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 the director of Tennessee’s Faith and Freedom Coalition Aaron Gulbransen in studio to discuss last week’s organization meeting of the Tennessee General Assembly and what to expect from the 2023 session.
Leahy: In studio, our very good friend, the state director here in Tennessee for the Faith and Freedom Coalition and formerly our lead political reporter, Aaron Gulbransen. Good morning, Aaron.
Gulbransen: Good morning. How are you?
Leahy: Well, I am curious this morning. Last week, the 113th session of the Tennessee General Assembly convened. It was an organizational meeting, and it’s sort of odd.
They hold the organizational meeting and then they take a couple of weeks’ break. Tell us what happened in that organizational meeting and what we can expect from
this session of the Tennessee General Assembly.
Gulbransen: Typically speaking, the first week or so is, as you just mentioned, organizational. What does that mean? It means the members get sworn in for the new session. The committees get appointed and convene.
The chairs get appointed. There are other leadership positions in both bodies in the House and the Senate. Then a lot of the conversations start happening that have been ongoing.
Leahy: A week ago today at noon, it convened. There were no surprises that I could see in terms of leadership. Cam Sexton is Speaker of the House. William Lamberth, the majority leader. Johnny Garrett is a majority; what do we call the Whip, I guess.
And then in the state senate, Randy McNally has been re-elected the Speaker of the Senate. And the lieutenant governor, Jack Johnson, the majority leader. I don’t see any major changes in leadership.
Gulbransen: Ferrell Hale, Speaker Pro-tem Senior Member. And then, of course, you got three deputy Speakers on the Republican side in Reeves, Stevens, and White in the Senate. I believe we’ve got a new judiciary chair if I remember right. Gardenhire.
Leahy: Todd Gardenhire, the state senator from Chattanooga. He’s an interesting fellow. I wouldn’t call him predictably conservative. There are some issues where he kind of goes to the center, but then there are other issues where he’s a pretty strong conservative.
Gulbransen: Again, I feel like I’m a broken record at this point in time our definition of conservative in this state would shock some of the others in other states. And so, by and large, we have pretty good elected officials. I was talking the other day with somebody, and people like to toss the term RINO around, who of course, a lot of them don’t even know.
Leahy: By the way, let’s just stop for a moment and say I had a discussion. I wrote a blog piece about this about 10 years ago with RINO – Republican In Name Only. As it turns out, when you use that term, what you’re really saying is a Reagan Republican in name only. Because if you look at the history of the Republican Party, go back to sort of the statist version.
Gulbransen: The Rockefeller.
Leahy: The Rockefeller, Nixon, and Herbert Hoover branch of the party. That’s one branch. And then the Coolidge, Goldwater, and Reagan, which is the limited government branch. So within the Republican Party, there’s always been this conflict.
Gulbransen: But, I mean, all I have to say is we have some you know, we will have disagreements with a lot of our elected officials in the state, but to call somebody out for a state that I used to live in, there’s nobody in the State Senate here or in the State House that’s a Tommy Norman from Virginia. Google Tommy Norman, and you’ll understand what I’m saying.
Leahy: Just give us a clue. What are you saying?
Gulbransen: If Tommy Norman, who has been the Republican leader in the State Senate in Virginia for a while; where in Tennessee, he might be a Democrat. So just think that way.
Leahy: As you’re talking here, if people want to call in 615-737-9522, go ahead.
Gulbransen: If you want to argue with me, there we go. (Laughs)
Leahy: We want to have a discussion with our friends who are listening.
Gulbransen: Of course, one of the things to pay attention to, and this is getting in the news, and it’s the subject of some disagreement. And that is what is going to happen in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade?
Leahy: Roe v. Wade. And by the way, there’s been a lot of national attention to this, and there’s a trigger law to describe what the trigger law currently is and what the proposals that may be out there now. I guess they reconvene to conduct the serious business of the Tennessee General Assembly a week from this coming Monday, January 30th. Is that right?
Gulbransen: There’ll be some sessions, there’ll be some things going on Friday.
Leahy: Some committee stuff?
Gulbransen: And leading up to the inaugural and that sort of thing. Of course, Governor Lee’s inauguration is for a second term.
Leahy: For his second term. Do you have your tux purchased yet? Are you going?
Gulbransen: I have to say, this is neither a criticism nor praise, but this seems to be an understated inaugural. I’m used to inaugurals where you have in other states, mind you, but where you have a big inauguration in the capitol city, then you have inaugural balls all over the state.
You have them in the western part of the state, the central part of the state, the eastern part of the state, and this is just one and a half days’ worth of events.
Leahy: Governor Lee is kind of understated it this time. So by the way, I’ve not received my invitation yet. (Chuckles)
Gulbransen: I am shocked. I will give a little bit of praise on this. There are a few free events. There’s one on Friday night that’s going to be at the Wild Horse Saloon, as well as there’s a prayer breakfast this upcoming Saturday morning.
Then there’s the inaugural itself, and then there’s a dinner, which I believe is $75. And then there’s the main inaugural ball after that.
Leahy: I have to say, I’m fine with a low-key inauguration. We didn’t even have much in the way of an election.
Gulbransen: That’s true.
Leahy: He didn’t have much of a challenge when he was elected to his second four-year term back in November. It was, what, 65-35 easy victory. When people talk about governor, now everybody’s looking to, well, what’s going to happen in 2026 to speculate. That’s four years away. That’s a long way away.
Gulbransen: To go back to the abortion issue, I will say it’s interesting. Basically, we call it the trigger law because it was passed several years before Roe v. Wade was overturned, and it was triggered in the event that Roe v. Wade was overturned and outlaws abortion in the state of Tennessee.
Now, there are a couple of clauses in there. One could make the argument that the life of the mother is already in there. If you read it. Some others say it’s too vague. This is one of those interesting situations where I don’t think they’ve decided what they’re going to do, if anything, yet.
I’ve had scores of conversations over the past week on this. There seems to be some movement on potentially changing the language where exceptions are listed in there and changing the affirmative defense, as they call it, a clause in the trigger law.
That’s a technical term. I encourage you to go look at it. It’s also highlighted in a number of Second Amendment-related laws. There appears to be some movement there. You have prominent leadership saying we need to do something in the House. You have prominent leadership also saying we’re dead set against it.
You have primate leadership in the Senate saying; I’m fine with the way that the legislation currently is. And then you have others saying we need to make some exceptions.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
– – –
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 “Tennessee House of Representatives” by Tennessee General Assembly. Background Photo “Tennessee Senate” by Tennessee General Assembly.
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 the influx of illegal immigration and refugees and how they receive benefits before American veterans.
(Border Patrol Agent Art Del Cueto clip plays)
Leahy: That is Art Del Cueto who works on the border there and is saying something obvious. The fact that people think, oh, it’s just on the border, they’re just having problems in the border state. And Texas to Mexico, Arizona, California not true. Those problems are coming every day to Tennessee, Andy Ogles, mayor of Maury County.
Ogles: I think the problem is that, yes, they’re coming through the southern border but then where do they go from there?
Nashville is a Mecca for illegals coming into the country, and policies that have been in place here in Tennessee are not being enforced and it has made us a magnet state for illegals.
And that’s a problem as we go forward and the notion that you can just call for hearings is preposterous. So you have a Democratically controlled Senate, you have a Democratically controlled U.S. House.
So what’s the purpose aside from just bringing hot cocoa and marshmallows, because that’s all you’re gonna get.
Leahy: And generating some video clips that mean nothing. On June 10, Governor Bill Lee and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds joined with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, in calling for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the crisis of the southern border and an ensuing flow of accompanied minors to states all around the country.
This is from a press release from Governor Lee on June 10. Well, let me just begin. Senator Chuck Grassley, he’s not the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He’s the ranking minority member because Democrats control the Senate.
They’ve got 50 Republican senators and 50 Democrat. And because of the legal but not legitimate November 2020 election, Kamala Harris, who’s not into the border yet, is the deciding vote.
That’s why we’ve got a Democrat majority in the Senate. Is there anything more useless, Andy, than begging the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on all the bad things happening at the border?
Ogles: Again, it’s a do-nothing attempt for a future campaign talking point. It really amounts to nothing. You’re not going to get anything out of this Congress. Now, that being said in 2022, I think we’re going to have a wave election.
I think it’s going to be similar to Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, where we just swept everything. I think you can see that happening and building as you have more data coming out of Arizona and Georgia elections where you have more and more illegals and refugees coming across the border, that people are fed up, they’re frustrated and they want their country back.
And then on top of that, you have critical race theory where you have now it’s in our universities, it’s in our schools. There is no poll that can be accurate going into 2022, because when you have a group like Mom’s for Liberty out of Williamson County.
A county that is affluent. And when you have affluence you have complacency that tends to set in. And you’ve got a Monday or Tuesday where you suddenly have 500 moms who haven’t been involved in politics for a very long time if they ever were.
And they are mad and they’re mad at their legislature. They’re mad at their governor, and they want this crap out of the schools. And again, it’s critical race theory, it’s immigration, and it’s the election.
There are all of these things that are stacking on top of one another. And so when you have leadership, not taking action, not truly leading, that’s what’s manifesting itself across the country.
And even here in Tennessee. And so to your point, under the governor, during the Trump administration, at a time when there were fewer refugees coming into this country, The Tennessee Star did an article talking about refugee resettlement went up. 46 percent in the state of Tennessee. So we’re now a magnet for these refugees.
Leahy: And one of the reasons is because Governor Bill Lee when he was given the opportunity to say no by President Trump. And the Tennessee General Assembly had said they filed the lawsuit back in 2015, saying we don’t want refugees resettled here because you plop them down here, and then we got to pay for their health care, their education, et cetera.
We don’t have the budget. It’s a violation of the Tenth Amendment. Neither Governor Haslam nor Governor Lee would back that lawsuit. It was thrown out of the federal district court for lack of standing because a governor wouldn’t join him.
Ogles: And what’s frustrating as a county mayor and we’ve talked about this before. We have veteran service offices in most counties across the state of Tennessee. And so you have people who come here as refugees, illegals, or whatever their status may be, and they’re immediately getting services from the state of Tennessee.
Meanwhile, I’ve got veterans who have served this country where we’ve made promises to them to take care of them, and they can’t get services. I have a disproportionate number of my veterans who have mental issues. They can’t get treatment.
Leahy: American citizens.
Ogles: That’s right.
Leahy: Who served their country in the military and who can’t get medical treatment. And yet non-citizens, illegal aliens are given everything.
Leahy: Everything. And Governor Bill Lee is there cheering that on.
Ogles: Not only that but wave the flag. He’s out there with the little orange flashlight helping the planes come on in.
Leahy: Come on in! Come on in!
Ogles: But to the point of the plane, because we become so friendly to this policy and again, we’re choosing illegals and refugees over our veterans that we now find out that you have planes landing in the middle of the night in Chattanooga and Knoxville, and God knows where else in the state of Tennessee because we’re now a pass-through for this federal program.
And I’m sick of it. And this is one of those issues where you talked about, how me being this nice Southern gentleman or whatever. And just kind of being even-keeled. This really ticks me off!
Leahy: Well, see, now, this is interesting. The nice Southern gentleman is ticked off by something, (Ogles chuckles) but for good reason. I think.
Ogles: Absolutely. It’s infuriating that we have our veterans who have served this country. I can’t get them services. I have employees every day fighting for our veterans. Meanwhile, if you come here illegally, if you ‘can get refugee status’, we give you food and we give you housing, and we give you health care, and we give you all this stuff, hey you want a phone while you’re at it? But then I’ve got veterans who aren’t getting the services that they truly need.
Leahy: Now, the other thing about this is and perhaps this is Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit and constitutional law professor in the University of Tennessee, has said often we have the worst political class in American history.
And I have to agree with him on that. When I say the political class, I mean, the decision-makers who basically are in the business of creating press releases and doing nothing except getting reelected.
Why do we not have strong, courageous leadership in this state that will stand up to the usurpers of states’ rights in the federal government? Why is that? How did we come to that mess?
Ogles: I will say that we actually do have strong leadership who’s willing to take those stands. It just happens to be the Governor of Florida.
Leahy: (Laughs) Now, that’s funny. That is funny.
Ogles: What would Ron DeSantis do? I mean, that’s the question. If you’re a governor of a red state and at the end of the day, when you wake up in the morning, you should ask yourself, what would Ron DeSantis do today? And if you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your dang job.
Leahy: That’s a really good line. I saw wasn’t there was kind of a Faith and Freedom convention recently with Ralph Reid and his group. And they do these straw polls, right? And there was a straw poll.
They apparently had governor for 2024 Republican candidate with Governor DeSantis was slightly ahead of former President Trump in that. I thought that was interesting.
Ogles: DeSantis has come out repeatedly and said he’s not running in ’24 against Trump and that he’s focused on his re-election in 2022.
Leahy: Which is the right thing to say. But really, look, if you want to look at the survival of our constitutional Republic, the most important period of time actually is not 2024. It’s the next 18 months.
What happens between now and the midterm elections and do we fix the election integrity problems and do governors’ step up and push back against the violation of immigration laws?
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.