Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson Supports Keeping Tennessee National Guardsmen That Refused Vaccine Mandate on Payroll, Attorney General Process, and His Campaign

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson Supports Keeping Tennessee National Guardsmen That Refused Vaccine Mandate on Payroll, Attorney General Process, and His Campaign

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. – Leahy was joined on the newsmaker line by Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, to discuss his advocation for the Tennessee National Guardsmen who refused the COVID-19 vaccine required to maintain payroll status, the process in which the state attorney general is picked, and his own campaign progress.

Leahy: We are joined now on our newsmaker line by State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. Good morning, Senator Johnson.

Johnson: Good morning, Michael. Good to be back with you.

Leahy: So you’ve been making some news out there about the Tennessee National Guard. And just to recap, the Department of Defense has mandated that Tennessee National Guard members who don’t take the COVID-19 vaccine by June 30, the process of separating them shall begin.

They’ve now are on non-paid status. You had suggested, Senator Johnson, the possibility that you may call for a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to address this problem. Tell us where that possibility exists right now. What’s the status of that?

Johnson: Sure, Michael. Well, first of all, it is unconscionable that the president of the United States and the Department of Defense is even contemplating the possibility of terminating these brave men and women. These Tennessee National Guard men and women are heroes.

They wear the uniform of the United States of America. They’re prepared to go to battle to defend our liberty. They respond here at the state level. When we have natural disasters, tornadoes, or floods, they are on the spot immediately to help our fellow Tennesseans and defend our liberty.

So the fact that the Biden administration would even consider terminating them because of a medical decision they choose to make is, as I say, I believe to be unconscionable.

We are in discussions now, leadership in the General Assembly, and the governor’s office, about what our options are. I am all for shifting them to state payroll if necessary, so that they don’t lose their jobs.

The problem becomes, Michael, and this is where we’re in our discussions, is figuring out how this might play out. And unfortunately, we could keep them on payroll.

I think the will of the General Assembly is there to do that so they don’t lose their jobs. But the Department of Defense could still prohibit them from training, doing drills, using military equipment that is bought and paid for by the federal government.

We could be in a scenario where we can keep them on payroll, but there’s nothing for them to do. The conversations are ongoing, but it is a disgrace that we’re even having to talk about this.

Leahy: So what are the odds that there will be a special session to address this problem?

Johnson: I would say the odds are good, but again, we’ve got to figure out exactly one of the things about when we go into special session, Michael, in the General Assembly, and we’ve done it numerous times in recent years.

We don’t go into session and then try to figure out what the solution is. We try to figure out, okay, what is the path forward, what is the best answer to solve this problem?

Then we get it ready. We go into special session. If we need to pass legislation, appropriate money, then we do that. We try to get it knocked out in three or four days as quickly as possible. So those conversations are still ongoing.

And by the way, the absolute final trigger has not been pulled by the Department of Defense with regards to these National Guardsmen and women. So the Biden administration has signaled that they intend to terminate them.

Leahy: Exactly right. Hey, you ready for a little bit of a curveball, Senator Johnson?

Johnson: Yep.

Leahy: Okay, here comes the curveball. So I’ve been following this process by which the state Supreme Court is picking an attorney general.

Now, our attorney general Herb Slatery, a fine attorney, but hasn’t, in my view, aggressively defended the Tenth amendment rights of the state of Tennessee or its citizens.

Now, he said he’s not coming back for another eight-year term. Under the constitution of the state of Tennessee, it’s the Supreme Court that picks the attorney general and recorder.

They’ve announced the process. It doesn’t look like it’s very robust, and it doesn’t have a role for the Tennessee General Assembly.

The constitution of the state of Tennessee says the Supreme Court gets to pick the attorney general, but the duties of the attorney general are defined by statute by the Tennessee General Assembly.

I would like to see, and I want to see what your view on this is. We’ve been trying to encourage the Supreme Court to do this. I would like to see a role for the Tennessee General Assembly in the process of selecting the new attorney general. What are your thoughts on that?

Johnson: We had legislation, we had a resolution to amend the Tennessee constitution this past session, which, as you know, and I’ve heard you talk about it on the show here, Michael, that is a fairly lengthy laborious process to amend the constitution.

So we can think about things we can do in the short term and then versus the long term. I supported the resolution. It was brought by my friend Senator Ken Yager [and] would have added a confirmation process by the General Assembly.

It would have allowed to continue to allow the Supreme Court to pick the attorney general, but would have added another component. Just as we do with judges, appellate court judges that are appointed by the governor.

We have now put in place a confirmation process so that the General Assembly has buy-in. That’s another thing that we have done in years past is we have retained our own council.

And the General Assembly has every right authority to do that, to retain its own counsel, to pursue or defend legislation that has been passed, or to sue on behalf of the general assembly.

So I think there are some short-term and some long-term possibilities that we can consider. I do believe the General Assembly should have a greater role in the process of selecting the attorney general.

Leahy: And let me suggest that the Supreme Court has said they’re going to have hearings of some sort on the candidates they select. I don’t see any reason why.

And I will suggest for your consideration that the Tennessee General Assembly should also hold hearings for those candidates. And my guess is they would be even more robust. That’s just a gentle suggestion. Last question.

Johnson: That’s a great idea. That’s great advice, Michael.

Leahy: Okay, last question for you. You got a campaign going on. You have a challenger. Three weeks and two days until the election. What are you hearing out there as you talk to constituents?

Johnson: Well, we are very excited, working very hard. I love campaigning. I love going out and talking to voters. I was out knocking on doors last night in Franklin, and I love meeting voters at the doorstep or in the restaurant or in the grocery store talking about my record in the General Assembly.

I think that we in Tennessee have made Tennessee – this is the line I use frequently, and I believe it’s true – we’re the most conservative, best-managed state in the nation, and we need to keep it that way. And that’s what I’m fighting for.

That’s what I’ve been fighting for in the General Assembly. And if the good voters of Williamson County will give me the opportunity to serve for another four years, that’s what I will continue to do.

Leahy: State Senator Jack Johnson, thank you so much for joining us today, and good luck out there in the summer heat as you knock on doors.

Johnson: Thanks, Michael.

Listen to the interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to The Tennessee Star Report with 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.









TN-59 GOP Candidate Michelle Foreman Talks New District Boundaries, Her Opponent, and Campaigning in the Heat

TN-59 GOP Candidate Michelle Foreman Talks New District Boundaries, Her Opponent, and Campaigning in the Heat

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’s 59th Congressional District GOP candidate and former psychiatric nurse Michelle Foreman in-studio to discuss her districts boundaries, her opponent, and campaigning in the heat.

Leahy: Right now we are joined in-studio by our very good friend Michelle with two L’s, Foreman. Good morning, Michelle.

Foreman: Good morning. How are you?

Leahy: We’re doing great. You are a candidate in this August 4th Republican primary.

Foreman: Yes.

Leahy: You have an opponent, and it’s a contested race, and you’re running in the 59th House District. This is a new district.

Foreman: This is brand new. So this goes along the southern border of Davidson County, starting over in the far southwest where Highway 98 and 100 meet.

Comes across the lower part of Bellevue and West Meade and Belle Meade, Forest Hills, Oak Hill, all the way over to Cane Ridge.

Leahy: So if we were to say, well, in the boundaries of the new district, I guess currently they’re split up between three Democrat members of the House of Representatives, roughly. Bob Freeman and Jason Potts…

Foreman: And Bo Mitchell. Right.

Leahy: But it’s been split up, and so it’s a new district. There’s no incumbent, I guess none of those guys who will be running on the Democrat side in the general election?

Foreman: Bo Mitchell’s brother-in-law.

Leahy: You kidding me?

Foreman: No. So you take those original districts were pushed upward, which left the bottom portion of the county open, if you will. And so Bo Mitchell’s brother-in-law will be the decision. Right.

Leahy: Trying to keep it all in the Democratic family.

Foreman: Right.

Leahy: So he’s uncontested.

Foreman: He is uncontested. He had no opponent in his primary.

Leahy: But you’ve got an opponent.

Foreman: I do.

Leahy: What’s his name? Wyatt somebody.

Foreman: Wyatt Rampy.

Leahy: Wyatt, I haven’t heard from you, but you’re welcome to come on the show anytime you want and put forward your case. The district, I think, when you look at the redistricting so, of course, the most well-known redistricting in the country, I think, is the Congressional redistricting of the 5th Congressional District.

Foreman: Yes. I think so.

Leahy: Which basically went from a Democrat plus-20 district and was safely Democratic since 1875. Democrats represented the 5th Congressional District. It was called a Dem 20. It was mostly Davidson County with a little bit of Cheatham and Dickson.

Jim Cooper represented the district since before the dawn of time – 2003, I think, but even more. But that district was redesigned, and now it’s an R plus-11, I think, I feel, hotly contested.

Foreman: Yes.

Leahy: And that so many people want to get the seat, because if you win the Republican primary on August 4, you’ve got a good chance of, a very good chance you’re likely to be elected in November.

The Democrats do have a candidate running unopposed, Heidi Campbell, State Senator, who is a far-lefty but a tough campaigner.

And not somebody to take lightly if you’re a Republican now. What’s interesting about this is if you look at the likely voters in this new district, does it lean slightly Republican? What is it?

Foreman: It does. It leans a little Republican. R plus-4, I’ve heard R plus-6. That means to me R plus two, maybe four, if we’re lucky.

There is a slight lean, and considering what’s going on in the country today, it does look like the Republicans will be able to take this seat again, working hard and not taking anything for granted.

Leahy: And you want to be that Republican …

Foreman: Absolutely.

Leahy: … who comes in. You want to win the August 4 primary.

Foreman: Absolutely.

Leahy: So we’ll talk about that. And we’ll also talk about what you’re seeing. You’re doing a lot of what, door-to-door out there.

Foreman: A lot of door-to-door.

Leahy: In, like 95-degree heat,

Foreman: I would say 100 degrees, 100 degrees plus easily.

Leahy: 100 degrees plus. Yikes!

Foreman: Yes.

Leahy: We’ll talk about that. And, of course, Election Day is three weeks from tomorrow. I know early voting begins Friday, the day after tomorrow. Hey, this election is here. We’ll talk more with Michelle Foreman, one of the candidates for the Republican nomination in the 59th House seat, after this.

Listen to the interview:

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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.












Madison County Mayoral Candidate AJ Massey: Focusing on Schools and Education Will Help Kill ‘Public School-to-Prison Pipeline’

Madison County Mayoral Candidate AJ Massey: Focusing on Schools and Education Will Help Kill ‘Public School-to-Prison Pipeline’

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 Madison County Republican mayoral candidate AJ Massey on the newsmaker line to discuss his agenda for growth and education.

Leahy: We now welcome to our newsmaker line, Mr. AJ Massey, who is running for mayor of Madison County. Good morning, AJ.

Massey: Good morning, everybody. How are y’all?

Leahy: We’re great. We’re delighted to have you on here. So tell us about yourself. What’s your background, AJ?

Massey: Sure. Yeah. I’m a native of West Tennessee, grew up in West Tennessee and went to college here and had a 17-year career in banking. And that ended in January when I elected to run for a local office. You can’t really chase two rabbits, don’t do well with that. So we chose to run for office. So we’ve been doing that since January.

Leahy: People know Jackson as the place you stop to get gas two hours from Nashville sometimes, to the west, about an hour from Memphis. Good restaurants there.

I stop by and take a break there sometimes. But people don’t know that much about Jackson and Madison County. Tell us a little bit about some of the challenges there that you face in Madison County.

Massey: Sure. Madison County is, you’re exactly right. We’re right down in the middle of everything. We’re called the Hub City. Jackson is called the Hub City for a reason. All the West Tennessee, outside of Memphis, looks to Jackson for commerce and for goods and a lot of well-paying jobs.

And so as far as what challenges are, I think we’re a disproportionately high poverty number in the city of Jackson, and really Madison County as a whole. So that’s a challenge that makes education difficult, that makes law enforcement difficult, and that makes a lot of things difficult.

But there’s so much good happening in West Tennessee that, there’s so much good happening in Madison County but also in West Tennessee, bringing on, we’re getting a great Wolf Lodge in Jackson.

If you don’t know what that is, it’s an indoor water park hotel, and nearly 500 rooms have been built in the city of Jackson. We’ll have, of course, the Megasite in Haywood County where Ford Blue Oval City will be in the next few years.

That’s within about 40 miles of our county border. That’s going to be a big shot to Madison County and West Tennessee. So that’s really what we’re trying to do, is trying to get ahead of these things, be paying attention.

I’ve got a young family, and I want the next 20 years. I want them to be around here. I want my boys to choose to locate in West Tennessee and not be too far from Mom and Dad, and hopefully grandkids someday, so we’re trying to make this place as attractive and as safe and, giving them everything they want, where they don’t feel like they need to go anywhere.

Leahy: Crom Carmichael, our original all-star panelist has a question for you, AJ.

Carmichael: AJ, how close is Jackson to that new Ford facility?

Massey: It’s about 40 miles. Between 40 and 50 miles, depending on how you go, between Madison County and Blue Oval City.

And that’s actually a great opportunity. Ford has a requirement that a certain number of suppliers that are going to help that plan out with different needs are required to be within 50 miles of that facility.

So that really puts East Memphis, that puts some of our north, west counties, and then, of course, Madison County is sitting right there ready to accept a lot of the suppliers. And our infrastructure is ready for that.

Carmichael: So, Jackson is inside that 50-mile radius?

Massey: Yes, sir. Correct.

Carmichael: Okay.

Massey: One of our most, and I don’t know if there was just some foreknowledge there or just some premonition, but the western part of our county nearest to the Megasite has a vast option of industrial sites that are already with wastewater and utilities. And so we’re just waiting for the right businesses to take their claim to those.

Leahy: AJ, what is the main reason why people who live in Madison County should vote for you for mayor of Madison County?

Massey: Absolutely. Well, we’re trying to pay attention. We’re trying to be on our toes. We’ve had similar leadership in Madison County for the last, really, 30 years. And the folks that have chosen to run in this race as well are kind of on the same cloth.

And there are some statistics that came out not long ago that has Madison County ranked 95th out of 95 counties, in nearly every category. And that whole thing is if we do what we’ve always done, we’re going to get what we’ve got.

And I think it’s just time for a change. I think it’s time for somebody with some energy, some renewed focus. I’m not trying to get anybody out of the office. I’m not trying to kick anybody out, but I do think it’s time for people to step aside and allow new leadership with fresh ideas.

As I said, I’ve got an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old boy. And that’s where my focus is, trying to build a community that they can be proud of over the next 20 years.

I’m not looking at the next election cycle. I’m not looking at the next budget cycle. I’m looking at the next few decades to make sure, because I’m going to be here, I’m going to be around, and I’m going to have to give an account to what we did or didn’t do with this opportunity coming to West Tennessee.

Leahy: AJ, what is the most important fresh new idea you have to improve the status of Madison County from, as you say, 95th out of 95 counties in almost every category?

Massey: Sure. I’ve been on the Jackson Madison County school board since 2018. I’m a public school graduate. My wife is a public school graduate. My oldest son is in public school. My youngest hadn’t gotten quite to that level yet.

But it’s schools. Schools really drive everything around here. I’m sure it is with most communities but that’s going to reduce our crime rate.

That’s going to reduce our jail population. That’s a long-term play, though the further down the line we get we have to make sure those children are educated at grade level when they’re first, second, third grade.

That way they kill that public-school-to-prison pipeline that seems to happen, and that obviously helps with crime, helps with commerce, and the ability to supply the workforce for all these great companies. I’m passionate about schools. I think our schools need to be …

Leahy: Let me ask you a question about that. In the four years you’ve served on the Jackson Madison school board, what have you done to improve the status of schools there? Because it looks like everywhere in the state over that four-year period the performance of students has gone down, down, down.

Massey: Sure. Madison County is a unique county. We have four thriving private schools and so there are lots of options here in town for nontraditional public education.

There’s also a district just north of us that’s just done the right things and they’ve attracted a lot of families to move outside of our county to go to that district.

But the way last four years we’ve had tremendous success with our academics in our classroom. We have some very pointed, data-driven curriculum that’s happening in our classroom that’s showing improvement.

Listen to the full interview:

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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 “AJ Massey” by AJ Massey. Background Photo “Madison County Courthouse” by Www78. CC BY-SA 3.0.


















Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs Highlights Upcoming Fall Festival at Oakes Farm October 26th and Democratic Infiltration at the Local Level

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs Highlights Upcoming Fall Festival at Oakes Farm October 26th and Democratic Infiltration at the Local Level


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. – host Leahy welcomed Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs to the newsmaker line to talk about its upcoming first annual Fall Festival in Corrington, Tennessee and the infiltration of Clinton backed groups influencing local governments.

Leahy: We joined on our newsmaker line by our favorite retired wrestler, Mayor of Knox County Glenn Jacobs. Good morning, Glenn.

Jacobs: Good morning Michael. How are you, sir?

Leahy: I am great. So you got a fun festival going on in Knox County? I love to have a fun story. Tell us, is this the first annual fall festival, or have you been doing this for a while?

Jacobs: This is the first annual fall festival. It’s going to be October 26 this coming Tuesday at Oaks Farm in Corrington, Tennessee. It’s a beautiful place. There are all sorts of stuff, games, and fun activities for kids of all ages.

And, of course, a pumpkin patch, a corn maze. And we’ll even have live music by Gone Country, which is one of America’s top country cover bands. So we’re really looking forward to it and it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Leahy: That’s great. Now, who’s putting it on? And why do they decide to do this fall?

Jacobs: This is with my campaign. We are putting it on, and we just want to have a good time and get people out. And fall is my favorite season.

The temperatures are dropping. Football is in full swing. I love autumn. We thought what better time than to get folks out to Oakes Farm and just have a good time that evening.

Leahy: It’s interesting you say that fall is your favorite season. You’re a little bit younger than I am. But I remember I had the same exact feeling because as a kid playing in a little small high school in upstate New York, I had visions of NFL glory.

Didn’t make it past freshman football in college. But I always dreamed of being the star on the football field. Fall would come around, football practice would start. I was ready. It was just so much fun. And I sense that a lot of us sort of have that feeling about fall.

Jacobs: Absolutely. Of course, I played football and before that basketball. And basketball you’re ramping up during the fall. So this is a great time of year.

And of course, the harvest is done. And back in the day, there’s big celebrations about that. And to kind of carry it on now, I think it’s wonderful.

Leahy: Now, if I go up there on Tuesday…

Jacobs: You’re going to have a good time if you go up there. Yeah, but I am tempted. I would like to. Tell you what, if it were on a weekend, I would definitely go up. But am I going to have to wear a mask? (Chuckles)

Jacobs: Only a Halloween mask.

Leahy: (Chuckles) That is a lot of fun. In addition to having fun, there are other things going on in Knox County. What are the major issues that you’re facing right now as Mayor of Knox County?

Jacobs: Well, just like everyone else we’re dealing with all the code stuff and the tension between local governments and control at a local level and the edicts coming down from the federal government, of course.

Not only have I spoken out against President Biden’s vaccine mandate, which is having an impact on workers here. We already have folks that are being threatened to be fired, have already been let go and all those sort of things because they feel it’s their choice.

Leahy: Yeah, folks that have been let go from corporations there over their vaccine mandate policies.

Jacobs: Yes. And also being threatened to be let go. At Oak Ridge, which is very close to Knox County, we have the big DOE complex with the Oakes National Lab and some other Department of Energy facilities and the employees there, as well as the federal contractors, this impacts them. We can’t do anything about that.

Leahy: Federal workers are currently under this vaccine mandate, I guess. Is that right?

Jacobs: Right. Yes. And it’s coming down onto the contractors as well.

Leahy: So that’s already having an impact there.

Jacobs: It is. We already have people that have been placed on unpaid leave. There’s a class-action lawsuit going on. People are fighting back against it. But we have that.

We also had a federal judge impose a universal mask mandate on Knox County schools, despite the fact that schools have twice voted down on mask mandates. And there is no end in sight. He did not say the metrics or the numbers under which that mandate would end.

Leahy: Can I just ask you about that one? The status of that?

Jacobs: Sure.

Leahy: This is the lawsuit, the same kind of argument that was brought in two other counties. It was brought in federal district court in Shelby County, in Williamson County, and in Knox County. It turns out the plaintiffs were local parents with kids with some disabilities of some sort.

And the argument was made that not requiring every student to have a mask on violated the Americans with Disability Act. I’ve never figured that out yet. But did you see the group that was representing them? The lawyers you saw the connection there.

Jacobs: Yes. I actually asked some folks to look into this case as far as who is really behind it. And it turns out, as you said, the plaintiffs are local folks. But some of the lawyers in the case, as well as the organization supporting the case, is a group called Democracy Forward.

And they are a Hillary Clinton-backed group. John Podesta is on their board. Of course, John Podesta was Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, and he was Hillary’s 2016 presidential campaign chair.

Mark Elias, who was 2016 general counsel to the Hillary Clinton campaign. So literally, Hillary Clinton’s people are in Knox County influencing policy.

Leahy: This is basically political colonization through litigation. That’s what it looks like to me.

Jacobs: Well, it absolutely is. And I got to hand it to them, they’re really smart strategically because the left has realized that the way you subvert America is through local government.

Not only are they working at the federal level. But they’re also working diligently at the local level. And that should be a click on for all of us should be going off in heads.

Leahy: That is a very important point, Mayor Glenn Jacobs, that you just made and you’ve seen it for decades. With George Soros funding prosecutors and other local elected officials that aren’t enforcing the law. Will you come back and give us a report after the fun of your big fall festival up there on Tuesday?

Jacobs: Sure. Michael, it is going to be a lot of fun that begins on Tuesday, October 26th at Oakes Farm and that’s in Corrington, Tennessee. If it were a little closer, I would be there. But I’m going to come up there and let’s have lunch sometime and we’ll do an exclusive interview with you. That would be great! Maybe one of these years when we do the fall festival, you can do a remote from there.

Leahy: We’ll shoot for that next year. Glenn Jacobs, mayor of Knox County. Thanks so much for joining us. What a great interesting guy to talk to.

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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 “Glenn Jacobs” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.













State Representative Scott Cepicky Talks Why He Voted No on Ford $900 Million Deal

State Representative Scott Cepicky Talks Why He Voted No on Ford $900 Million Deal


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 Maury County, Tennessee State Representative Scott Cepicky to the newsmaker line to discuss his concerns with the Ford mega site deal for Haywood County and why he voted no.

Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line by a good friend from Maury County State Representative Scott Cepicky. Welcome, Scott.

Cepicky: Good morning, Michael. How are you doing?

Leahy: Well, I’m doing great. Yesterday, you were one of three members of the Tennessee House of Rep. Representatives who voted against this $884 million incentive package for Ford to open up an electric vehicle plant that is purportedly going to employ 5,800 people over a period of 10 years at the Memphis Regional mega site.

The vote was like overwhelming in favor of it. In the state Senate, also overwhelmingly in favor of it in the state House. I, however, have the same view you do. I was very skeptical about this deal. Tell us why you voted no on this bill.

Cepicky: There were two bills. The first bill, 8001 Michael, created this mega site authority that was given unprecedented powers to negotiate, enter into contracts, keep contracts secret, and also have the power of an eminent domain, and bypassing the local county commissions or city authorities.

And then it didn’t have any provisions in there about reporting to the Comptroller, doing audits, or reporting back to government operations in writing. And you know as well as I do, the most important thing to have in that bill is what do the words say?

The good thing about the amendment that we tried to make was that addressed most of those issues when the vote was taken to table that amendment, 24 other of my colleagues agreed with us that there need to be more guard rails and more oversight over this mega site authority.

And then the other bill we had was the appropriations bill of the $884 million. And I spoke very plainly on the floor Michael. In good conscience with what’s happening with all of our teachers, our doctors, our nurses, airline pilots, employees across the state that are losing their jobs because of exercising their liberty and freedom to choose what goes into their bodies in good conscience.

I could not vote to give a Corporation $884 million before we address the pressing needs of those things that are happening right now in Tennessee in regards to COVID. It’s not even getting into about children that are having to wear masks, and RSV which is skyrocketing in our hospitals right now, and then college and university students that are being segregated and discriminated against for being unvaccinated.

It was a stand up principle. I hope that Ford will come to West Tennessee. I hope that Ford will understand what it means to be a Tennesseean, and I hope that all of these jobs come to fruition, and I hope that it transforms West Tennessee into economic opportunities that they’ve never had in their entire existence.

Leahy: I got the impression that there was just a stampede of political support for this. And frankly, my impression was this was a bit of a rubber stamp, A.

B, I don’t think many state legislators looked at the details as you did and should have. I think there are going to be all sorts of problems with this deal as it plays out. Am I reading that right from afar or what’s your take?

Cepicky: (Chuckles) We’re not talking $100 here, Michael. We’re talking almost a billion dollars when you factor in interest. I have been told by members and leadership that the amendment that we had on the House floor, there were certain things that they did like about that, and they want to bring those back up in January.

But they just didn’t think that yesterday was the time to go ahead and add those into the bill. And then Robin Smith, one of my colleagues who blue lighted the bill who voted present not voting along with Justin Lafferty present not voting, Robin had a very good amendment that was also piggybacked on mine was a secret ballot for the organization of labor that would be an option to those individuals out there.

Leahy: So in other words, if you work there, are you going to have to be a Union member? I guess that’s what we’re getting at.

Cepicky: And that’s what we’re looking at right there.

Leahy: We don’t know do we?

Cepicky: We don’t know. We don’t know yet.

Leahy: That sounds like a formula for disaster to me.

Cepicky: Possibly.

Leahy: My view is I’m very much in the minority in analyzing this, and I would not have voted for. I’m not in the state House. You are. I applaud you for your vote on it. Now, the money they gave them $884 million.

There are two elements that look like it’s a direct payment for stuff they ought to be doing, $138 million for infrastructure, demolition of structures, and more that’s being paid to the regional mega site.

But then they get $500 million of incentives. And State Senator Bo Watson says, yeah, we’ll pay them that money as they bill us for expenses. How’s that going to work?

Cepicky: That’s the devil in the details. None of us, as far as I know, no one has seen the contract. No one understands the clawback. No one really has a good understanding of the clawbacks that are in this contract.

No one has a good understanding of exactly what the obligation of Ford was. If you look at most of my colleagues’ talking points, it was all about jobs, jobs and jobs. Now we’re building a TCAP center out there to help provide the educational training and the technical training to go to work in this facility.

One of the things that we wanted Ford to do, as we’ve experienced in Maury County and Williamson County with the General Motors plant, over the last 37 years, we’ve had to build 14 schools that surround that GM plant. Fourteen schools.

Leahy: Who’s paying for that?

Cepicky: That was one of the amendments we had in my bill was that the Ford or whoever the tenants are for Haywood and Fayette Counties would have to pay the assessed value of the property tax on their facilities.

That what percentage was allocated to schools in those two counties to help defray the cost of all of the schools and infrastructure that these two very rural counties are going to have to build.

I think in Haywood County, Brownsville is the only incorporated city in the whole county. If you move like they’re talking upwards of 20,000 people into that area Michael, you’re looking at probably 20 schools.

Leahy: And the local taxpayers are going to have to cover that. Let me just say that what you just told me, confirming that nobody really understands the details of when the $500 million is going to be paid to Ford and what the clawback provisions are.

That is stunning. And I salute you for opposing this. In my view, this bill should not have been passed. Your last comments on this.

Cepicky: I hope that none of that comes to fruition, Michael because there are a billion dollars of taxpayer money on the line. I hope that Governor Leon and I know Governor Lee is a businessman.

I’m sure he will work hard with Commissioner Rolfe to make sure the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted. But that’s where we have to bring the Government Operations Committee of the House and Senate in on this state.

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