State Rep. Chris Todd from Jackson Weighs in on Court Packing, National Issues, and Etiquette as a Member of the Tennessee House
Live from Music Row Thursday 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 studio to discuss court-packing, keepnine.org, and attention to national issues that affect constituents.
Leahy: In studio with us, our good friend, State Representative Chris Todd. Chris, you’re ready for the big question?
Todd: I guess so. Been waiting on it. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: Here it comes. The big questions. The progressive Democrats in the House in the United States Senate are going crazy. They want to pack the court. They want to add four left-wing lunatic justices to the Supreme Court and make it 13 instead of nine. And my question to you is, do you think in this current session of the Tennessee General Assembly, there would be a possibility that the General Assembly in the House and the state Senate would pass a resolution strongly opposing any efforts to pack the United States Supreme Court?
Todd: I believe it’s a significant possibility. Yes.
Leahy: Terrific. That’s very good news. I think Tennessee could lead the way on this. I don’t know if other states have looked at this in terms of opposing this resolution. Have you heard of this group called Keep Nine?
Leahy: There’s a group called Keep Nine and they actually have another element to this. They are asking state legislatures to pass resolutions to support a constitutional amendment that would limit the number of justices to nine.
Todd: I think that’s a good idea as well. It’ll be a challenge to get that through. But just because of all the concerns of an Article Five that we talked about a while ago.
Leahy: Well, this wouldn’t be necessarily Article Five the resolution to ask Congress to pass that amendment and then to go to the states for ratification.
Todd: But I think the chances of Congress doing that are almost as slim as them putting limits on themselves right now.
Leahy: Now, you raise an interesting point. Let me just throw this out there. This is real time now. You just proposed a bill that would support an Article Five Amendment for the specific purpose of just looking at term limits. Would such a bill that specifically looked at an amendment to limit the Supreme Court to nine justices? Would that be a possibility?
Todd: I would say it’s a possibility. And I don’t know how strong that group is and how well funded they are, but it takes a significant effort to get the public informed and it costs money to get the public informed. You would need lobbyists in order to go to each one of these legislatures and work that kind of a bill to find a sponsor and then to get the support for it just like we’ve done with term limits. I had quite a few folks helping me on this from U.S. term limits specifically and then some local groups. So I think it’s very possible and that’s just going to take an effort. And if the people really want it, they need to put their money where their mouth is and support these groups.
Leahy: I’ll send you the link. There is a group called the Keep Nine Amendment and they are basically the local representative, actually here from Tennessee, former Attorney General Paul Summer. And he is working with this group. And they are submitting a series of resolutions that would establish an amendment to the Constitution to keep nine in the Supreme Court.
Todd: I think that’s very worthwhile.
Leahy: Keepnine.org. There’s a guy in Washington, D.C., Roman Bueller has been putting this together. You talk about lobbyists. He calls me like every two weeks. He says, Mike, Mike, are you ready to help us? I said, as you said, I think it’s a great idea. I just don’t have the time for it. I think maybe now I’m going to have the time to help. What do you think?
Todd: It’s all a matter of priorities. When we see the threat to our way of life, to the point that it motivates us, that’s when it will happen.
Leahy: Exactly. It’s keepnine org. Take a look at it. Because you just you don’t have enough to do, right?
Todd: Oh, no. I’m looking for something.
Leahy: You’re looking for some other challenges right now?
Leahy: When you go back and you talk to your fellow members of the Tennessee General Assembly most of the time, the conversation is about the bills, right?
Todd: Probably so.
Leahy: You are all narrowly focused on getting your bills. But when something like this happens, when there’s a national effort by the Progressives to pack the Supreme Court you kind of have a reaction to that, don’t you?
Todd: It gets bumped up in priority, just like with our citizens. When something reaches that level that says, okay, this is contradictory to what we’ve always done. This is a threat to what I do day in and day out, the way I raise my kids, the way my family operates, the way our country operates. Then I’m going to be motivated to do something either, to donate money, to make phone calls, to write emails, whatever it might be.
Leahy: You talk about getting things done, right. And you have to understand the committee process. We’ve talked about that quite a bit. You also have to have relationships with people, right?
Leahy: Very, very important. And are there different styles that people decide to follow when they go to the state General Assembly?
Todd: Oh, absolutely. I think most people come with their own style, just from their nature at that stage of their life. Will it change? I think somewhat. You probably change a little bit from the people that you’re around, but your basics are still the same. Your tendencies are still the same. If you’re an honest person, you’re going to stay honest. If you’re not, you’re probably going to get worse.
Leahy: I was under the impression that every single member of the Tennessee House of Representatives and the Tennessee state Senate honest as the day is long. (Chuckles)
Todd: That is a primary assumption that you should make.
Leahy: That’s my assumption.
Todd: Let them prove you different.
Leahy: But occasionally human nature being what it is people reveal themselves as perhaps not totally being people of their word.
Todd: Sometimes. That doesn’t happen all that often. But most of the time, the differences are about how you accomplish something. I find that we have the same goal. Let’s say that is to make sure that our children are brought up in a great education and are provided a good education so that they can enter the workforce and be successful.
How to get there is where we might differ on. Does that mean how we choose textbooks? Does that mean how we fund the schools? Does that mean all of these things? Do we bus them? You get all the fine details of how do we get to that end goal? But most of the time we have the same goal in mind, but it’s the method of getting there that is where we differ.
Leahy: So we’ve got about three more weeks left I think the Tennessee General Assembly.
Leahy: So then the legislative side of this job ends. What happens to a state legislature later after you’re in session? Is your job over? Or do you still have lots of stuff to do, but different kinds of stuff?
Todd: It’s just lots of stuff to do, but different kinds of stuff. Last year was quite different with COVID. Most everything was canceled. Meetings were canceled, events were canceled, but I think this year will be back to fairly 80 percent normal, which is many days of the week you’re required to be somewhere with at least a jacket on and make an appearance, make a speech or meet with a group and hear their concerns about legislation for next year or just dealing with phone calls and emails from constituents that have an unemployment issue or they can’t get broadband even though the company ran it in front of their house and had the grant to do so. A state grant that didn’t hook them up. There are just all kinds of things that we deal with. I have a person in my office that’s full-time to answer those questions.
Leahy: Back in Jackson?
Todd: Here in Nashville. A legislative assistant, but I still field a lot of that, and we bounce things off of each other about what the right path is.
Leahy: So do you have, like, just one staff member?
Leahy: Just one. in Congress. They have what, 25 staff members?
Todd: Nobody knows.
Leahy: They have quite a few up there.
Todd: And here, back in the district.
Leahy: But it’s pretty much you.
Todd: Pretty much.
Leahy: When you say that you’ve got to go, like, you have to go and make it, you don’t really have to go to thee events.
Leahy: People will introduce you and say, Hey, come on in.
Todd: It’s expected and it’s good manners. It’s expected.
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.