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 TN-5 Republican candidate Beth Harwell to the newsmaker line to discuss her commitment, if elected, to a maximum 6-year term and slowly dismantling the Department of Education, bringing money back to local governments in the state.
Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line with a new breaking story. Former speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Beth Harwell. Good morning, Beth.
Harwell: Good morning. Good to be with you all this morning.
Leahy: So you have just released a statement that you have endorsed the U.S. term limits amendment and you pledge to serve if elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, a maximum of three terms. Tell us about that.
Harwell: Right. I served in the Tennessee Legislature, which is indeed a citizen legislature. It’s a part-time job. You can’t make a living serving in the state legislature, which means you have to find another job.
And I’ve always been a teacher, and I think that’s critical. People that serve in the legislature in Tennessee don’t visit their districts. They live in their districts and they live under the laws that they pass for everyone else.
That’s not the case in Washington, D.C. And that’s why I’m committed to serving for just six years. In eight years, we were able to accomplish great things for the state of Tennessee as Speaker. And I will serve six years and vote the will of the people and then come back home.
Leahy: How did you come to this decision to make this announcement that you’re just going to serve three terms, if elected, you’re a candidate for the Republican nomination to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in the new 5th Congressional District, which covers the lower third of Davidson County, the western half of Wilson, the eastern half of Williamson County, all of Marshall, all of Maury, and all of Lewis County. How did you come to this decision?
Harwell: I’ve always felt that this was the correct thing to do to limit your time and service. I held back for many years because I was fearful that it would make the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., more powerful. And we certainly don’t want that.
But I also think that it incentivizes us to go up there and do the right thing and do it quickly because we don’t as a nation have much more time in which we can allow elected officials in Washington to just not get the job done. So I think this is the right time to make a pledge such as this.
Leahy: Now, what’s it been like for you out on the campaign trail? We saw each other at the Wilson County Trump Day Dinner on Thursday.
There are 11 candidates there. You were one of the 11. You got to speak there. What are you seeing out on the campaign trail?
Harwell: Well, people are interested in this. I think, just as I’ve heard on your radio show this morning, I think people also are concerned with getting the May election over with before they start concentrating on what will be the August election.
But like today, I will spend my day in Lewis County and have a lot of good folks taking me around Lewis County to meet and greet and get to know people a little bit better. People are concerned about the direction of our nation.
They are very concerned with the high cost of living right now. They’re concerned with protecting our borders and I think what I hear consistently is that they feel that the fiscal insanity that they see in Washington, D.C. has got to come to an end.
Leahy: What would be the very first bill that you would introduce if you were to be elected to serve in Congress and would be sworn in in January of 2023?
Harwell: Something that’s been a passion of mine for some time now is the whole issue of education, which is such a critical thing for our nation going forward.
I know I can’t completely eliminate the U.S. Department of Education at least as a freshman at first blush. But I think I could begin to reduce the size of it and return that money back to state and local governments where it can be more efficiently and effectively spent.
Leahy: It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you introduced a bill to entirely abolish the Department of Education.
Harwell: It would be my ultimate goal. You’re right about that, and I certainly understand how the process works, and I might very well do that and take what I can get, because I do think the U.S. Department of Education is bloated and is not doing anything to help our children.
Leahy: It’s interesting the way that you phrase that because you could either go in and say, let’s abolish it entirely. That bill would probably not get a lot of traction the first term or, I guess you’re taking a more incremental approach by saying let’s reduce its footprint and let’s give that money back to the state. Is that your approach on that one?
Harwell: That is correct. I’m realistic about this. I know that they administer the Pell Grants and some other things at the federal level, but slowly we can return those responsibilities back to the state governments or the local governments, as opposed to having the federal bureaucrats who, by the way, never teach a single child how to read or write.
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.
Leahy: We are joined in studio by State Representative Chris Todd from Jackson. We’re going to talk a little bit about a resolution he has here. It’s fascinating. If you want to chat with representative Todd our number is 615-737-9522. Chris, you have introduced a resolution HJR0008. Tell us about that.
Todd: This is a resolution that once it’s passed it will be sent to the U.S. Congress and it will be a request for them to call an Article V. A constitutional Article V convention for the states to meet for one purpose and that is to propose amendments to the Constitution. And this particular resolution is for one single topic and that is for term limits on the U.S. Congress.
Leahy: Now in the resolution, you don’t specify what those limits should be. In other words what you don’t say members of the House of Representatives can only serve six terms.
Todd: Exactly. Yes. This is up to the delegates. Once they get there and debate this if they come to an agreement. That’s if they come to an agreement, then they would propose that amendment to the Constitution back to the States and it would then take 38 states to actually ratify. So any change to our Constitution whatsoever takes 38 states to ratify that change.
Leahy: And there are two ways to get it to consideration by state legislatures for ratification.
Leahy: One is to have the House and the Senate pass it. I think that requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate to get it to the states for consideration. But the other way is to hold this Article V convention. Has there ever been an Article V Convention held in the United States?
Todd: There is not. Congress has always proposed every single amendment to the Constitution and then given the states the ability to ratify that. Many have failed, but as we know many have passed. We just celebrated the last summer the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote. Tennessee was the last state to actually ratify that.
Leahy: I did not know that.
Todd: Very interesting history on that one. When you look at the Constitution, it’s an amazing document. It was certainly divinely-inspired. There’s no question about that. And to have this particular article in there that gave the states the ability to amend the Constitution when Congress would not respond. And I know our own famed U.S. Senator Fred Thompson many years ago had a strong push to get this done and it failed at the last minute.
They pulled the rug out from under him. And so we know as citizens that Congress is never going to limit themselves. That’s been proven and it’s probably more so now. And so it’s up to the states to deal with this. And this is the way that our founders put it in there. You can look at all the documents that they wrote about the Constitution and all the opinions they had about it. And they certainly line up to support this exact method and effort to rein in Congress.
Leahy: What you just said about the divine inspiration of the Constitution. This is something that Os Guinness has written about Os is a descendant of the Guinness Brewery guy, but he’s a scholar. He has written about what he calls the Golden Triangle of Freedom. And in that he says in any society freedom requires virtue. Virtue requires faith. And Faith requires freedom. And the entire basis of our constitutional republic he says is built on that Golden Triangle of Freedom. I tend to agree with him on that.
Todd: I would too. I certainly would too.
Leahy: Now the Article V convention I think there’s a group that my friend Mark Meckler one of the early founders of the Tea Party Movement. And now he’s acting as the interim CEO of Parler. A very accomplished guy. He put this convention of states together idea to get an Article V convention. I think they’ve got like 16 states that have signed on to it. This would make Tennessee the 17th state except this is a very narrow purpose, right? The only thing under this resolution an Article 5 convention could address would be term limits.
Todd: Exactly. And our delegates that we send from the state of Tennessee are bound by whatever our legislature tells them to do at that convention by law under punishment. If they do not we can remove them as delegates and charge them with a Class E Felony.
Leahy: Class E Felony. That’s something you do not want to have on your record.
Todd: No sir.
Leahy: So in theory, if they got up to I think they need like two thirds of the state 36 states.
Leahy: 34 states to have an Article V convention. If this went if this passes would this would make Tennessee like the 17th state?
Todd: Potentially. The convention of the states has not contacted me since I’ve started running his this year. So I’m not really sure all of those 16 if they are a single article resolution or multiple. Because in the past they’ve had multiple they’ve had balanced budget amendment for another lumped into that. And so there’s some I guess debate as to whether or not you could call a convention if 34 states had a mixture of calls basically.
Leahy: That’s an interesting point. The resolution could say the state legislature of I don’t know Nebraska as an example. I don’t know if they’re on the list but they could say yes, let’s call a convention of states and we’ll talk about anything. Anything is on the table. But that’s not what your resolution does.
Todd: Correct. It is very very narrow. And because of that debate us term limits is another nonprofit organization that is really striving to get this done. They’ve started this new effort to do just single a single article of all the states and that way there’s no debate. There’s no question. when it goes to Congress the Constitution says they shall once 34 states gives them this resolution. They shall set a time and a place for the convention.
Leahy: Now, why did you decide that this was important? Why did you decide that you wanted to spend your time working on this resolution in this session of the general assembly?
Todd: Well a couple of reasons. One I believe in the effort. I believe the effort for term limits is a necessity. On a state level and I’ve had many people ask me this question. Are going to propose the same thing for the state legislature? and years ago I probably would have said yes, but as I have seen elections. Not just because I ran. But I was probably more involved running for office and I watched other elections. And I’ve seen in the last go-around how easy it is to turn over this particular legislature in the state of Tennessee.
Leahy: So you don’t see the need here.
Todd: The money is so big on a national level that’s what is the barrier.
Leahy: And, the money to elect somebody in Tennessee 90 percent of it can come from all like California and New York.