Speaker Cameron Sexton Weighs In on Parent Centered News Conference Monday with Lee and Schwinn

Speaker Cameron Sexton Weighs In on Parent Centered News Conference Monday with Lee and Schwinn


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 Star microphone 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.

Cunningham: Great. Thanks so much.

Listen to the full third hour here:

– – –

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














Mayor Andy Ogles Tells Tennessee It’s Time to Take a Stand: We Are in a Cultural War, Spiritual War, and Political War

Mayor Andy Ogles Tells Tennessee It’s Time to Take a Stand: We Are in a Cultural War, Spiritual War, and Political War


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 weigh in on the recent rogue staff situation at the Department of Human Resources that has quietly implemented equity and inclusion councils across the state agencies.

Leahy: In studio or very good friend, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles. Andy, our top story at The Tennessee Star today follows up on this rogue staff at the Department of Human Resources that’s decided on its own without telling the Tennessee General Assembly or apparently the governor, that they’re going to set up equity and inclusion councils all across the state of Tennessee and every state agency.

And we’ll get to that in a bit. Apparently, they’ve implemented it. Here’s what State Representative John Reagan, who is the chairman of the Government Operations Committee in the House said. This is, according to our lead store at The Tennessee Star. He’s formerly asked the Tennessee Department of Human Resources, the Commissioner there, Juan Williams, to explain the Diversity and Equity Council program he wants state agencies to enforce.

In the letter, Reagan requested that Williams justify his actions in a timely manner and explain how much it will cost taxpayers. Reagan told The Tennessee Star that Williams and members of his staff acknowledge receiving the letter, but they’ve yet to formally respond. I’ll give you this quote and see what your thoughts are.

This is from State Representative John Reagan, the chairman of the Government Operations Committee in the House of Representatives. “My concerns about the Diversity and Equity Council will fall into two categories. First, I want to know whether this is an internal policy that is only going to affect people inside their Department or if it is going to affect people outside their Department.

My concern there is because I chair the Government Operations Committee. The second thing of concern to me is I did not see anything related to cost. What is this going to cost in terms of expenditures of doing training or having meetings or whatever they’re going to do? And then does it take away also from their doing of their current jobs?” What’s your reaction to that?

Ogles: Well I think you start at the beginning of a rogue employee. I don’t buy into that. I just don’t. This is now the third Commissioner who allegedly has gone off-script. And at some point, you’ve got to sit down with your commissioners and give them a clear direction and tell them this is how I expect you to govern. And so this is unacceptable. And Commissioner Juan Williams should resign. This does not reflect Tennessee values. And at what point are we going to have faith that our government is actually representing Tennesseeans and not representing some agenda from the left?

Leahy: It sounds like an agenda from the left. And the commissioner is making it appear that Governor Lee endorses this agenda from the left. They had a meeting yesterday, apparently. Now, to me, since this entire program, and I’ve got some more information. It has already been implemented and I’ll give you some of those details on it. I don’t see how one, Williams can stay as Commissioner having misled the Tennessee General Assembly on this program.

Ogles: Of course not. The Commissioner is working at will for the governor. You can be fired at any time. We’re a right-to-work state. But there’s the cause here. End of story. How much it does or doesn’t cost to the Tennessee taxpayer is really a moot point. The bigger issue is this isn’t California. This isn’t Washington and this isn’t Oregon and this isn’t New York.

Anecdotally I had a board meeting yesterday and it does a lot of nonprofit good stuff. But it’s a quasi-state board. It’s for a regional thing. And the federal government had pushed down some language that they ‘recommended’ that we insert into our bylaws. And one of those words is that as far as the discrimination clause is that we won’t discriminate against transgender individuals.

Well, hold on a minute. That hasn’t fully been adjudicated in our courts. And by inserting that into the bylaws, now if you have a situation where a man wants to use the bathroom with a little girl, you can’t tell them no.

Leahy: That is about as crazy as you could possibly get.

Ogles: But I refuse and I object to it. And we did not amend our bylaws to reflect that. And at some point, if we have to, we go to court over it. But this has got to stop. These agendas being pushed down by the federal government and the media. Tennessee needs to be a firewall state. It’s time. We’re at war. We’re in a cultural war. We’re in a spiritual war. We’re in a political war. And buckle up, Buttercup, because it’s time. And we’ve got to start taking stands in Tennessee. Tough stands. And this is emblematic of what’s happening across the country.

Leahy: So yesterday, the head of the Tennessee House Government Operations Committee asked the Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources if this diversity and equity program was just limited to the Department of Human Resource. Andy, a source has provided us with a document. This document comes from…

Ogles: Uh oh. (Laughs)

Leahy: Uh oh. (Laughs)

Ogles: I don’t think they expected it to get out. And then suddenly they got caught red-handed with their hand in the cookie jar. And so here we go.

Leahy: Here’s the cookie jar we’re opening up. So here’s the thing. The Department of Human Resources provides human resource guidelines to every department of the state. Public safety, transportation, and there is another department called the Department of Human Services. That’s separate from the Department of Human Resources. This is a document from the Department of Human Services. I’ll just read this to you.

In the wake of social justice protests and conversations last year, the Tennessee Department of Human Resources, that’s the overarching one, not the Department of Human Services that we got this one from, started a new initiative across state government to foster conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion, to strengthen the employee experience.

All state agencies, including the Tennessee Department of Human Services, have been encouraged to take steps to further this effort. At the Department of Human Services, we are committed to providing an environment in which employees thrive because it’s the right thing to do. Wait for it…in November of 2020, the Department of Human Services, a separate Department from the Department of Human Resources, launched a series of diversity, equity, and inclusion listening services.

I don’t know where the budget was approved for that. I don’t think there was any budget for that. In which nearly 300 employees attended to share their feedback and thoughts. In addition to the subset of the population who attended, 186 employees also participated in an optional session survey after each listening session. Here’s what this resulted in.

There’s a need for additional diversity, equity, and inclusion training, said the employees at the Department of Human Services, following the lead of the recommendation not approved by anybody or any budget, but instigated by the Department of Human Resources. They want to focus on inclusive language in the workplace.

They need more opportunities for listening sessions, education on listening skills, more diverse recruitment teams, more advocacy to diversify teams, and more community outreach efforts. Now, this program has been implemented, according to this document across the state of Tennessee, without the knowledge, apparently, of anyone in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Ogles: Well, again, I can see how the General Assembly would be unaware of some of the things that are happening in government buildings because they’re part-time legislators. Obviously, there should have been some disclosure during the budget sessions, but I go back. You said 300 and 186 participated. So almost 500 employees participated.

Leahy: 300 participated and were in the listening session. This is just in the Department of Human Service. One of a dozen or so departments. And then 186 and filled out surveys after that participation.

Ogles: We’ve got hundreds of employees that participated in this and you’re telling me that somehow someway this didn’t get back to the governor.

Leahy: I’m not telling you that. I’m just saying it happened. It didn’t get back to the Tennessee General Assembly.

Ogles: And so, again, my question is, where are the governor’s people engaging with his respective departments? I mean, you have over 300 employees that are participating in that and someone didn’t call in? This is ridiculous.

Leahy: That was back in November by the way.

Ogles: How about you have fewer meetings with Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and focus on the business of Tennessee. I’m really troubled by this. This is, again, emblematic of what’s been going on with this ‘third-row commissioner’ in about six months with this administration.

Leahy: So the other rogue commissioner, Penny Schwinn who did this debacle of the well-being checks, that was her idea. They stepped back and stopped that. Who was the other one?

Ogles: So the other one and not a lot about this has been discussed in the media, but you have the former Commissioner of Veterans Affairs who had to resign from office due to a scandal within that department.

Leahy: A scandal?

Ogles: That’s right.

Listen to the second hour here:

– – –

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









All-Star Panelist Roger Simon on Federal Bribe Money to Implement Critical Race Theory in State K-12 Public Schools

All-Star Panelist Roger Simon on Federal Bribe Money to Implement Critical Race Theory in State K-12 Public Schools


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 Senior Editor-At-Large at The Epoch Times Roger Simon to the studio to discuss his recent article suggesting Donald Trump 2.0 become the education president and questioned whether or not Tennessee will stop the federal bribe money encouraging critical race theory in the K-12 public schools.

Leahy: We are joined in studio by the newest all-star panelist for The Tenessee Star Report, my former boss at PJTV, and also an editor at large for The Epoch Times, the fastest-growing newspaper and website in America, Roger Simon. Roger, we’re talking about education. Our lead story at The Tennessee Star. Williamson County School System Officials Deny They Are Pushing Critical Race Theory, Critics Call it Marxist. You have a terrific column at The Epoch Times. You suggest that Donald Trump 2 0 should be the education president.

Simon: Yes. Principally to fight this stuff, to get rid of it, because it’s almost a cancer on our country. I mean, I hate to be so grim because when I come here in the morning…

Leahy: Yeah, but, Roger, you’re being honest.

Simon: I’m being honest and truth of the matter, as Michael and I have discussed here in the morning and drive time, we should be a little bit upbeat.

Leahy: We should be. We try to be, but we have to be honest.

Simon: Exactly. And this is a red line for anybody. Because imagine trying to teach a six-year-old the most important thing about his or her life is skin color.

Leahy: It’s crazy.

Simon: That’s what critical race theory is all about. It’s about the subversion of the United States because it’s a replacement for the old Marxist line of class struggle. It didn’t work. So some eggheads in Europe decided oh, well, let’s make it about race now which is actually, in my view, worse.

Leahy: It’s all about race from the Democrats. It looks like the Democrats at every level, with help from mainstream media and Big Tech, are trying to create a race war in America. That’s what it looks like to me.

Simon: Well, they’re doing it. They’re not trying and in part succeeding. The fact that critical race theory is now and, you know, it’s in our schools and it’s in our schools because the Department of Education puts funding on it. Hello, Governor Lee. Don’t take their money. This is a bribe. The states are being bribed to teach this stuff. It’s a pretty scary thing.

That’s why I’m recommending in the article that if there’s a Trump 2.0 or a DeSantis 1.0, that the first thing they do is change the Department of Education, which maybe should be obliterated altogether. But you’ve got to make a transition and take someone like the great Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College and come in there and right the ship. Then you can destroy.

Leahy: Great minds think alike, Roger, because tomorrow morning at six o’clock on this very program, Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, will be our guest to talk about these things.

Simon: Well, I’ll have to get up early. I know Larry pretty well, but I have to get up early to listen to that one because he’s a great person. When you talk about a great American, he’s a great American.

Leahy: So you were talking about the nefarious Department of Education becoming even more nefarious under the Biden-Harris maladministration. There is a regulation now being considered by the Department of Education, and they’re promulgating it. Meaning they’re getting comments on it before they finalize it. And they’re jamming this thing down. What they’re doing is they are going to make available to teachers around the country grants to teach critical race theory and be the false tenants of the discredited 1619 Project from The New York Times.

Simon: Yep.

Leahy: Money is coming to Tennessee teachers. Now, having said that, your point is…

Simon: Don’t take it.

Leahy: Governor Lee should lead the way.

Simon: He’s the one who has to do it. I know he’s probably suffering somewhere with DeSantis envy. (Leahy laughs)

Leahy: Hold on, DeSantis envy? Did you just coin that phrase right now?

Simon: Just this second yes.

Leahy: I love that phrase. And apparently every Republican potential national figure apparently now has DeSantis envy.

Simon: Well, they should. He’s shown himself to be the guy, but it’s not so hard to do what he’s doing. And all you have to have is little guts. And just remember the famous phrase of H.L. Mencken the journalist from Baltimore years ago. “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.” And that’s what’s going on here, as you just said. They’re presenting the states with bribes, essentially, to teach this pollution.

Leahy: And directly the money under this regulation, which I expect will be approved. They’re just going through the motions on these commentaries.

Simon: They put up a phony thing like that, and then they do it.

Leahy: So my guess is within the next 60 days, the Department of Education will announce the availability of grants to teach critical race theory and the 1619 Project. The premise of the 1619 Project, discredited, by the way, by all real historians, is that America was based upon slavery from the very beginning.

Simon: It was even walked back eventually by The New York Times, where it was first published. And The New York Times doesn’t walk back much of this stuff anyway.

Leahy: So what’s going to happen is we’re at the end of April, probably in July of this year the Department of Education will send out a missive to every public school district in America, including 145 of them here in Tennessee. And every teacher of government, history, and civics, and even math and other areas will be allowed to apply for grants that will enable them to have materials to teach critical race theory. And the 1619 Project. What is the state of Tennessee doing right now to stop that, Roger?

Simon: Well, we don’t know. I mean, it’s sitting in the lap of the governor, and I think and of course, the legislature. I think every single one and we have to watch everybody because everybody depends on this. If this stuff goes through across the country and in Tennessee is the last place that it goes through. The electorate here in Tennessee is more to the right than it is in Florida and yet and DeSantis has already put a blockade against this.

Leahy: Yes, he has.

Simon: He made a statement.

Leahy: We are not teaching critical race theory in Florida’s K-12 public schools.

Simon: A high percentage of the people are listening to this now like a parent and or grandparents or whatever. And everybody has a stake in this. This is not minor. This is not one of those things where you shrug it off and they say oh global warming, they’re making me buy an electric car. Well, this is the brain.

Leahy: Our reporter who’s covered this, Chris Butler, has put numerous requests for comment about the actions Governor Lee will take to stop the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 public schools in Tennessee. And the only line that I’ve stolen from a good friend, Howie Carr, in Boston, the Boston radio talk show king. When the phone didn’t ring, we knew it was Governor Bill Lee. (Laughter)

Simon: Well, that’s a pretty tough line. But, you know, he has an opportunity to show that, I mean, look, it’s going to be remembered. This is something that is not going to be forgotten because it’s going to be in the schools come the next primary.

Leahy: We’ve talked to several state legislators, and they are putting something together. I don’t know if they will have it together in a timely manner before the Tennesse General Assembly adjourns this session. Probably by next Friday.

Simon: Ding, ding, ding. This is an emergency more than most things.

Leahy: I think every listener to this program, Roger, would agree with you that stopping the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 public schools right now in Tennessee is an emergency. And we’ll see if the governor and the legislature are up to the task on that one.

Listen to the full broadcast here:

– – –

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.







Sr. Advisor to Governor Lee John DeBerry Talks Top Agenda Items and Establishing a Rapport with Washington D.C.

Sr. Advisor to Governor Lee John DeBerry Talks Top Agenda Items and Establishing a Rapport with Washington D.C.


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 newly appointed sr. advisor to Governor Bill Lee and former Tennessee State Democratic Representative John DeBerry to the newsmakers line to discuss his pastorship, cabinet role, and agenda moving forward for the state of Tennessee.

Leahy: We are joined now by our good friend, former state Representative John DeBerry who is currently serving as a senior adviser to Governor Bill Lee. Good morning Mr. DeBerry!

DeBerry: Good morning, sir. How are you doing?

Leahy: I am great. Hey, I have a question for you. You are still a preacher at Coleman Avenue Church of Christ in Memphis is that correct?

DeBerry: Yes, sir. Every Sunday.

Leahy: I’ve got to come down and listen to your sermon sometime. Our family’s Church of Christ. I converted to it. My wife was a Church of Christ, and I saw the light and converted before we got married. But how big is your congregation down there?

DeBerry: Well, we are a small congregation. We are usually somewhere between 225. But now, since COVID we have maybe about 150 who are in the building and then many others who are still online.

Leahy: Are you seeing the beginning of an uptick in in-person attendance on Sunday services?

DeBerry: Oh, yeah. It gets better a little bit each Sunday. We have a building that’s large enough to separate everybody and folks feel comfortable. And I think that there has been fatigue over COVID for the last year. And I think the people are ready to get back in person and to be around each other again. And I’m looking forward to becoming more and more increased each week.

Leahy: What time are your services down there?

DeBerry: Our services begin at nine o’clock.

Leahy: Okay. I’m going to come down in the next couple of months. I’m going to come down and listen to your sermon someday because I need help. (Laughs)

DeBerry: I would love to have you and you can say something to the congregation while you’re there.

Leahy: I’ll just say hello and the preacher is a great guy. (DeBerry chuckles) That’s what I’ll say. So you have served in the State House from 1995 until just this recent election. And you are now a senior adviser to Governor Bill. Tell us what that’s like.

DeBerry: Well, it’s very different when you’re a legislator. Of course, you have a legislative agenda and you have your own staff and you have a district, and you have the concerns of that one particular district as well as others who call on you. And you’re kind of a lone ranger dealing with the problems that are brought to you by the folks of your district and your legislative agenda for that particular year.

Being an advisor and on the governor’s cabinet and staff, we are working with the governor’s agenda. The things the governor wants to accomplish. The bills he wants to get passed. The laws that he wants to either strengthen or having enacted. And you’re basically working to support the legislative agenda and to help take care of all the people of the state of Tennessee. And it’s very different, but it’s also very rewarding.

Leahy: Do you like this job as a senior advisor? And is it easier or harder than your job as a state representative?

DeBerry: Well, it’s very different. As I said, you are supporting the governor and working with the governor. So it’s different. I love the job in that it allows me to deal with a lot of different problems that maybe I didn’t think about as a legislator. Being a legislator was very rewarding. But I like this job because I like this governor, and I enjoy working with him.

Leahy: What are the big surprises that you found issues in your new job as a senior adviser to Governor Lee?

DeBerry: One of the things that I think is very surprising is how many issues that we have to deal with. And you have to deal with the federal government. And now that there’s a new administration there are different challenges as you deal with Washington, D.C. You have to deal with all the mayors in the various cities.

You have to deal with the superintendents of the various school districts. So the problem, as are many and they are diverse and they come from all over the state and all over the country because the state of Tennessee is a very popular state. We are very prosperous state, a very well run state. And so we reach out all over the country and all over the world. And so you just have a lot of different issues coming from so many different directions.

Leahy: Who’s easier to deal with? The Biden administration, the county mayors, or the county superintendents?

DeBerry: Well, I think the local people are always easier to deal with because they’re very specific in what they need. They’re very sincere about what they are asking the state to do. And usually most of the people of the state of Tennessee we are a very proud people. And folks that work hard. They volunteer, which is what our motto is.

And I think that when the people of the state, the mayors, the superintendents, and the county legislators when they ask for something, it’s because they really need it. And most of them are willing to work with the state government and work with the governor. The Washington agenda is totally different. And especially now with a different administration, it’s not the same place that it’s ever been. The country is is changing. The administration has changed. And I think that there are challenges in dealing with Washington right now.

Leahy: Can you give us an example of dealing with a Biden administration and any issue? Just pick any one that’s gone well, poorly, or could be improved.

DeBerry: Well, I think that right now education is a big issue. There’s a tremendous amount of money that’s coming from Washington as far as education is concerned. But we also have issues when you start looking at this, you have to look at the population of our school. We have more immigrants that are coming in. There are challenges with many of the immigrants that are coming in. You have undocumented minors who are coming in and that’s going to put a tremendous strain upon our school systems.

So I think that the education issue is one that is going to be challenging. But right now, with a new administration, you really can’t tell how they’re going to go on something. So it’s still a learning experience in dealing with the Biden administration as to how they’re going to conduct themselves on various issues now that they are there. They’re new so we are kind of standing by to see what happens on a lot of issues.

Leahy: So when you call somebody in the Biden administration at whatever level they are, do they return your calls? Are they nice or do they like you have to chase them?

DeBerry: Well, we have our COO, Brandon Gibson. We have Blake, who is the governor’s chief of staff. Lang Wiseman, who is the deputy governor, and the governor’s legal individual. They will contact Washington on a constant basis. And I think that right now because they are new because the people that they’re dealing with that had dealt with the Trump administration for four years there were relationships that had been built. There was trust that had been built.

There was comraderie. You knew who you were talking to. You had already dealt with many issues with these people. But now that there are new individuals in all of the various cabinet positions and the various secretary positions, I think that right now what’s happening is just basically building relationships and learning the rules of engagement from that particular administration right now.

Leahy: Now that’s spoken like a very kind person who’s giving the benefit of the doubt to the federal administration. (DeBerry chuckles) You’re laughing. You know what I’m talking about, aren’t you? (Laughter)

DeBerry: I know what you are talking about.

Leahy: Mr. DeBerry, what do you think is going to be the biggest issue that you’re going to be dealing with over the next several months?

DeBerry: I think that we’re going to have to deal with getting the state back in business and getting the state open. The governor is working every day to get the state back open, to get businesses open, to get people out, spending money, to get folks hired at jobs, to get the churches back open, and to get the schools back in person. These are the things that he wrestled with every day. We pray over it. We meet about it.

And I think until we get the state of Tennessee open for business, Nashville and Memphis and Knoxville and Johnson City and Jackson and all of these various places, until we can get people confident to come out of their homes to work in their businesses, we’ve got to get people minds away from waiting on a stimulus check to getting back in line and becoming gainfully employed. We’re having a hard time finding people who want to work right now.

Listen to the full third hour here:

– – –

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







Tennessee State Senator Paul Bailey Discusses Upcoming Special and Legislative Session in the General Assembly

Tennessee State Senator Paul Bailey Discusses Upcoming Special and Legislative Session in the General Assembly


Live from Music Row Wednesday 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 TN (R) Senator Paul Bailey to the newsmakers line.

At the top of the second hour, Bailey discussed plans for the upcoming special session which would revisit education options for students and offering a potential summer session while managing budget expectations. He also outlined plans for TennCare and Medicaid ensuring that people currently served would not suffer any reduction in services.

Leahy: We are joined now by State Senator Paul Bailey who is the chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Welcome, Senator Bailey.

Bailey: Well, thank you very much for having me this morning Michael Patrick.

Leahy: Well, we’re delighted to have you on here Senator Bailey. And I just have to say your official portrait at the Tennessee General Assembly is just is fantastic. (Bailey chuckles) You’ve got a cowboy hat on and you just you know, you look great. (Chuckles)

Bailey: Well, thank you. You know most people know back in the district that that my family and I we ride and show quarter horses. So I just thought it would be kind of a different look and I’d stand out above all the rest if I had my cowboy hat on in my official state photo.

Leahy: Well, officially we like the look Senator Bailey. So that’s great.

Bailey: Well thank you.

Leahy: That’s a good move on your part. So that as Chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee you have a very important job in the state senate. And there are only 33 members of the state senate. I think what is it this time? Is it 27 Republicans and six Democrats this time I think?

Bailey: Yes, sir. That is correct. We did lose a member from Davidson County. Steve Dickerson a Republican member so that moved our number from 28 down to 27.

Leahy: So the General Assembly convened yesterday and I guess this week it’s mostly an organizational activity going on. And then next Tuesday you will convene in a special session to deal with education issues do I have that right?

Bailey: Yes, you do. Now, let me say this week we’re also going to tackle passing a resolution to accept a block grant offer from CMS in regards to TennCare. Back in 2019, I carried legislation sent to CMS to revitalize their TennCare system through a block grant. We were the first state in the nation to actually apply for the block grant.

The Trump administration is offering this to us. And so we are trying to get a resolution passed by the end of this week. So we may go through into Friday to get this done. So everyone knows that unfortunately, Trump’s going to be leaving on the 20th. So we have to have this resubmitted to his administration to Seema Verma who is the CMS director for approval and that’s huge news for the state of Tennessee.

Leahy: And it looks like a little curveball has been thrown it seems to me. Again I’m just reading the news and perhaps get your reaction to this. So Jim Cooper the representative from the Nashville area in the House of Representatives apparently has sent a letter calling on President-elect Biden to cancel this block grant. Have you seen that?

Bailey: Yes, I have heard that. And so here’s the thing. Tennessee’s current TennCare waiver and Medicaid waiver is due to renew on June 30 of this year in 2021. We will be negotiating with CMS for a new waiver regardless. So this is a new innovative idea that we work with Senator Alexander’s office. We work with the TennCare folks. We work with a whole host of people putting this block grant together.

If we’re allowed to do this, there’s absolutely no reduction of people currently served. And that’s one of the things that Jim Cooper and some of my Democratic colleagues will tell you that we’re going to throw people off. That’s absolutely not true. There’s no reduction in people served. There’s no reduction in benefits. There’s no reduction in provider rates. And there’s no reduction to the quality of care that they’ll get.

The idea behind the block grant is it’ll give us the ability to actually address broad. It’ll also give us the ability to restructure benefit packages to better cover the people that we currently serve. And also revitalize the pharmacy program. But here’s the big thing in this Michael Patrick. We will be able to share 50 percent in the savings that we’ve been sending back to Washington without another Tennessee taxpayer dollar being spent.

And when I say that there’s currently a budget neutrality cap. And we’ve been far below that within our Medicaid program for several years now. And this new block grant program will allow us to share in 50 percent of that cost savings and that’s where we’ll be able to administer a more efficient program.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: State Senator Bailey, what can we expect in the special session on education that starts next week?

Bailey: Well, basically the governor is focusing on learning laws, literacy, and also to work towards making sure local school districts and your local counties know that they will have the same budgeting formula, which is called the BEP formula to address, you know, their next upcoming school year which will be the ’21-’22 school year and teacher pay.

So what we’ve seen is that since this pandemic a lot of school districts are not doing in-person learning. We’ve seen a big decrease in our proficiency rates. And also you know our literacy of our third and fourth graders who are just not proficient in reading as they should be and math. So there’s going to be an offer for a summer program. It’ll be permissible by the state to the local school districts so if they choose to do this they can. And then of course basically focusing on teacher pay.

Leahy: So those are the two pieces of legislation you expect. When you say focusing on teacher pay, will this be an attempt to provide more pay for teachers?

Bailey: Yes, it will be.

Leahy: And then the second thing would be funding for summer programs?

Bailey: Summer programs. Exactly. And then of course the big piece is that legislators have been hearing from their school districts basically saying what do we need to expect in our BEP formula for the next school year? Because it’s all based on attendance. In-person attendance. And that’s the way Tennessee funds our school systems. And so when you’ve been and virtual learning and you’ve not actually been in attendance at the school, then school districts have gotten concerned that they are not going to be receiving the same amount of funding that they have been in previous years when students were actually doing in-person learning.

So they’re just wanting to know that they’re going to be able to receive at least the same amount of funding that they had been given in our last budget moving forward into the ’21-’22 budget because we assume that all districts should be back to in-person learning. I mean, I think that’s one of the biggest travesties that we’ve seen is these school districts have not gotten these students back in class and learning in class. And I just think that every school district in the state of Tennessee should have their students back in in-person learning.

Leahy: Senator Bailey, how long do you expect the special session to last? Then when would you go back into the regular session of the Tennessee General Assembly?

Bailey: Well again, there’s no set in date. The start date will be next Tuesday. There’s no said end date. I assume that we will finish it up by Thursday or Friday of next week. I can’t guarantee that. It could flow over into the following week. It just depends on how fast the committee system can work. It’ll be in the education committee and then it’ll move through finance and then ultimately to the floor. We may get all of this done next week because during the special session that’s the only legislation that will be being heard in committee.

And so it’ll be totally focused on that. So if they need to meet Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday through the committee process, they’ll do that and then go to the floor on Friday to vote. That’s what we’ll do. Or we may come back on Monday. But I’m assuming that it will be the same as this week and we’ll be asked to keep our calendar open for next Friday so that if we end up having to go to the floor and vote on this final proposal that’s coming out of committee system that’s what we’ll do.

Leahy: To your knowledge, has when was the last time that a General Session of the Tennessee General Assembly, a regular session was interrupted in the middle by a special session?

Bailey: When Governor Haslam was proposing expanding the Medicaid program during his second term. Which would have been about six years ago. That was the last time that I remember when we came into session that we immediately went into a special session.

Leahy: Interesting. I had forgotten about that. And how effective was that special session back then?

Bailey: Well, obviously it went on for a week and ultimately his proposal hunted make it out of the first committee and the Senate. So it was pretty much dead on arrival there. And so the session ended in about three days, I believe the special session for the Medicaid.

Leahy: Do you have an expectation that this special session will be different? And that the legislation will move forward to completion during the special session?

Bailey: Yes, I do because education is something that the legislature deals with annually. It’s a huge part of the state budget and we’re just trying to make sure that our school districts understand that they’re going to be receiving their funding for their ’21-22′ school year. We want to make sure that we’re addressing the literacy programs that the governor is proposing to the general assembly.

So I expect this to be totally different I expect that lawmakers will get in there. They’ll work through the minutiae. Which again education is minutiae to me. But they’ll work through and make sure that we have legislation that will be passed and that way it’ll give our school districts and their children and frankly their moms and dads comfort in knowing that they’ll have a good education system moving forward.

Leahy: If this had been addressed as part of the regular session of the Tennessee General Assembly whatever the past would have happened that would have taken place when typically by April as opposed to January?

Bailey: Yes, sir. And that’s the thing. So a lot of counties are working on their budget as well as the school districts. And so they’re up against a deadline. And so they’re needing to know whether or not they would have to adjust their local budgets for any reduction in state funding. So that’s another reason that we wanted to go ahead and address this early so that your local governments have some comfort there in knowing that the state is going to continue to fund our schools in a way that they needed to be funded.

Leahy: So it sounds like the governor’s thinking was are these school districts around the state having planning problems because they don’t know what the revenues are going to be. If we just address this in the regular session and they don’t find that out till April it will make the fall a lot more difficult for them to plan for it. Is that the rationale then for the special session?

Bailey: Yes sir. I think so.

Leahy: Well good. You seem to be optimistic that it will in the in a couple of weeks yield the legislation that the governor seeking?

Bailey: I think so. Obviously, this is the governor’s special session. He is going to be presenting his proposed legislation. This is not the legislators’ legislation until it comes into the committee system. And then we ultimately pass it. There will be tweaks to it. There will be you know, legislators will get in and they’ll put their fingerprints on it.

And we’ll be hearing from our local school districts as far as whether or not they think that this is a good program and what they would like to maybe see changed. I can tell you that my local school districts back in the Upper Cumberland are very optimistic about what the governor’s proposing. And they’re looking forward to seeing exactly what we pass.

Leahy: You know, I think it’s been very helpful to our listeners to explain the rationale here for this and it makes sense as you explain it in terms of the timing. One last question on education. Do you anticipate during this special session any attempt to revisit the Education Savings Account or voucher bills at all that is currently in litigation?

Bailey: Well, I’m not 100 percent sure. And I think the keyword that you’ve mentioned is the litigation and what just took place in there unfortunately in the House of Representatives this past Friday. We’re not all 100 percent sure that they were just there to raid those offices.

Listen to the full second hour here:

– – –

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