State Senator Jack Johnson Describes the Job of Majority Leader in Tennessee Senate and Upcoming Agenda

State Senator Jack Johnson Describes the Job of Majority Leader in Tennessee Senate and Upcoming Agenda

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 State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) in the studio to describe the Senate majority duties, relationships, and upcoming agenda in the Tennessee Senate.

Leahy: In the studio, our very good friend Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, who represents most of Williamson County. Doesn’t have a challenger, so he’ll be re-elected five days from today on November 8.

Jack, tell us a little bit about the job of a state senator as a majority leader. What do you do? What’s your relationship with the President of the Senate, Randy McNally, who is also a lieutenant governor, the way it works here, and how do you relate to your other Republican colleagues?

There are 27 Republicans and 6 Democrats. How do you relate to the Democrats? What’s the job of being a majority leader in the state Senate?

Johnson: Sure. You hit the nail on the head. First of all, our leadership structure, the Speaker of the Senate, who is our lieutenant governor, Randy McNally, who is a great friend and a wonderful mentor to me and others in the Senate, he’s our longest-serving member.

He’s forgotten more about state government than most of us will ever know, I’ll say that. So we’re very lucky and fortunate to have him where he is.

And then you have the majority leader or the Republican leader, and that’s because the Republican Party is the majority party. That makes me the majority leader. Jeff Yarborough from right here in Nashville is the Democratic leader, and he’s the minority leader.

So my job is to work with my colleagues and focus more on the policy side of things. We have our caucus chairman who’s also in leadership, Ken Yager. He’s kind of more focused on the political side of things, working with our members, and so forth.

I focus a lot on policy, be it the governor’s agenda. And when Governor Lee has a legislative initiative, I’m the Senate sponsor of that legislation, and I work with my colleagues to try to get that advanced. It’s also my job to tell the governor when I don’t think we’re going to be amenable to something that he proposes.

Leahy: So the perception is that when there’s an agenda for the governor, his team and he developed an agenda item, a series of bills they want to introduce, but he doesn’t just go out and introduce them. He talks to you. He talks to Lieutenant Governor McNally. He talks to Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton.

Johnson: Absolutely.

Leahy: And basically he says, will this thing fly?

Johnson: Exactly.

Leahy: Are there times when you say, love you, Governor, but this thing, I don’t think it’s going to fly?

Johnson: Well, obviously, the governor is a great friend, and we’re both – I would consider us both very conservative Republicans, and so we agree most of the time, but certainly there are times that we don’t agree, or maybe I agree with him.

But I go back and talk to my colleagues, and we use the term “I feel a cool breeze blowing” on a particular idea. So it’s equally my job to go back to the governor and say, hey, what you’re proposing, Governor, I don’t think we can get across the finish line.

Or, maybe suggest changes or say, I think if we approach it from this angle, I think we can get there. But obviously when it comes to things he’s proposed, like the Heartbeat Bill and tax cuts and things like that, most of the things the Governor’s proposed find broad support.

But yes, it’s a two-way street. It’s to be supportive of his agenda when I can be and my colleagues can be, but also to work with him when maybe we’re not on the same page.

Leahy: Now, the other part about this that’s sort of interesting is, back to the constitution of the state of Tennessee. Just structurally, the Tennessee General Assembly, that is, the Tennessee State Senate and the Tennessee House, have a lot of power in the state. And to me, as I read it, it’s because you can override a veto of the Governor with just a majority vote in both Houses. Is that right?

Johnson: That is correct. That is correct. Unlike the federal government where it takes a two-thirds vote of both chambers to override a presidential veto. So it very rarely happens because very rarely in our history has either party had a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

But you’re right, and I’ll give you an example. We had legislation back during the Bredesen administration relative to the ability of a carry permit holder for carrying a weapon, to be able to take that into a restaurant that served alcohol.

And that was illegal and we said it shouldn’t be illegal. Now, it’s illegal to consume alcohol while you’re carrying a weapon, but if you want to go and have iced tea and some chicken fingers and the restaurant doesn’t care, you should be able to take your weapon in.

Governor Bredesen vetoed that legislation and then we overrode his veto. It doesn’t happen a lot, but I will say Governor Lee in his entire first term did not veto a single bill passed by the general assembly.

Leahy: But it’s a power.

Johnson: Exactly.

Leahy: And in the state of Tennessee, if the leadership of the state Senate is aligned with the leadership of the Tennessee House, that is a very powerful combination. And what I’ve seen is extraordinary cooperation between Lieutenant Governor McNally, the president of the state senate, and Speaker Cam Sexton.

Johnson: Yes.

Leahy: It seems to me that ideologically the Senate and the House are very closely aligned in ways that perhaps previously in Tennessee state history didn’t happen.

Johnson: Absolutely. And it’s not lost on me or my colleagues. We are in this incredible situation right now as a state, and with that, I think, comes tremendous responsibility because we have these supermajorities.

We are very closely aligned. We have some really incredible men and women serving in both the House and the Senate. And that’s one reason our state is in the incredible condition that it’s in right now is that we’ve been able to work together now, I would say, and it’s not going to happen.

But can you imagine being a Democrat governor with these supermajority Republican legislatures, both the Senate and the House, with everything that you said, our ability to override vetoes with a simple majority.

Leahy: Let me just say, let me paraphrase something that Barack Obama said. On the other hand, in that circumstance, if there were a Democrat governor, the Tennessee General Assembly would say something like this governor, we have a veto pen and we’re not afraid to use it. (Laughter)

Johnson: That’s right. We have a phone and a pen and we’re not afraid to use either one.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Jack Johnson” by Senator Jack Johnson. Background Photo “Tennessee State Capitol” by Andre Porter. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Guest Hosts Grant Henry and Ben Cunningham Discuss the Need for Tennessee General Assembly Special Session

Guest Hosts Grant Henry and Ben Cunningham Discuss the Need for Tennessee General Assembly Special Session


Live from Music Row Friday 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 hosts Grant Henry and Ben Cunningham talk in studio about the need for a special session in the Tennessee General Assembly and for Lt. Governor Randy McNally to identify the momentum.

Henry: My name is Grant Henry. Enunciation for those in the know Ben Cunningham. I work for an organization called American’s for Prosperity. Ben’s over there. He’s just like anything and everything and uncomparable. You probably know him from the Nashville Tea Party.

Cunningham: Wow. What an introduction.

Henry: I tried my best on that one. (Laughter) I’ll give you $5 for that one. It’s great to be here. It’s fun to sit in when Michael is gone and rant and rave. There’s so much going on, you teether between total depression and slight optimism these days. But we’ve got a fight.

And there are so many good fighters out there to inspire us. I was reading an article yesterday about people standing up. Molly Hemmingway who is with The Federalist.

But she’s one of these people who is fearless. And we’ve just got to all be like Molly, basically, and stand up and fight for these basic values. And that’s what people were doing yesterday at the Capitol.

Henry: Here’s one of the headlines coming from The Tennessee Star. By the way, The Tennessee Star has some of the best reporting in the state as far as I’m concerned.

Chris Butler and Laura Baigert out there doing some incredible things amongst many others at The Tennessee Star. Here’s the headline. Angry Tennessee Residents Burden by Covid 19 Policies Rally for Special Legislative Session Without Delay.

I know you were streaming this on the Nashville Tea Party page. I streamed it on my old talk radio page Real News. Here’s the first paragraph.

There were hundreds of Tennesse and said their displeasure with COVID-19 mandates has intensified, and it’s time for Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally to relent and allow a special legislative session so that the state can fight back.

Now, I know a few other senators maybe like Senator Roberts in particular, I believe. I know he wrote a letter calling for a special session saying that he would like to see these six things that he outlined in a special session.

I think there are 70 House members in the state, don’t quote me on this number. There are 70 some in the House that have signed. And dozens of others, maybe 15-17 in the Senate that have signed on.

Cunningham: The House is ready to go, It looks like.

Henry: And Senator Robert says that he wants to see the following things addressed if and when a special session has opened up. One prohibiting mass mandates in public building schools and universities. Two recognizing acquired immunity or immunity from nobody satisfying vaccine mandates.

Three prohibiting Bridgestone Arena and other venues receiving government funds from implementing vaccine requirements, mask mandates, or segregating attendees according to vaccine status.

Four, placing the county health departments of these six counties under the direct oversight of the General Assembly. Five challenging federal overreach exercises by President Joe Biden related to these vaccine mandates.

And six and finally requiring executive orders issued during a state of emergency lasting over 90 days to be reviewed by a joint committee.

But quickly before I kick it to you, Ben, I did find an interesting that Chris Butler in that first paragraph touched on how it’s time for Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally to relent. You think it’s all hinging on him, as they say?

Cunningham: I think he’s the kind of the figurehead of the roadblock at this point. But Randy McNally is a good guy. And I think any politician, you can lower their threshold of action by rising up and saying, this is what we want.

And it’s extremely impressive to me that so many members of the House have already said that. They have stepped out publicly. They are willing to say, we need to have a special session.

And a special session like you were saying there, it’s not just Randy McNally who came out with a press release and said, hey, we’ll fight the Biden administration through the DAs and the legal avenues. But this is also about state issues.

This is not just about federal issues. If it was just about federal issues, I would say that he has a point. But I don’t think he has a point because lawmakers want to address the state, like Bridgestone Arena and perhaps the governor’s emergency powers.

There are all kinds of things that we need to talk about, and it’s going to take a few days to talk about this to sort it out. And I think that’s what these legislators want, and I’m certainly in favor of it. And I would like to see them come together.

This is the top issue for Tennesseeans right now. I don’t know if there’s any question about it. And we expect our legislators to respond when people say, hey, you need to come to Nashville.

As our representatives, you need to sit down, develop a consensus like the Supreme Court says and many of the justices say. We can’t decide on everything. It’s up to the legislative bodies to be deliberative and develop a consensus.

That’s what legislation and legislating are all about. And that’s driven by the people. And that’s why the rally yesterday was so important. And people who are opposed to the special session right now like Randy McNally can be convinced if enough people rise up and enough senators rise up and say, we want to a special session.

I don’t think it’s a question that Randy McNally would come around and say, okay. Hey, I see this huge groundswell of momentum basically building for this special session, and I think he would probably relent if he did see that wave of support.

Henry: I found it interesting yesterday, Senator Janice Bowling, again, I’d highly recommend you go watch the live stream on somebody’s account to see the legislators that were there, what they said, and the addresses they gave.

But Senator Janice Bowling, in particular, made the remark that if the Tennessee General Assembly calls for a special session, there are no restrictions upon what they can and cannot consider while they’re in that special session.

And I don’t presume to understand all the mechanics behind how this works. So take what I’m saying with a bit of a grain of salt. But if the General Assembly calls for one, they can kind of consider anything and everything on the table.

Conversely, if Governor Lee were to call for one, it’s limited exclusively to the things that Governor Lee calls for. And I find that interesting because I know there have been several talking points or push back about this idea of Joe Biden coming out with these vaccine mandates.

And they’re ridiculous. And in my personal opinion, the disgusting nature of some of the things that he’s doing withholding these antibody treatments. We’ll get into more of that later, right?

Cunningham: That’s maddening.

Henry: But at a practical level in the state, I do wonder here what can be done with e of the vaccine mandate stuff. And I also wonder, so much of this deals with the schools, Ben.

I want to get into this more in the show, but I’d love to know your thoughts on if we call for a special session, what can we do to consider doing something with education?

I believe education should create an environment that empowers the students to continually fulfill their unique potential. But it should also provide families and parents with the decisions about how to educate their children properly, giving parents more parental choice, right?

Every student should have equal access to education on equal terms regardless of their zip code and especially now dealing with some of the math stuff or the vaccine stuff or CRT stuff or whatever that stuff is, parents need more choice. More on this later on in the show. We’ll be right back after this break.

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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.













AFC’s Shaka Mitchell Discusses the Mechanics of ESA Vouchers and His Upcoming School Choice Rally

AFC’s Shaka Mitchell Discusses the Mechanics of ESA Vouchers and His Upcoming School Choice Rally


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 Cunningham welcomed Tennessee Director of the American Federation for Children Shaka Mitchell to the newsmakers line who explained in detail the purpose of ESA’s and how there is a large amount of parental support for the initiative. He also advised of the upcoming rally in Legislative Plaza this Thursday at 8 a.m.

Cunningham: One of the threats is the continuing erosion of parental authority in education and parents’ ability to make decisions about where they’re going to send their children and what curriculum there’s going to be taught to their children. Shaka Mitchell is with the American Federation for Children and is the state director. Shaka, good morning.

Mitchell: Hey, good morning. Thanks for having me.

Cunningham: Thank you so much for getting up early. We appreciate it. Tennessee has passed the ESA, the educational savings account legislation, but there are some threats to it coming up. There’s a hearing with the Tennessee Supreme Court coming up. Tell us about that.

Mitchell: Yeah. Thanks, Ben. So you’re absolutely right. The state legislature or General Assembly passed the Tennessee Education Savings Account pilot program back in 2019 actually.

It passed in 2019, and there are nearly 3,000 students signed up for the program. And those are students in the Metro Nashville Public School system and Shelby County School system, which are our two biggest districts in the state.

They account for about 20 percent of the state’s children just in those two districts. Well, it always polls so well that to me, that’s no surprise that parents are responding that way because when you ask parents about educational choice, always they always say, yes, we want control over how our children are educated.

Mitchell: Yeah, that’s right. And frankly, that polling has only increased over the past year. The Tennessee General Assembly was ahead of the curve because we passed that ESA law before COVID.

Imagine what happened after you have had a year of many kids in Nashville and Memphis who haven’t been in a school building in a year and a half. So you can imagine how frustrated parents are.

And, so of course, parents are saying, yeah, I’d much rather more control over where my kids learn, what they learn, and how they learn than these districts who haven’t done right by our kids for decades.

Cuningham: Tell us just about the basic mechanics of the ESA. How does it work?

Mitchell: The ESA works a little bit like a health savings account. I’m sure people are getting ever more familiar with that. I won’t bore you to death with education financing because, frankly, you need a Ph.D.

Cunningham: It’s too early in the morning. (Laughter)

Mitchell: But suffice to say, the state government put in just over $7,300 per pupil for every student who attends public school in the state of Tennessee. That’s the state portion alone, not the local, not the federal amount. $7,300.

If a family says, you know what? We want our child to find a different alternative because the zone school is not working for whatever reason, it’s not working for our kids we can take the state funds, and we can use them at a qualifying private school, which just means that there’s some accreditation.

If there’s money left over, you can use the funds for tutoring, for digital tools, like a laptop or Kindle, and that kind of thing. You can roll it over into a college savings account. You can use it for a whole host of educational expenses and you would do that at the parents’ decision.

It’s not this nine-member Pollett Bureau that we like to call the school board. It’s the parents making this decision.

Henry: Hey, Shaka, this is Grand Henry. While I’m here today in my own capacity, I do work for Americans for Prosperity and honestly, let me tell you, on behalf of the 4,600 grassroots folks that we work within Americans Prosperity, we cannot thank you enough.

And American Federation for Children for what you all do for education and particularly with this ESA bill. We had a lot to do with the fight as well, and we loved it. And all of our people love it as well.

I know there’s something coming up with Supreme Court this week on Thursday. What do you need from us? Is there a call for grassroots action? What’s the biggest point of concern? What should we be paying attention to on Thursday?

Mitchell: This is a great question, Grant. And you’re absolutely right. American Prosperity was a great partner and has been for parent choice, educational freedom across Tennessee. This Thursday, two days from now, the Tennessee Supreme Court is going to hear this case, which we’re excited about because as I mentioned, 3,000 kids had already signed up.

Well, after those kids signed up, the city of Nashville and Shelby Counties challenged Governor Lee’s program in court. They basically halted the program, which is a terrible tragedy.

But finally, this thing is up to the Tennessee state Supreme Court. We’re excited about that. So arguments are 9:00 a.m. Central time on Thursday. They will be streaming so you can catch the live stream.

It will be on YouTube. You can go to our website. We’ll have up there Grant, I bet that Americans for Prosperity can get that link out to your followers. And maybe even The Tennessee Star Report can, too. Thursday, we are having a rally downtown at Legislative Plaza. The capital is right there.

The Supreme Court building is right there because we think it’s important for the justices to know this isn’t a hypothetical case. This is the educational future for 15,000 students. This is what’s at stake

Henry: And Shaka, that rally, tell me if I’m wrong here, but it starts at 8 a.m. June 3 at Legislative Plaza.

Mitchell: Thursday, June third. That’s absolutely right. 8:00 a.m. at Legislative Plaza. There’s no need to you don’t need to register anything. Looks to be nice weather. We may get a little bit of rain tomorrow, but I think we’re going to get some nice weather. Listen, we even canceled the cicadas for everybody.

Henry: (Laughs) Was that ya’ll?

Mitchell: That was us.

Henry: We appreciate that.

Mitchell: But I think again, we’ve got to make sure the courts know, hey, this is real. And parents want to have the right to choose their schools, and we think they’ve got the constitutional right.

The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that time and time again. We just need these districts to get out of the way. If you all can’t get the job done, get out of the way and let parents have some agency.

Cunningham: Could you expand on that a little bit? Who are the people that oppose giving parents more authority? Who in the world would do that?

Mitchell: It’s a great question and without trying to call anybody any names I think, frankly, it’s the districts who are so satisfied with the status quo. They are satisfied with the status quo because if you are Metro Nashville Public School year after year, you can put out a product that fails students. Three out of four kids in Nashville don’t read on grade level. Three out of four kids.

Cunningham: 75 percent.

Henry: Wow.

Cunningham: My government school math is right.

Mitchell: That’s right. And yet, year after year, the kids keep coming back. They’re not coming back because they’re satisfied with what’s happening or because their parents are satisfied they’re coming back because there’s no other option.

And school choice has always existed for people who can afford it. And you can either afford it because you can pay for the school or you move to another area. But what about for the hundreds of thousands who can’t afford it?

Not that this show would get political or anything, but this year, we seem to be throwing money out the door. Throwing money at all types of different problems. Yet in K-12 education, I believe, because of the Teachers Unions, they have said, you know what, the status quo is still fine.

We’re giving money for PreK. We’re giving money for higher ed. We’re giving money for all different types of things and saying, hey, spend it how you want, but not for K-12. We think that’s got to change.

Henry: Shaka, obviously, with everything going on in the public school system, especially as far as it relates to Tennessee here. And we have one minute left. So I ask this question quickly. Some parents could obviously understand.

Hey, I have more of a reason now to educate my child than ever been before. But there is real statistical evidence behind this ESA being a better version of education. It’s not some animus towards public educators, correct?

Mitchell: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. I know that I’m giving the stats, right? But I’m not making up stats about the public education system. These are facts. My own kids go to a public school.

Listen, if the public school is working for you, that’s excellent. But don’t block someone else in their ability to find a school that works for their child.

Cunningham: Shaka, thanks so much for joining us this morning. It’s always too short. We really do appreciate it. Your rally is Thursday at 8 a.m. And give us your website one more time.


Listen to the full hour here:

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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.
Photo “Shaka Mitchell” by Shaka Mitchell.






State Senator Mike Bell Talks Big Tech Pushback Legislation and His Current Bill Allowing for Elected Grand Division Justices Statewide

State Senator Mike Bell Talks Big Tech Pushback Legislation and His Current Bill Allowing for Elected Grand Division Justices Statewide


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 Tennessee State Senator Mike Bell to the studio who discussed the status of a Big Tech pushback bill in the General Assembly and the bill he is carrying that would create three statewide Chancery courts.

Leahy: We are in studio with our good friend State Senator Mike Bell represents within County and a few of the counties down that neck of the woods. Mike, you were telling me something during the break. That a guy that you’re working with a stonemason building your house listens to this program.

Bell: He listens every morning and  I want to give a shout-out to Ben Lances. My wife and I are building a home right now, and I did the stonework for us, and tile work does a great job and he listens to you. In fact, he’s probably the only one I know of there in my area because I’m three hours away who knows about your program and listens every morning. Hello, Ben. Good morning.

Leahy: Ben, thank you for listening. You obviously have good political judgment.

Bell: He does. He’s a hardcore conservative guy.

Leahy: Good. We broadcast over Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC here and 1510 on the AM band big 500 watt Clear Channel station. And the FM station just covers mostly Middle Tennessee. You can listen to us on the iHeart app, which I think great. But if all goes well, sometimes this quarter we will be syndicated to radio stations around the state of Tennesse.

Bell: Good.

Leahy: So you can listen to us from all around the state. If all goes well. We are coming into the last few weeks of the session. And as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, you are involved in a very important bill. We’ll talk about that in a second. Our listers are interested in what’s happening with the Big Tech pushback bill. Several other state legislatures have addressed that. Florida, I think, has passed a bill that involves some pushback against the Big Tech censors, Facebook, Google, et cetera. Now I understand that you are the one carrying that bill.

Bell: I am myself and Rep. Johnny Garret are carrying that.

Leahy: Johnny Garrett. The Majority Whip.

Bell: He is.

Leahy: A great baseball guy.

Bell: Oh, good.

Leahy: Johnny is the President of a Little League. I think it’s the Goodlettsville Little League. And he and I have been talking with the guys at Music City Baseball and went down and had lunch with them. And we have some ideas to help spread baseball around Tennessee because I’m a big baseball fan, too. So Johnny he’s in the House and you are in the Senate.

Bell: That’s right. And we modeled it after the Florida legislation. So we essentially copied the Florida legislation modified at Tennessee. But we did it kind of late in the session and trying to the issue with this is how do you figure out where the state authority starts and where the federal authority stops. Because most of these institutions that we want to push back against as you mentioned, Facebook, Google.

Leahy: Twitter.

Bell: Twitter. Any of those are regulated at the federal level. And what can we do in Tennessee actually put teeth into law, not just pass something for show. We could have probably passed something for show. But we are going to actually put teeth into this law to push back against Big Tech censoring conservative views. This doesn’t go both ways. If you follow social media as I do, they’re not getting complaints from the liberal side.

Leahy: Because they are not censoring them.

Bell: That’s right. It’s coming from the conservative side.

Leahy: They are amplifying liberal messages.

Bell: That’s right. In that short time, we couldn’t figure out how to pass a bill that actually put teeth into a way to, I guess, punish Big Tech for censoring. So we laid it over. We’re going to look at it this summer. In fact, I expect both the Speaker of the House and Speaker of the Senate, to name study committees that will take a serious look at what we can do to push back against Big Tech. And I expect them to name those before the session ends.

Leahy: So that may happen. The bill could be recommended over the summer study period.

Bell: That’s right.

Leahy: Then possibly reintroduce it at the beginning of the next session of the Tennessee General Assembly in January of 2022.

Bell: That’s correct. That’s what the plans are.

Leahy: And you are also our chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Bell: Yes. It is somewhat unusual being a non-attorney and being chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Leahy: How did you become chairman?

Bell: Well, I’ve been on the committee and I’m in my 11th year. And, of course, the chairman of any committee is named by the Speaker and the Speaker asked me if I’d like to do it. I think he appreciates the fact that as a non-attorney, how do I put this, sometimes attorneys may be a little hesitant to take on the judiciary because they work in that sphere. They work where they could receive retribution.

Leahy: From a judge.

Bell: I’ve got no fear of that.

Leahy: So tell us about the bill that you’re carrying, and why you think it’s important and where it stands.

Bell: Let’s take us back to last summer when we had our voting laws challenged here in the state of Tennessee. And they were heard before Chancery here in Davidson County because that’s what the state law says. Any time a state law is challenged, it’s always heard in Davidson County Chancery Court.

Leahy: Let’s just stop for a moment. How many Chancery courts are there in the state of Tennessee?

Bell: Oh, goodness. I think there are 31 judicial districts. And so there would be somewhere around that number of Chancery Courts.

Leahy: I can see where this is going. When the law was passed a long time ago, the politics in Nashville were probably not any different than the politics or the rest of the state.

Bell: Very, very similar. You got it. You know where this bill is going.

Leahy: So it didn’t make any difference 100 years ago where lawsuits against the state would be brought.

Bell: Absolutely.

Leahy: Now, common sense, since the state capital is in Nashville, you would say it would be brought into Davidson County. Except, the state of Tennessee has changed quite a bit. There are 95 counties and 92 of them are rock-rib conservative.

Bell: Absolutely.

Leahy: And two of them are far left. And Haywood County is kind of 50/50, 55/45 Democrat. Three counties, I think, went for Biden this time. And one was Shelby, which went overwhelmingly in the Memphis area. And then Davidson County went, and we’re about 65/35. But that’s it. So Davidson County is not at all representative of the state of Tennessee.

Bell: It doesn’t reflect the politics of the state of Tennessee at all. And that’s the reason for this bill. Why should a Chancery court that’s elected by the most liberal constituency in the state be deciding the cases? And I attacked when I presented this bill in committee, I attacked this argument head-on. I even mentioned Chief Justice John Roberts’s remark several months ago when he said there was any difference between an Obama judge, a Bush judge, a Clinton judge, or a Trump judge.

We all know that’s BS. That’s complete BS. (Leahy laughs) What’s the old line from Outlaw Josey Wales? Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Well, that’s what he was doing. And he was trying to tell us that there’s no difference between judges. Why is it a big deal every time we have a presidential election? Because we know who appoints that next Supreme Court judge and hopefully they’re going to reflect the philosophy of the party that elected the President.

And we know that at the national level. Don’t try to tell me that’s not going on here at the state level. I took it head-on that yes, I’m absolutely wanting to get cases out of a court that’s predominantly Democrat and follows a Democrat philosophy because that’s the type of people who are running for these positions. That’s the type of people who are electing these. And so why shouldn’t we…

Leahy: Far-left actually in my view.

Bell: And so what this bill does is create three statewide Chancery court positions that would be elected statewide.

Leahy: Three statewide. One for each division.

Bell: One for each division. Middle Tennessee, the East, Middle, and West. But they have to be elected statewide because of a provision in the Constitution that says they have to be elected by the people they represent. And so they would be from each grand division but they would actually run statewide. I would have preferred to have the East Tennesse judge be elected by East Tennessee people, Middle, and West.

But we can’t do that because of the language in the Constitution. So they would run statewide but then this panel of judges would hear any constitutional challenges against the state. They would hear any appeals of administrative law. But everything now that’s going to Davidson County Chancery Court would go to these three.

Leahy: Well, that’s a really great idea.

Bell: It’s a fantastic idea, and I don’t take complete credit for it. I’ve been working with our Lieutenant Governor, Speaker McNally. I’ve been working with him on this bill as well. And it’s something that came up before the decision on the voting law that I mentioned that came out of Chancellor Lyles court here in Davidson County.

Leahy: Chancellor Lyle. She has been very prominent in many decisions, few of which I agree with. (Chuckles)

Bell: Yeah, I would agree with that. But it’s modeled after our bill that passed goodness when I was still in the House 11 or 12 years ago, that allowed administrative law cases to get out of Davidson County Court and be heard in the county from where the defendant lived. And so we’re trying to move these cases out of liberal Davidson County.

Listen to the full first hour here:

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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







Rep. Sexton Talks Cutting Strings Attached to Federal Money and Maintaining Tennessee Values in Public Schools

Rep. Sexton Talks Cutting Strings Attached to Federal Money and Maintaining Tennessee Values in Public Schools


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 TN. (R) State Representative Jerry Sexton to the studio to discuss the Tennessee General Assembly’s intentions to control what is being taught in K12 public schools and the catch of accepting education funding from Washington.

Leahy: In studio our good friend State Representative Jerry Sexton from Bean Station, Tennessee. Jerry during the break, we were talking a little bit about education policy. There’s this real disconnect between what the Tennessee General Assembly says should be taught in schools and what actually is taught in schools. The schools’ curriculum is leaning left. Big time.

Now the Joe Biden Department of Education, I don’t know if you saw this is making grants available to teach critical race theory and The 1619 Project, which has been debunked historically. Critical race theory is an effort to divide America and to tell a false history. The concept behind critical race theory is not, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, that we should be judged by the content of our character.

But critical race theory says that everything should be seen through the lens of race. My question to you is there are apparently, some state legislators who are considering, even in the last couple of weeks of the session of introducing legislation, maybe in a caption bill, you would know better than I how it would come about, that would prohibit the teaching of either The 1619 Project or of critical race theory in Tennessee K12 public schools. If such a bill were proposed, how would you vote?

Sexton: Ha! I would vote to kill it. To kill it, kill it, kill it. And I know that I have several colleagues on the Education Committee that are fighting against this type of policy. And this is what’s ruining our public schools. It’s not about education. And I say it all the time. I was only on the education committee last session, and I talked about this all the time that it’s not about teaching, writing, arithmetic those types of things. It’s about indoctrinating our children. And we must put a stop to it. We must do that. We’ve stood up in this legislature just this past year. There was a program to come out to go into homes. And I don’t know if your people talked about that.

Leahy: Wellness checks without the approval of the parents.

Sexton: And we were livid. And it’s because of the Tennessee legislature and some conservative representatives that stood up and expose this for what it was. And we got it stopped. And, Michael, until we have the backbone to stand up and say, no, absolutely not, Washington you keep your money, you keep your values, you keep your education will keep ours in Tennessee. And I’ll be happy in five years to show the difference to Washington. They’re not teaching education. They’re teaching propaganda.

Leahy: Yeah, it’s kind of bizarre that our K12 public schools have devolved into propaganda machines. But that’s the reality of where they are now. I have this little pet idea, and I want to run it by you. So K12 public education in most States is funded by about 40 percent by local taxes, 50 percent by state taxes, about 10 percent from federal revenue. With federal revenue comes federal strings.

And usually, they come up with all these stupid ideas that if you want federal money, you’re going to have to do X, Y, or Z and all this stupid stuff. So here is my idea that I’ve kind of floated around. Why doesn’t the Tennessee General Assembly pass a bill that says we are not going to take a dime of federal money for education? You can keep your money and you can keep your regulations and we’ll do it our way. That makes some sense to me. As a legislator, what do you think of that concept?

Sexton: Well, let me veer off into another area and it deals with federal money. On my way home last Thursday, I’m getting calls from my county mayors. They’re wanting to know we had two million dollars put into the budget that would go directly to these counties for them to spend the money on infrastructure or whatever they needed. The local people and mayors…

Leahy: They know what’s needed. If the road needs fixing, they know which road needs fixing.

Sexton: I have a little Cumberland gap. It’s just a small place right there on the Kentucky border. And the Mayor told me he said, we need some roads and we’re going to get $40,000. of that money and we want our roads resurfaced. He said I’m hearing that they’re talking about not putting that in the budget because of the federal dollars.

Here’s what he said and here’s what every mayor told me. Those federal dollars come with strings. He said I can’t pave my roads. He said, I have to do one, two, three, and most of them have to do with the Green New Deal or something like that. He said I need the state money because I can do whatever I need to do for my town, for my county.

But he said if these federal dollars, he said, I have to do whatever they tell me to do. And he said I’m hearing that they’re wanting to take the $200 million out because of all the federal dollars. And I said, not in the House. The House is fighting for you. And I said it’s my understanding the governor is fighting for you. So I don’t know what the Senate is going to do. I’m not in the Senate. But that’s exactly what we’re doing with education. We need to tell Washington you keep your money, we’ll keep our money and we’ll teach our kids Tennessee values.

Leahy: Will you in the next session, introduce a bill to accomplish just that?

Sexton: I would love to accomplish that. I would love to introduce that bill. I will be glad to do that.

Leahy: All right. We’ll track it. And I say that with a smile on my face.

Sexton: Sure.

Leahy: And you know why there’s a smile on my face? Because there are huge hurdles to such a bill.

Sexton: Oh, absolutely.

Leahy: The Teacher’s Union. The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, and the Tennessee School Board. They’re all going to oppose it. All of them. Because they want the money.

Sexton: What’s most important to us? Funding the teachers union in the large infrastructure in the education Department? Or teaching our students? what’s the most important?

Leahy: I agree. And I’ve talked to a representative, Mark White, who’s a chair of the Education Administration Committee. He was favorably inclined to that idea.

Sexton: Absolutely.

Leahy: At least at the initial stages. It is a tough political battle. But we’ll see how that plays out.

Listen to the first hour here:

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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