-year residency bill to be a candidate on the ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives for the primary ballot was enacted into law, because Governor Lee sent, unsigned, the law back to the Tennessee Secretary Senate clerk.
Simon: Why did he do it that way? We should get into that.
Leahy: We’ll get into that in just a minute, and then literally within one hour, the Tennessee Secretary of State, this is our lead story at The Tennessee Star.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett – Tre, I’m talking to you – offered conflicting comments on whether he will enforce the residency law and remove carpetbaggers Morgan Ortagus and, most likely, Robby Starbuck from the Tennessee 5th Congressional District GOP primary ballot.
Roger, the governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, had a spokesperson tell the Associated Press this after we reported that the law was in effect because 10 days had passed and he hadn’t signed it and they hadn’t vetoed it. This sounds eerily like, oh, I don’t know, a statement that was made by Morgan Ortagus’s campaign recently.
Simon: I thought you were going to say Kamala Harris.
Leahy: Yeah, either one. I can’t tell the difference these days. ‘We feel the voters are best able to determine who should represent them in Congress.
Well, Governor Lee, if you had the courage of your conviction, you would have vetoed the bill. But why didn’t you veto the bill? Because it would have been overridden easily.
Simon: Easily. But there’s another thing, everything is going on below the surface here. This is a kind of dirty politics as practiced in Tennessee, but also in New York and California. And regrettably, virtually every other state, maybe save Florida, because they have a governor with a spine.
Leahy: I think you’re going to say something else. The spine is good, though. Get the point across. (Laughter)
Simon: Thank you. It’s a family show.
Leahy: It’s interesting that the AP quickly jumped into the fray to tell us this law was invalid when, of course, it’s premature in the extreme. But the AP, I will say to everyone out there, do not think of it as an even-handed institution. It is quite in the hands of the liberals.
Leahy: It’s far-left.
Simon: And it’s gotten worse and worse over the last few years.
Leahy: And the Secretary of State’s office issued a confusing statement that conflicted with their previous comments right after we broke the story.
The AP jumped off that statement. I’ll read the statement. The first statement, again, they issued a subsequent statement that conflicted with the first statement.
Simon: Like Kamala Harris?
Leahy: There you go. They said, “The bill was not signed into law before the April 7th filing deadline. The requirement does not apply retroactively to candidates who met the qualification deadline at noon on April 7th.”
That was all they said. The AP took that and ran with it and said, their headline said, “Trump–Backed Candidate on the Ballot.” No! Wrong interpretation, AP.
But they hung it on this inconsistent and false statement actually issued by the Secretary of State’s office. Trey Hargett, I just said that, and you can come in and try to defend that statement, but it is a false and misleading statement.
Simon: I’m going to be the nasty guy here. There’s been a little bit of nasty. I’m going to go further. Here’s the thing. When you look at politics, you should always look at the politics behind the politics.
What’s going on here is what I will call fear of the most powerful politician/non-politician in the state of Tennessee, a man named Ward Baker. I like Ward Baker, personally. He’s a political pro. He’s a very charming guy, very smart.
Leahy: You brought up Ward. Let me just say very smart guy. He’s a personal friend of mine as well. I like Ward, but he plays hardball.
Simon: He plays hardball, but that’s his job. He’s paid by candidates to get them elected. He’s done a good job with Marsha Blackburn, Mike Pompeo, and people outside.
Leahy: And Bill Hagerty.
Simon: Nashville figures and state figures, anyway.
Leahy: What do you see? Because these are your words, not mine. But we’ll comment on it.
Simon: He figures beneath the surface of this, and that is all of these people from the governor to Hargett to the Speaker of the House, all these people have their eyes on a higher office. That shouldn’t be news to anybody out there.
But that’s what the truth is, and they’re playing this whole game. First of all, they’re afraid that they don’t want to go on the wrong side of Ward because they need Ward down the line, or they don’t want Ward against them.
Leahy: That may apply to some, but not all. But we’ll talk about that.
Simon: I’m just giving you my way of looking at this.
Leahy: Since we’re talking about Ward we probably got to get him on the show and discuss these things and other things. Ward, I’ll call you.
You’re welcome to be on the show. He’s actually offered to be on the show. So we’ll have him discuss it. Some of the things that you are attributing to him, I don’t know if they actually …
Simon: I think it’s fear of him. That’s a different thing.
Leahy: And we’re continuing our discussion with Clint Brewer about the communication gaffe of Secretary of State Tre Hargett immediately after the enactment of the three-year residency requirement to get on the primary ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives.
They issued a very conflicting and confusing statement that the Associated Press immediately ran with and claimed that it meant that Morgan Ortagus is going to be back on the ballot. Associated Press got it wrong, and they got it wrong in part because of the screw-up by the Secretary of State’s office.
And we pressed them on that, and they kind of backed away from the April 7th deadline claim and reverted to the statutory requirement that April 21st is a qualifying deadline, which means the law went into effect before the qualifying deadline, Clint Brewer.
Brewer: I’m not sure your quarrel is as much with the Secretary of State’s offices as the AP. I mean, it is a nuanced situation.
Leahy: Now, that is exactly the case.
Brewer: Could the initial communication be a little more specific about April 7th versus the 21st? Sure. But I think what you’re seeing is the Secretary of State’s office operating with an abundance of caution since this is a brand-new law. There’s a residency requirement.
As we said in the previous segment, the law does not spell out whose job it is to determine the residency requirement or what the mechanism is to determine the residency requirement.
For example, if you enroll your kid in almost any school system in Tennessee, you can take them, you know, a utility bill. And so how do you establish what documents are acceptable? There’s a lot of questions that the law doesn’t answer.
And so if I am in the Secretary of State’s position, I’m thinking about the fact that there’s a deadline on the 7th that they control and there’s a deadline on the 21st that they don’t control. And so I feel like what they’re doing is from a legal standpoint, trying to limit their communication on the topic.
Leahy: Yes, I think exactly.
Brewer: You’re saying it’s a gaffe. I think it could have been clearer. But I do think there’s some intentionality to the Secretary of State’s office communication in this regard because the law is not entirely clear about who controls the final deadline.
It’s definitely the executive committee. I think this is a one-time event in that the laws passed, it’s put into effect after the filing deadline that leaves some gray areas. I’m not sure it’s a gaffe.
Leahy: I don’t think there’s any gray area.
Brewer: I don’t think it’s as much of a gaffe as it is sort of being intentionally cautious …
Brewer: … about what they’re saying. Maybe their attorneys have advised them to be that way.
Leahy: This is why you’re a good communications guy. If I were the Secretary of State, I would hire you immediately. (Brewer chuckles) Because you made the best out of a bad situation for that.
Brewer: I’m just trying to think through their burden in this situation.
Leahy: There are two elements to this. The first, where they made a big gaffe, was by reversing themselves on the issue of when the qualifying deadline was.
Brewer: Or did you just ask a better set of questions than the Associated Press?
Leahy: The Associated Press asked no questions.
Brewer: Well, that’s my point.
Leahy: In fact, it’s almost as if it was a coordinated effort between, oh, I don’t know, the governor, the Secretary of State, and the Associated Press to have a misleading headline. It’s almost as if.
Brewer: I can pretty much assure you that they do not all get together and agree to that.
Leahy: I didn’t say they got together. But a common goal was accomplished by like-minded individuals.
Brewer: What you’re seeing is, again, I think that given the situation, because some of these candidates whose residency is in question … I live in Wilson County.
Leahy: Morgan Ortagus’s residency timeline is not in question. She would be off the ballot.
Brewer: I mean the question in terms of the executive committee process.
Leahy: Well, that’s a separate issue. The executive committee is not about residency. It’s about meeting the standards of having voted three out of the four most recent primaries.
Brewer: Who has to figure out residency?
Leahy: The issue of residency is not before the Tennessee executive committee.
Brewer: That’s my point.
Leahy: The issue of residency is a separate lane. I think you’re right about one thing and wrong about another. The thing that the actual misleading statement from the Secretary of State’s office is to claim that the petition filing deadline of April 7th is a qualifying deadline.
The qualifying deadline and by statute is April 21st. We talked to State Senator Frank Niceley, who made that point. It’s April 21 is the qualifying deadline, not April 7.
Brewer: So in your mind, the Secretary of State’s office has from the 7th to the 21st to make some kind of ruling on each of these candidates based on residency?
Leahy: No, not at all. No. Let me tell you what my mind is thinking on it. I think it’s very clear that the qualifying deadline is April 21st.
It is after April 21st that it would be the job of the Tennessee Secretary of State to determine if a candidate meets those standards, if they were to be on by the state executive committee, which I think is in doubt at the moment.
But let’s go with that. So here’s what I would say. This is the Robby Starbuck argument versus the Morgan Ortagus argument. The standard on this, if you just take the way that they’ve approached others’ residency requirements in other cases would be the date upon which you registered to vote.
The legislature didn’t spell it out, but you would think, just by the way, that the Secretary of State has acted in the past, it would be the voting deadline.
Brewer: And the piece of code they opened up. Is there any reference in the election law to what establishes residency?
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 Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles in the studio to discuss Governor Bill Lee and 26 other Tennessee state Republican’s letter to Joe Biden regarding Afghan refugees and the administration’s bias against southern states.
Leahy: And that is Behar County Sheriff Javier Salazar commenting about the border crisis. Andy Ogles Mayor of Maury County, there’s a story sort of related to that at The Tennessee Star. Right now, Governor Bill Lee has joined 25 Republican governors and requesting a meeting with Joe Biden regarding the border crisis.
The letter reads, as chief executives of our states, we request a meeting with you at the White House to bring an end to the national security crisis created by eight months of unenforced borders. Do you think Joe Biden is going to take that meeting Andy?
Ogles:(Sighs) Who knows? But even if he does, what does anyone really expect to come out of it? That proclamation, that announcement is nothing more than a campaign soundbite. It doesn’t have any action attached to it.
What I would love to see is governors across the country refuse services to illegals or migrants settled in states without the state’s permission.
Don’t give them any state Medicaid or dollars or those sorts of things and put it back on the federal government.
Leahy: This is interesting because Governor Lee has signed this letter, along with 25 other Republican governors. Say, pretty, please, Mr. President. Meet with us so we can complain about what you’re doing, which will have zero zip nada effect.
And yet at the same time, he appears to be welcoming with open arms, a wave of unvetted for security or health purposes Afghan refugees. Already over 400 have arrived in Tennessee.
More than 300 apparently have been resettled in Tennessee. Governor Lee has said, well, gee, I’m not so sure I like this, but he’s doing nothing to change it. Your thoughts on that?
Ogles: Well, keep in mind, those numbers are just for Nashville. And we have documented cases in Memphis, Chattanooga, and Knoxville now where Afghan refugees have been resettled there, so one can only guestimate.
There’s not a lot of clarity here that that number could be closer to 1,000, if not more. But again, I appreciate their service for those that actually may have helped us.
Leahy: Well that’s a very, very limited number. The reports are 95,000 Afghan refugees are coming to the United States of America. A very small percentage of them were the interpreters that helped us.
Most of them are unvetted, possible terrorists, and certainly possibly unvaccinated. (Chuckles) And they’re going to be paid with all their social welfare. In the beginning, I think it will be covered by the federal government. But after eight months, it’s all on Tennessee taxpayers.
Ogles: Yes, that’s right. Look, again, I appreciate your service. But for those that helped us in Afghanistan, why didn’t we help resettle them to Kuwait or Jordan, the UAE, or somewhere else like that?
And at the end of the day, you have to be a fool if you don’t understand that Islam and Christianity, just don’t mix. Islam and a free Republic don’t mix.
And so we now have imported hundreds of thousands of people who at the end of the day, the religion hates America.
Leahy: That’s interesting because now we’re about maybe two percent of the American population is Muslim. My view is that there are those of that background who assimilate to America.
But there are quite a few whose general worldview is not consistent with the American concept of a constitutional Republic. They want to have a caliphate.
Ogles: And that goes back to the whole unvetted problem. And that is you have so many of these folks who are truly unvetted. We have no idea who they are.
All they came with is scraps of paper. And so who they claim they are, it may not be who they actually are. There’s no way to know. And we’ve just opened the door. Come on in.
Leahy: We have a law called the Refugee Act of 1980, which set standards for the legal admission of refugees in the United States. It’s a lengthy process, and they have to be reviewed and vetted.
I have yet to figure out why these 950 Afghan refugees are not going through that legal process. Apparently, the Biden administration is bigfooting American governors and bringing them all in. Here’s the story.
Andy, from Eric Lender at The Tennessee Star. We have only one story that says 26 Republican governors sent a letter to Biden. Please meet with us so we can talk about the southern border.
But 18 Republican governors apparently support Biden’s Afghan refugee settlement plan. Last week, the White House declared that at least 360 Afghans will be resettled in the US across 46 different states.
The only states that will not be receiving refugees or Hawaii, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C.
Ogles: Again, why is Tennessee not in an opt-out position? When I look at this and you mentioned the federal government kind of pushing the governors around, I think this is part of a larger problem and a larger agenda where you have the federal government overstepping its authority and forcing the states to become co-opted into a program and co-opted into a policy.
And so it’s incrementally marginalizing our governors in our states. And keep in mind, we are a free Republic. We have the 10th amendment.
And whether it’s COVID or refugees or whatever, these governors have to stand up and start fighting. And playing footsie with a President who does not like us is not getting us anywhere.
Leahy: Yeah, it’s and it seems to be pretty transparently not liking the southern states.
Ogles: It’s blatant.
Leahy: Here’s an example. This is a story from Fox 17. Distribution changes in monoclonal antibody treatments may cause shortages in Tennessee hospitals. Did you see this story?
It seems to be a blatant political punishment of his opponents by the Biden maladministration. Here’s the story from Fox 17. The demand for the monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 patients has led the federal government to change the way it allocates its supply. This is a very kind of neutral reporting from Fox 17.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced they are distributing the antibiotic treatment doses based on state and territory, instead of allowing hospitals to directly order the number of treatments they need. And, yeah, a week and a half ago, if you wanted it, they distributed it to you. What’s wrong with this picture?
Ogles: They’ve kind of danced with this idea that they’re going to ration it to the states that don’t have the highest vaccine rates. It’s a dangerous position they’re putting themselves in. They being the federal government.
And so I think they’ve walked that back a little bit. But what you’re seeing, what they’ve done is you have a time of increased demand for the monoclonal antibodies.
The federal government is stockpiling a reserve, which is creating a choke point in the distribution. And so that they’re making states feel the pain through a kind of a stockpiling measure knowing, at the end of the day, you’ll start refusing treatment.
You’re going to have anarchy on your hands when you have someone who is sick. There’s a known treatment and they’re not able to get it.
I did see a different kind of on the idea of COVID that Israel is now beginning to recognize a natural immunity. It’ll be interesting to see if other states, businesses, et cetera reacts with a treatment that’s available.
You have the vaccines that are available. Where does natural immunity fit into this dialogue? And that’s, I guess, yet untold.
Leahy: Interestingly enough, last week, the entire Republican congressional delegation, all seven members, sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
And basically, they said, why are you changing the distribution policy, and why are you limiting it to Tennessee? They haven’t gotten an answer yet. I kind of like what Ron DeSantis said.
He said, okay, you want to ration the distribution of this stuff to us? We’re going to go out as a state and buy it from another vendor. I like that idea.
Ogles: Absolutely. And kudos to Ron DeSantis on this whole COVID vaccine virus issue, he has truly been a leader.
Henry: My name is Grant Henry. Enunciation for those in the know Ben Cunningham. I work for an organization called American’s for Prosperity. Ben’s over there. He’s just like anything and everything and uncomparable. You probably know him from the Nashville Tea Party.
Cunningham: Wow. What an introduction.
Henry: I tried my best on that one. (Laughter) I’ll give you $5 for that one. It’s great to be here. It’s fun to sit in when Michael is gone and rant and rave. There’s so much going on, you teether between total depression and slight optimism these days. But we’ve got a fight.
And there are so many good fighters out there to inspire us. I was reading an article yesterday about people standing up. Molly Hemmingway who is with The Federalist.
But she’s one of these people who is fearless. And we’ve just got to all be like Molly, basically, and stand up and fight for these basic values. And that’s what people were doing yesterday at the Capitol.
Henry: Here’s one of the headlines coming from The Tennessee Star. By the way, The Tennessee Star has some of the best reporting in the state as far as I’m concerned.
I know you were streaming this on the Nashville Tea Party page. I streamed it on my old talk radio page Real News. Here’s the first paragraph.
There were hundreds of Tennesse and said their displeasure with COVID-19 mandates has intensified, and it’s time for Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally to relent and allow a special legislative session so that the state can fight back.
Now, I know a few other senators maybe like Senator Roberts in particular, I believe. I know he wrote a letter calling for a special session saying that he would like to see these six things that he outlined in a special session.
I think there are 70 House members in the state, don’t quote me on this number. There are 70 some in the House that have signed. And dozens of others, maybe 15-17 in the Senate that have signed on.
Cunningham: The House is ready to go, It looks like.
Henry: And Senator Robert says that he wants to see the following things addressed if and when a special session has opened up. One prohibiting mass mandates in public building schools and universities. Two recognizing acquired immunity or immunity from nobody satisfying vaccine mandates.
Three prohibiting Bridgestone Arena and other venues receiving government funds from implementing vaccine requirements, mask mandates, or segregating attendees according to vaccine status.
Four, placing the county health departments of these six counties under the direct oversight of the General Assembly. Five challenging federal overreach exercises by President Joe Biden related to these vaccine mandates.
And six and finally requiring executive orders issued during a state of emergency lasting over 90 days to be reviewed by a joint committee.
But quickly before I kick it to you, Ben, I did find an interesting that Chris Butler in that first paragraph touched on how it’s time for Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally to relent. You think it’s all hinging on him, as they say?
Cunningham: I think he’s the kind of the figurehead of the roadblock at this point. But Randy McNally is a good guy. And I think any politician, you can lower their threshold of action by rising up and saying, this is what we want.
And it’s extremely impressive to me that so many members of the House have already said that. They have stepped out publicly. They are willing to say, we need to have a special session.
And a special session like you were saying there, it’s not just Randy McNally who came out with a press release and said, hey, we’ll fight the Biden administration through the DAs and the legal avenues. But this is also about state issues.
This is not just about federal issues. If it was just about federal issues, I would say that he has a point. But I don’t think he has a point because lawmakers want to address the state, like Bridgestone Arena and perhaps the governor’s emergency powers.
There are all kinds of things that we need to talk about, and it’s going to take a few days to talk about this to sort it out. And I think that’s what these legislators want, and I’m certainly in favor of it. And I would like to see them come together.
This is the top issue for Tennesseeans right now. I don’t know if there’s any question about it. And we expect our legislators to respond when people say, hey, you need to come to Nashville.
As our representatives, you need to sit down, develop a consensus like the Supreme Court says and many of the justices say. We can’t decide on everything. It’s up to the legislative bodies to be deliberative and develop a consensus.
That’s what legislation and legislating are all about. And that’s driven by the people. And that’s why the rally yesterday was so important. And people who are opposed to the special session right now like Randy McNally can be convinced if enough people rise up and enough senators rise up and say, we want to a special session.
I don’t think it’s a question that Randy McNally would come around and say, okay. Hey, I see this huge groundswell of momentum basically building for this special session, and I think he would probably relent if he did see that wave of support.
Henry: I found it interesting yesterday, Senator Janice Bowling, again, I’d highly recommend you go watch the live stream on somebody’s account to see the legislators that were there, what they said, and the addresses they gave.
But Senator Janice Bowling, in particular, made the remark that if the Tennessee General Assembly calls for a special session, there are no restrictions upon what they can and cannot consider while they’re in that special session.
And I don’t presume to understand all the mechanics behind how this works. So take what I’m saying with a bit of a grain of salt. But if the General Assembly calls for one, they can kind of consider anything and everything on the table.
Conversely, if Governor Lee were to call for one, it’s limited exclusively to the things that Governor Lee calls for. And I find that interesting because I know there have been several talking points or push back about this idea of Joe Biden coming out with these vaccine mandates.
And they’re ridiculous. And in my personal opinion, the disgusting nature of some of the things that he’s doing withholding these antibody treatments. We’ll get into more of that later, right?
Cunningham: That’s maddening.
Henry: But at a practical level in the state, I do wonder here what can be done with e of the vaccine mandate stuff. And I also wonder, so much of this deals with the schools, Ben.
I want to get into this more in the show, but I’d love to know your thoughts on if we call for a special session, what can we do to consider doing something with education?
I believe education should create an environment that empowers the students to continually fulfill their unique potential. But it should also provide families and parents with the decisions about how to educate their children properly, giving parents more parental choice, right?
Every student should have equal access to education on equal terms regardless of their zip code and especially now dealing with some of the math stuff or the vaccine stuff or CRT stuff or whatever that stuff is, parents need more choice. More on this later on in the show. We’ll be right back after this break.
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. – guest host Ben Cunningham welcomed Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton to the newsmaker line to further illustrate his position from Monday’s press conference where he, Governor Lee, and Penny Schwinn stood firm on getting children back to class with parents at the wheel.
Cunningham: My name is Ben Cunningham and I’m sitting in for Michael Patrick Leahy at the big Tennessee Starmicrophone this morning while Michael is away. He is expanding an ever-expanding media empire and getting more and more outlets for us conservatives.
And we have this morning we have an extraordinarily special guest on the line this morning. Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton is with us this morning. Speaker, good morning.
Sexton: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
Cunningham: Yes, thanks so much for joining us. You had a pretty amazing press conference yesterday and kind of threw down the gauntlet on behalf of students and parents in Tennessee.
And it was really an amazing assertion of let’s get back to school. Let’s get kids in school. Let’s get them in the classroom and let’s teach them in the classroom. Please tell us how that all came down yesterday.
Sexton: Yes. Yesterday the governor and Commissioner Schwinn were announcing the TCAP results which was not good. Basically, we’ve lost a lot of the ground. We’re back to around where we were in 2015 and 2016 on proficiency. It’s all across the board. All subjects. All grades.
It was not a good day on TCAP. And the interesting thing is, there were individuals in the session who is trying to tell us, oh, learning loss is not an issue.
Well, it really is. And when you don’t have kids in school and you have them doing remote work or you have them do virtual education or you just close down the schools as some did, you see what the results are.
And now they’re trying to use COVID as a reason why they maybe need to close down schools, require mask mandates, maybe segregate kids on who’s vaccinated and who’s unvaccinated. And the data doesn’t point that that needs to happen with the children and that they actually need to be in class. It needs to be in person. I think the majority of teachers agree with that as well. And so basically what I said, you know what? Schools if you want to shut down, if you want to require a mask, if you want to segregate kids based on who’s vaccinated or not, I’m going to ask the governor for a special session. And we’re going to go in and we’re going to make some changes, and that may be going in a direction called school choice. And let parents decide where they want to send their kids if the school system there is not doing what’s needed to get done to get their child educated.
Cunningham: Well, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of myself personally and all the folks that I talk with around Tennessee, this is an amazing measure and press conference. I think many people in Tennessee would like to have the option to choose their school if the school that they’re going to is not performing. Can you tell us what would be the next step? What would trigger your action at this point?
Sexton: If the school system shut down, if the school system moved all their kids to remote learning or gave them hybrid remote learning, or if they started requiring kids to wear masks, I mean, all those things or segregated kids in the classroom. Those things would get me to ask the governor for a special session. And we’ll come back in and take a look at it. There are schools right now debating whether or not our kids will wear masks and the data doesn’t point to that direction where that should happen. All data says is that children are less likely than anybody else to have severe COVID or to be hospitalized. And the survival rate for anyone below the age of 20 who gets COVID even with the new Delta variant is 99.99 percent. And so let’s just talk about the facts. Let’s talk about the data, and then let’s have that conversation. But kids need to be in class, and we can’t accept the second year of TCAP numbers to go down.
Cunningham: And that’s got to be music to the years of parents across Tennessee. And you were at the press conference. The governor was there. Senator Johnson, our education secretary. All those folks were there. And you guys are showing a very unified front.
Sexton: Yeah. I mean, I think we’re all on the same page. We want what’s best for the children. And the data doesn’t lie. I know there’s a lot of people out there who think that kids need to wear masks eight hours a day, every single day down to the age of two. I mean, I have a hard time figuring out why they’re so angry about allowing parents to make the choice. You have people out there who are so mad when you say what the parents should make the choice. If they want their kids to wear a mask, let them wear a mask. If they don’t want to, then they shouldn’t have to wear one. And there are people losing their minds out there because you’re saying the parents have a right to decide what’s best for their kids. It tells you where the left is in our world today.
Cunningham: It does. And I noticed several questions at the news conference to the governor or about that. Why don’t you listen to this group of experts? Why don’t you listen to this group of experts? The state government is there to serve the citizens and the parents initially, most of all. And thank goodness you guys are putting the citizens at the top of the priority list. I for one – thank you for doing that. The news conference was really amazing yesterday, and I think it puts educators and everybody else on notice that parents have got to be the major decision-makers in this process.
Sexton: It’s their children. They know what’s best. They’re going to do what’s best for them and their kids. And people who think otherwise, I just don’t understand that capability. And the other thing is they’re wanting to make examples of people being hospitalized. Well, the people who are hospitalized in Tennessee, I’ve talked to hospitals all across the state and 96 percent of the people in the hospital are unvaccinated people, and they’re the age brackets of 35 to 50. And what I say is, stop listening to the CDC. Stop listening to the national media people and just go have a conversation with your physician, your pediatrician, and your pharmacist and ask them what’s best for you and your family if you’re unsure. But talk to the experts who know about your health and have a conversation. Quit listening to the Washington bureaucrats and the state bureaucrats and the school systems. Have a conversation with the people who know about your health. And then you all make a decision that’s best for you and your family. It’s pretty easy.
Cunningham: Yeah. Absolutely. And so many people have tried to politicize this issue and have a political agenda behind all the press releases that come out. The scare tactics and everything. But I, for one, want to thank you very much for coming out. That was pretty extraordinary. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a press conference like that where you had unity of the legislative and the executive branch. And everybody was saying parents should be the ones who are making these decisions. That’s an extraordinary statement in this day and time.
Sexton: It is. It really is. And I’m glad to be a part of it. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Lee and Commissioner Schwinn and members of the General Assembly, the House and Senate, and listening to the people in our district. And overwhelmingly the people in the district and people across the state of Tennessee believe kids should be back in school. That should be in person. They shouldn’t be doing remote learning. They shouldn’t be doing virtual, and schools should not be shut down. You shouldn’t be requiring a mask. That’s what the people in Tennessee want. But you have people out there, as you said, trying to scare people into believing something that the data does not support.
Cunningham: What is the next step in your decision? What would trigger you to call a special session and what are you monitoring at this point?
Sexton: We’re watching Shelby County looking at requiring mask mandates. I think Williamson County has something coming up where they’re looking at it. So we’re watching that. Davison County’s looking at it. Wilson County had a meeting last night. So we’re just watching. We made our statement. We put it out on record of what we expect, and we’ll see what happens. If people start going in different directions then we’ll go back here and I’m going to ask the governor for a special session. And hopefully, we’ll be able to get that done. And it might be three to four weeks later because by the time you get it organized and set. But I’m curious. If we need to go in, it’s a big enough issue for us to go on a special session to solve this really quickly.
Cunningham: And you can act within 30 days. 45 days. That certainly is a reasonable time frame. Is that correct?
Sexton: It is. You could act within seven days, but the problem is you would have members who might not be in town. People have work. And so you try to give enough time for them to clear their schedule and to be able to have a special session. But yes, you can call a special session within 30 days if you need to pretty easily.
Cunningham: Speaker Sexton, thanks so much for joining us this morning. I know you’re busy as a switch engine this morning with all the press and everything. But that was an amazing news conference there yesterday. And I personally cannot thank you enough for coming out and asserting this parent-centered agenda. I think that’s what so many people in the state want. And thank you so much for being bold and coming out yesterday and very positively asserting that agenda around parents and students.
Sexton: Well, thank you. You’re very kind. And I hope you have a wonderful day. I hope to see you soon.