Leahy: In-studio with the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report and our lead political reporter at The Tennessee Star on the web at tennesseestar.com. So just a reminder, Aaron, you’re going to be covering the event tonight, the big Epoch Times 5th Congressional District Republican candidate debate.
It’s going to be downtown. You can get tickets, free tickets. Go to Eventbrite. Just plug in The Epoch Times debate. Also sponsored by Young Republicans of Nashville and the Nashville Republican Women.
Two of the major candidates are dodging the debate – Beth Harwell and retired Brigadier General Kurt Winstead. Three will be there.
Andy Ogles, mayor of Maury County. Jeff Beierlein, a former major in the army and combat veteran, and Trace Wittum, the State Senate aide.
So they’ll be there, but Winstead and Harwell will not be there. It’s going to have an unusual format. It’s going to be livestreamed across the nation by The Epoch Times, and subject matter experts, including Carol Swain on education, Gordon Chang on China, and Hans von Spakovsky on election integrity will be there.
It should be quite an interesting event. You’ll be there. You’ll be covering and reporting it. I’ll be there just observing and learning.
So there’s that. Can you give us an update on the process by which the Tennessee Supreme Court is going about identifying and making public information available about the candidates they are considering for the next attorney general of the State of Tennessee?
The constitution gives the Tennessee Supreme Court, in a very unusual way – only state in the union where it’s done – the attorney general of the state is selected by the Supreme Court, which of course is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly.
Herb Slatery, the current attorney general, said he’s not going to go for another eight-year term. We’re at July 12th. We have no idea what the Supreme Court is doing on this. Do you call them like every day? And what do they say?
Gulbransen: Crickets, that’s what they say. They say nothing. Back in May, we reached out and they said the information would be forthcoming. We spoke with their press department over at the state Supreme Court. They said the information will be forthcoming in a couple of weeks. And now we are here on July 12th and we still hear nothing.
Leahy: Crickets, this Tennessee Supreme Court, and this is an example of the constitutional flaw that we have in the Tennessee Constitution that gives one branch of government exclusively the ability to appoint a very important job in the executive branch, which really shouldn’t have anything to do with the judicial branch, the attorney general’s office.
And yet institutionally, the Tennessee Supreme Court is jealously guarding this prerogative embedded in our constitution and frankly, they’re not providing transparency to the process. Why do Tennesseans care about it?
Well, because the attorney general is an important job and the attorney general should fight aggressively for the Tenth Amendment rights of the state of Tennessee and for every Tennessee citizen against the ongoing encroachments of the national federal government.
Gulbransen: And I think that recent issues created by the Biden administration – of course, they tried to implement a nationwide vaccine mandate for people working for companies that had a hundred or more people, things like that – have put the attorney general’s role of each state in the country under an increased microscope.
So I’m also seeing an undercurrent of people who are calling for the General Assembly to hold advisory, informal hearings on the next attorney general in order to give the public a chance to sort of vet this.
Again, that would be informal and advisory. But the public and their representatives, it is very fair to wonder how the next attorney general or the applicants for that job would answer questions on federal overreach.
I would be interested since I’ve reported a lot on it. Would they take up the cause of the National Guardsmen and sue the federal government?
Leahy: Herb Slatery is not taking up their charge.
Gulbransen: No. And they won’t comment on that one either, by the way.
Leahy: Yeah, so this is all not good, and it’s lacking transparency in this instance. We’re calling for checks and balances institutionally, which are not embedded in the constitution. The Supreme Court.
The Tennessee Supreme Court is resisting that. The governor is not commenting on it. The person who is rumored to be the rubber stamp that the governor wants, who is a center-left judge and now Chief Operating Officer of the state, Brandon Gibson, is not commenting on what her philosophy is.
I have some interesting news, though, that just developed. If you look at this, Aaron, what we find is, although the Tennessee State Constitution specifies the manner by which the attorney general and reporter – only statewide, the attorney general and reporter – essentially the clerk of the Supreme Court, is that the reporter duties, the process by which that person is selected, is exclusively the province of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The duties and responsibilities of the attorney general do not lie in the Supreme Court. They are actually defined by statute; that is, by the Tennessee General Assembly.
And just as the Tennessee General Assembly provides those duties and responsibilities, it could, and might, take those duties away.
Gulbransen: So all the more reason for them to have an advisory capacity, at the very least in order to help select the next attorney general, since they can, to paraphrase what you just said, they can give it, and they can take away the responsibilities.
Leahy: Well, and they could create a new position, as was suggested here yesterday in the studio by John Harris.
The Tennessee General Assembly could remove almost all of the duties of the attorney general. They could keep the reporter’s duties to be the clerk of the Supreme Court and could create a new position.
John Harris suggested the solicitor general of the state of Tennessee. Give all the duties to represent the state of Tennessee and all the personnel could move it over to this new job, the solicitor general, and then the people would have an input into the philosophy of the person representing the interests of the state of Tennessee. That was a suggestion from John Harris.
Leahy: We are joined in-studio by the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report, Aaron Gulbransen, and a new friend, Mr. William Slater, who is a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Tennessee House of Representatives in the 35th district. Good morning, Mr. Slater.
Slater: Good morning, Michael. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Leahy: First, tell us where is the 35th district? What are the boundaries of that district?
Slater: Yes, Yeah, so the 35th district is part of Sumner County. Starts in Hendersonville, runs all the way up through Bethpage and includes all of Gallatin, and then continues on out to Trousdale County.
Leahy: Who currently represents that district?
Slater: Right now it’s Terri Lynn Weaver and it’s the 40th district. Her district has shifted east, and so now it’s the 35th district. It’s a new district. An open seat.
Leahy: Open seat. Now, who are you, and why are you running for the Tennessee House of Representatives?
Slater: I’m William Slater, and I am running because I’m passionate about education, business, and public safety. Lived in Sumner County since 1996, my wife and I met and married in Florida and moved there with our four kids 26 years ago. Love Sumner County, love Tennessee, and just excited to represent the folks of Sumner and Trousdale County.
Leahy: What is your professional background?
Slater: Education and business. I’ve been a professional educator since getting out of college in 1985.
Leahy: Where did you go to college?
Slater: I went up to a small private Christian college up just outside of Chicago.
Leahy: What’s the name of it?
Slater: Hyles-Anderson College. And then went on to the University of South Florida and then finished up here at Nashville School of Law.
Leahy: Nashville School of Law. Do you have a JD from the national law?
Slater: I do, yes. Never intended to practice law, but love education, passionate about it and wanted to teach school law, and that’s what I do. I’m at Welch College, which is a conservative Christian college in Sumner County, and I teach graduate students there.
Leahy: What courses do you teach?
Slater: I teach school law, teach special education law, and then I teach faith and ethics in education.
Leahy: Tell us about Welch College.
Slater: Welch was founded in 1942, is the Free Will Baptist Bible College here in Nashville, [originally] down on the west end in Richland Avenue area, and moved out to Summer County in 2017. And that’s when I came on board. Been there five years.
Leahy: And how many students are there at Welch College?
Slater: About 450 students, and that includes both on-campus students, which we’re the only residential campus in Sumner County. Of course, we have commuting students and then our graduate students as well.
Leahy: Is it accredited?
Leahy: Accredited college.
Slater: That’s correct.
Leahy: And are you a full professor there?
Slater: I’m a dean. One of the deans there. I’m the dean of adult and online studies. And then, as I mentioned, I teach in our graduate program. I teach in the Master of Arts in Teaching program.
Leahy: Now, tell us a little bit about your teaching background.
Slater: So I started out teaching in Christian schools and my favorite thing to teach in my teaching background is English and history. So that’s what I was trained for, and taught a lot of history, American government. And then of course, when I got to Tennessee, Tennessee history, world history, those kinds of things.
Leahy: When we come back, we’ll have more with William Slater, who’s running for the Republican nomination in the 35th district of the Tennessee House of Representatives. This is The Tennessee Star Report. I’m Michael Patrick Leahy.
Michael, a week or so ago, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling called West Virginia v. EPA. And at the time, you and I discussed that ruling and I said that that would have a more profound effect on our country in a positive way by reining in the bureaucracy of the federal government, which abuses the power that is given to it in the Constitution.
Well, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who’s now Secretary of Transportation, is ignoring that ruling, and he’s trying to implement a program – and I’m going to just quote here from The Wall Street Journal just very quickly now, the Federal Highway Administration wants to make this abuse authority on the road.
It cites an obscure provision in a federal law that authorizes it to set national performance goals for the national highway system. It’s taking this to an extreme level, which is exactly what the EPA had done.
So this will probably be struck down by the first court that it goes to, which is a good thing, because I believe that ruling, West Virginia v. EPA was written in a very clear fashion so that the judges must adhere to the constitution.
But this raises the question that I’ve been bringing up for over a year, and that is that when public officials abuse their power, and I mean abuse it, should there be accountability for them individually?
And I still raise that question because the police officer who put his knee on the neck of George Floyd, resulting in George Floyd’s death, is in prison because he abused the authority of a police officer.
My question is, can a government bureaucrat who is creating tens of millions of dollars, maybe hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions of dollars of cost to average people, is there any accountability when they break the law?
We have the Supreme court ruling, and we now see this kind of throughout the Biden administration that when the courts rule in a way that is contrary to the goals of the Biden administration, they just simply ignore the court ruling and proceed as if it didn’t happen.
We will have to come up with a way of holding officials accountable who ignore the law and then try to impose their will on the people, which costs millions or billions of dollars. So we’re going to have to do something, and we’ll see what that is.
Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed John Harris, founder of the Tennessee Firearms Association, in-studio to weigh in on the Supreme Court’s decision to throw out a century-old law that would restrict gun ownership and require special licensing.
Leahy: We are joined in-studio by the original star panelist, Crom Carmichael, and by our good friend, co-author of the Guide to the Constitution Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students, along with me. You and I and Claudia Henneberry wrote that.
Harris: Several of us.
Leahy: And by the way, it is the textbook used in the National Constitution Bee. We’re going to have another National Constitution Bee in October in Brentwood.
This will be our 6th annual. And we’ve got some kids that have won those Constitution Bees that have done great things. One of them, Cooper Moran, actually writes for The Tennessee Star now, and is about to become a first-year law student at the University of Alabama.
Leahy: On a full ride. How about that?
Harris: That’s something.
Leahy: Another one, our very first winner of the national Constitution Bee, Noah Farley, our very first winner, is about to enroll as a first-year law student at Columbia Law School. How about that?
Leahy: And we have another, Jackson Carter, who is a student at the University of Alabama running for the school board in Maury County, and I think he’s unopposed.
And then Braden Farley who won this past year got a scholarship, a full ride to Grove City College. So we’ve helped a lot of kids.
And the winner gets a $10,000 educational scholarship on that. And thanks so much for writing on the Second Amendment. You wrote a couple of chapters.
Harris: Second amendment and the 14th.
Leahy: Now let’s go back to New York State. I don’t know, I say New York State was a wonderful place to grow up, and it’s a wonderful place to get out of. Upstate New York, beautiful in the summer, cold in the winter, very nice people.
But back in the ’70s, it sort of got overtaken by the unions, and got overtaken by left-wing ideology and left-wing politicians, and the huge influence of the state government to kind of put regulations on everybody.
So the Supreme Court basically threw out this almost century-old law that would restrict who could get a gun, you had to get a special license. What was the term you used, to show good cause?
Harris: It will show good cause. It was a compelling need beyond just I want one.
Leahy: So the Supreme Court makes this decision, then they pass another law. Then the left-wing governor, who, if you can believe this, Kathy Hochul, she’s worse than Andrew Cuomo. (Harris chuckles)
Carmichael: Hard to believe.
Leahy: Hard to believe Crom, that somebody could be worse than Andrew Cuomo. She’s worse. And so they passed this law now that if you want to get a gun in New York, you got to give them all your social media passwords.
Harris: Oh, they’ve gone nuts.
Leahy: That’s nuts!
Harris: If a lower court doesn’t read that brewing decision and strike that down immediately, they didn’t read very well, what [Justice] Thomas said.
Leahy: What’s going to happen on that?
Harris: There’ll be an injunction go down almost immediately, I think, to prohibit them from enforcing that.
Leahy: But that’s the attitude, isn’t it, among the authoritarian left? Is that what we have right now?
Harris: Well, to some extent, the authoritarian middle, across the nation. One thing that came up, the TFA filed an amicus brief.
Leahy: Tennessee Firearms Association. By the way, you founded that group when?
Harris: In 1995. So I’ve been doing this 28 years.
Leahy: 1995. Wow.
Harris: It’s a part-time volunteer gig that I support through my law office.
Leahy: Basically, it’s John Harris funding the defense of the Second Amendment. A lot of friends help out.
Leahy: We do very well.
Harris: Our PAC is up to about $130,000. For a grassroots PAC, that’s pretty strong. And we’ve got some really strong financial supporters that stand up.
Leahy: Oh, good. So it’s just not you paying for everything.
Harris: Oh, no, I mean, I’ll give you an example. Lee Beaman has been a cornerstone for us when we’ve needed to work the political realm.
Leahy: Let me just stop for a moment. We all know Lee. What a great guy.
Harris: No doubt.
Leahy: He’s very successful in business and has been such a great, stalwart conservative and supporter of conservative causes in the state of Tennessee, Crom for what, 40 years?
Carmichael: At least.
Leahy: At least. And steadfast. If you’re a conservative and even if you come under fire, Lee Beaman is there to back you.
Harris: And across the spectrum. It’s not just one issue.
Leahy: And just a great person. In fact, just will say that he was the, well, back to the launch of The Tennessee Star. There were two people that stepped up and wrote checks for the first quarter of advertising when we launched The Tennessee Starin February of 2017. One of them sitting right across the table from me right now, John Harris.
Harris: In my conference room.
Leahy: In your conference room. You wrote the first check and then one hour later, Lee Beaman wrote us a check for Beaman Automotive, and at the time they owned it. That’s how we got started. Crom.
Carmichael: Well, I didn’t know that.
Harris: Kickstarting in those days.
Leahy: It’s kickstarting, and you could do it back then. And interestingly enough, we talked about The Tennessee Star, and I think for five and a half years, I think it’s very clear that The Tennessee Star’snew site combined with the radio program here we do.
And now our new video newscast, our evening news update video, that we are the only conservative news outlet in the state. And I would say that probably most members of the Tennessee General Assembly read The Tennessee Star every day and listen to The Tennessee Star Report.
And we’ve been able to succeed because a couple of conservatives in the state, Lee Beaman and John Harris gave us our start. So thank you for that, John.
Harris: I’m glad to do it then and glad to come on and support still.
Leahy: Let’s talk a little bit more about the Supreme Court, and some of these other decisions that went on.
Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed John Harris, founder of the Tennessee Firearms Association, in-studio to comment on the possibility of a violation of the national constitutional principles of separation of powers in regards to the selection of Tennessee’s state attorneys general.
Leahy: In-studio, the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael and our good friend who heads the Tennessee Firearms Association. An attorney, Vanderbilt Law School graduate John Harris.
Gentlemen, I think we have a constitutional flaw in the state constitution of Tennessee because it’s a violation of the national constitutional principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. What do I mean by that?
The process by which we select the attorney general here in the state. According to the constitution, we’re the only state that does this. The members of the judiciary, the five Supreme Court justices pick the attorney general.
The Tennessee General Assembly, which plays a vital role in everything that’s being done by the attorney general, has no say in that matter according to the constitution.
Yet, by practice, the governor’s pick – and remember, the governor appoints the Supreme Court justices – has been rubber-stamped with very little questioning about the judicial, the legislative, and the prosecutorial philosophy of the attorney general.
I think that’s a fatal flaw in our constitution. I think there is a possibility of fixing it. But John Harris, I want to talk to you a little bit about this.
The attorney general, in my view, should aggressively defend the Tenth Amendment rights of the state of Tennessee against usurpations of the federal government and the rights of individual citizens. Do you agree with that assessment of what the attorney general should do?
Harris: Oh, absolutely. That’s what you see other states do on a regular basis.
Leahy: The other states are out there. But our current attorney general, Herb Slatery, has been very weak, I think, in defending the Tenth Amendment rights of the State of Tennessee. It’s a long list.
I don’t want to go through all of them now, but it’s a very long list. I would say he’s weak. He said that he’s not going to go for another eight-year term.
The constitution says it’s an eight-year term. All the buzz is that Governor Lee wants to have the Supreme Court rubber stamp. And I use that term advisedly because that’s what they did last time when they picked Slatery.
They rubber-stamped this kind of left-wing former Judge Brandon Gibson who is now the chief operating officer of the state. But everybody says if you look at her opinions as an appellate judge, would you categorize her as left-wing?
Harris: I think I would. Left-leaning moderate at best, yeah.
Leahy: And she’s not going to be somebody who would aggressively defend the Tenth Amendment rights of the state of Tennessee or resist the usurpations of the federal government. I think we’re on a glide path right now.
I think that the Supreme Court has done a very good job in a lot of its recent decisions. My view on that. Justice Bivins is up for retention. An election on August 4th.
I know Justice Bivins and I have personally said here that I intend to vote “yes” to retain him because I think his judicial record is very strong. However, and James Madison would absolutely agree with me on this, the institution should be constrained.
The Supreme Court should not be able to pick the attorney general without the Tennessee General Assembly having a say in that. That’s my view. Your thoughts, John?
Harris: Well, if you look at the state constitution, the role of the attorney general, and the reason the court appoints it, that seat, that position, is because they are constitutionally, essentially the court’s clerk. Their job is to be the official reporter.
Leahy: In the constitution, it says, the Supreme Court shall appoint the attorney general and reporter.
Harris: And reporter.
Leahy: I think it’s the only state in the union where it’s “the attorney general and reporter.”
Harris: That’s correct. And our problem in Tennessee is our legislature, the policymakers have not really understood the constitutional role of the attorney general.
And so by statute, for two centuries now, they’ve been vesting the attorney general’s position with additional statutory authority.
Leahy: Let me just stop here for a moment. This is very interesting, because the selection of the attorney general and reporter, according to the Tennessee Constitution, is the one that we are currently bound by since 1870, but it was around since 1835 in the second constitution as well, the selection of that attorney general reporter is solely the responsibility of the Supreme Court.
Harris: Absolutely. Thank you.
Leahy: And it’s an eight-year term. However, the duties and responsibilities are not in the constitution. They’re determined by statute by the Tennessee General Assembly.
Harris: That’s correct.
Leahy: Wow. So tell us, what does that suggest to us?
Harris: There’s been talk, particularly in the conservative right, of having an elected attorney general like other states do. And if we went that route, then we would have to amend the state constitution.
Leahy: And there have been some ideas, tries. I don’t think that such an amendment to the constitution would pass, just because the process is so long, and right now it wouldn’t affect anything for the next eight years.
Right now, we have a Supreme Court that has not given us the process by which they’re going to select the next attorney general. That’s an error, I think, on their part.
They should make it transparent, and robust, and these candidates should be subjected to very lengthy hearings about their philosophy.
Harris: They should. And that could happen as early as January or February of 2023. And the reason is that because these are statutorily assigned duties, issuing attorney general’s opinions, defending the state and Tenth Amendment matters, handling the criminal appeals, all of that statutorily delegated by the General Assembly to the attorney general, they could easily create another position, call it what you want, maybe solicitor general, and they could define how that position is filled.
It could be through advice and consent. It could be through a popular election. But they could do it within a year. It could be law by next spring, and then they could simply transfer some or all of the duties.
Leahy: And the personnel that are currently in the attorney general’s office …
Harris: They could be transferred.
Leahy: The criticism of Attorney General Slatery and his predecessors is weak in defense of the Tenth Amendment rights of the state of Tennessee. And the people of Tennessee, going to see very weak.
Harris: No public accountability.
Leahy: And no public accountability.
Harris: And all of that could be easily fixed by a General Assembly that was paying attention.