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 Tennessee State Representative (R), Chris Todd of Jackson to the newsmakers line to discuss the recent Southern Legislative Conference and the potential of passing his resolution regarding U.S. term limits.
Leahy: We are delighted to welcome to our newsmaker line our very good friend from Jackson, State Representative Chris Todd. Good morning, Chris. How are you today?
Todd: Good morning, Michael. I’m doing wonderful. How are you guys?
Leahy: Well, we’re great. So the Tennessee State General Assembly is not in session, unlikely to come back until January. So obviously, all of you state representatives are just goofing off now and not doing any work, right? (Laughs)
Todd: Feet propped up, hands behind their head. Yes, Sir.
Leahy: (Laughs) Now, tell us what you’re really doing. You’re meeting with your constituents. You’re having meetings. You’re probably just as busy as when you were up here in session.
Todd: I would say so. We’re a citizen legislature, a part-time legislature. Most of us are back home making a living. As a matter of fact, this morning, I’m working on a bid for a project that I’m hoping to get.
So it’s a scramble. But I am in Nashville. We’ve had a Southern Legislative Conference this week. And legislators from 15 states and some other countries have gathered here for discussions about policies and experiences with different types of laws and things like that, which is eye-opening to see what other states are doing.
As you know, the states are kind of testing ground for a lot of ideas, so we can look to other states and see what their experiences are.
Leahy: I knew that you were meeting with the Southern legislatures here. Is it still in session or is it wrapping up?
Todd: We just wrapped up late last night.
Leahy: Ah ha! So what did you learn from these 14 other Southern state legislators? The state legislators from 14 other states, rather?
Todd: We met on a variety of topics. And each of us is assigned a certain committee assignment based on our interest or our service and the legislature now.
And so I sat in on a couple of agricultural committees that I sit on, and then I also went to some energy and environment committees. I got information out of both of those.
One interesting thing that I found in the energy sector, TBA a presentation along with some other folks, about the comparison with the renewable energy and the issues that we had in Texas earlier this year with the bad weather, and how their system was down for a while, and how close that was to a huge disaster.
I’m talking about millions of people. Twenty-something million people possibly being out of power for a month or more. They were very, very close to that.
Todd: Because of the way their mix is and the way their grid is set up. And so TBA was talking about the things that they had done for so long to make sure that never happens.
They have resiliency built-in redundancy, built-in for all kinds of things. And then another thing I was curious about is getting away from coal.
They’ve primarily been doing that for a different reason than what I thought. They’ve really been doing that because of the age of their coal generators.
They have long outdone their useful life. They have been basically converting those over to either gas or something else or closing them altogether.
Even then, they’re re-utilizing that property for other things. So it’s really neat to see the long-range plan they have and how well thought out it is versus assuming what they may be doing.
Leahy: Here’s a big question. Were state legislators from Texas among those 15 other state legislators from those 15 Southern states at this event?
Todd: Absolutely. Yes, sir.
Leahy: Now, the big question is, (Chuckles) how many of them were Democrats?
Todd: That I do not know. I didn’t get into parties. I didn’t get to discuss with people what party they are in. So I don’t know. Generally, this group tends to be a little more conservative.
It’s right in the middle, from what I’m understanding. This is the first conference I’ve ever attended with this group.
Leahy: Well, what’s interesting is, of course, the big news was on Monday, 67 House Democrats from the Texas House of Representatives during their special session decided to travel and flee the state of Texas to go to Washington, D.C. on privately chartered jets because they did not want to conduct the business of the state and didn’t want to address election integrity bills.
Was there any discussion there about the propriety of fleeing your state during the session of the state legislature?
Todd: I did not hear anything about that. On a shuttle yesterday I think someone mentioned it to me and we briefly discussed it.
In Tennessee, we have a law where they can be physically brought back by law enforcement. I don’t know what they have in Texas, but they may have to exercise something like that.
Leahy: The governor said, when you come back in the state, we’re going to arrest you. (Chuckles)
Todd: Yeah. (Chuckles)
Leahy: To me, it’s very childish, I think, to do it that way.
Leahy: Isn’t the purpose of a state legislature to gather and convene and debate and discuss?
Todd: Absolutely. I think they’re shirking their responsibilities to play like that. It’s a strange tactic.
Leahy: We had Glenn Jacobs, mayor of Knox County, on. He’s the chairman of the Tennessee U.S. Term Limits group. And you are the sponsor of the resolution to introduce term limits to federal legislators that you got through the House last year.
It’s going to come to the Senate this year. What are the prospects for it?
Todd: I think very good prospects. I think our citizens need to let their senators know what their feelings are about it. I still hear almost weekly how folks are excited about this.
They really want to see that. And most don’t get into the details about what type of terms but they need the process to start.
They see the problem in Washington, D.C., how they have over the years become a non-citizen legislature – Not actually non-citizen.
Leahy: But a professional class.
Todd: A very professional class. They are career politicians. They just have to be. That’s the nature of that game. And it’s unfortunate because I think what we have as a part-time legislature is the model that our founders set up.
They went home. George Washington went home and went back to the farm for a period of time every year. And I think that’s what it’s supposed to be.
We have to stay in touch with the people and stay grounded in our principles, or things go awry.
Leahy: Yeah, I agree. You know what? Just as an aside, I see every state that has a full-time state legislature, the big states, appear to have out-of-control budgets.
I’m in favor of the part-time state citizen legislators. And by the way, you’re out there making a living. You’ve got a bid for a contract. I wish you good luck. And I hope you win that bid.
Todd: Well, thank you, sir. I appreciate you very much.
Leahy: State Representative Chris Todd, thanks so much for joining us today.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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