Tennessee A.G. Skrmetti Chief of Staff Brandon Smith on the Federal Government’s War on Appliances

May 22, 2023

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. – guest host Gulbransen welcomed Tennessee AG’s Chief of Staff Brandon Smith in studio to discuss his background and the federal government’s war on appliances.

Gulbransen: Joining us in studio and throwing him right into the hot seat, Chief of Staff for the greatest Attorney General in the United States, Brandon Smith. How are you, sir?

Smith: Hey, that’s quite the introduction to start off with, but I can’t disagree with your assessment there.

Gulbransen: We brag on the attorney general and all the work that your office does and since you’re here, let’s talk about your background a little bit. So where did where’d you go to law school and all the biographical stuff and then we can get into the really meaty stuff about suing the feds.

Smith: Sure. First, thanks for having me on the air. I’m always excited to talk about what we’re doing at the office. It’s been a wild ride over the last nine months or so, and I think there’s a lot of good stuff to talk about there. I grew up mostly in Kansas City and Dallas. I went to law school at the University of Kansas.

Got an LLM degree at George Washington, which is a law degree people get when they’re not totally ready to finish law school, and then worked in the kind of conservative nonprofit world for a while out in D.C. Loved it, mostly because it’s fun to be in the opposition back during a prior presidential administration a couple of years ago.

And then from there started working in state government. Got to work for two great Republican governors, and moved to Tennessee cause my family had all moved here about 10-12 years ago. So this was for me moving. Close to home parents, an older sister, and everyone.

And then started working for the A.G.’s office under Herbert Slatery back when General Skrmetti was our chief deputy. Since then, I have just been, helping Tennessee sue the federal government as much as they can. That’s been the gig for a while.

Gulbransen: I was saying in the setup of the segment that it is probably the best role that any state attorney general can have. It’s something you need when you have the federal government that is just vastly overreaching on a variety of different things. Do you have a favorite thing that you personally have gotten to do or maybe there’s something else that the office has done over the last six months or so?

Smith: Oh man, that’s tough. I originally went to law school to be a prosecutor, so I know some of the most important stuff we do is looking out for bad guys and trying to hold them accountable. And that includes the criminal context and the consumer context.

And I think my favorite part of this job now is just getting to work with 100s of talented attorneys we have on staff that is spending every day trying to take care of Tennesseans, who are vulnerable, and who are otherwise getting taken advantage of, either by criminals or by shady companies that are doing nefarious things.

And often it’s the federal government that we’re trying to protect people from. And that’s been the recurring theme. I think one of the most ridiculous things that I’ve done and I might be one of the few people that really cares and is passionate about is what I would call Tennessee’s battle against the EPAs war on home appliances.

I did not realize this was going to be the civil rights issue of our time but it has become so. Over the last year, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a series of about four regulations with another one proposed now covering clothing washing machines and dryers, refrigerators and freezers, and dishwashers, all of which serve to basically make the products energy efficient as the goal.

But in doing so, actually makes them less effective and more expensive and provides fewer choices for consumers. This doesn’t seem like a big deal but now think about a family who’s already struggling to make ends meet and having to buy some new appliances. It gets really difficult when you start adding the new costs that these regulations are going to impose.

I guess I should also say that these regs are all totally unlawful. They’re not based on statute, they’re just expansions of federal authority into an area that they aren’t supposed to be in already. So yes, this one this fight has been interesting, I think in large part because of how broad the war on appliances has become by the federal government.

But it’s given Tennessee an opportunity to step in. We joined some multi-state litigation against the initial dishwasher reg. A while back we filed some public comments, which is the first step when these regs get proposed and respond to them.

We filed those formal comments in the last couple of weeks. Here was my favorite one. The reg on refrigerators and freezers was called the refrigerator-freezers and refrigerator-freezers regulation. So not to be confused with refrigerators or freezers.

Gulbransen: I’m offended by the ink that was used to type it out. Geez. (Chuckles) 

Smith: Yeah, it was, I got a little annoyed having to type out that phrase about four times in the comment or so. But we got those on file. We had about 20 or more states, I think, join each of those regulatory comments with us. We regularly work with other state AGs both Republican and Democrat, to be frank, on a wide host of issues.

We were able to get those on file, and that’s the first step. Last week the EPA proposed another round of dishwasher regs. These are the regs by the way, that are going to make your dishwasher go from a 30 to 45-minute cycle to a four-hour cycle.

So they’re going to use slightly less energy and less water, but they’re going to take up more time. And they’re not going to wash your dishes as well. Again, it sounds silly, but this is a core constitutional and administrative law issue.

So at its foundation, this question isn’t, we’re not up in arms because dishwashers are going to be slightly more energy efficient. That’s great. Some people might want that. Some consumers might want that route to have a less effective dishwasher take four hours to clean their stuff.

But we think that consumers should have a choice, and we also think that the legal principles here are a real priority. So the first line of argument that we take is about the Administrative Procedures Act, which is a federal law from the 1930s that governs how the federal government can issue regulations.

It has requirements, regulations have to be in conformity with the statutory authority that allows them, they have to be constitutional, and they have to be out there for public notice. They have to consider certain things and factors in the process of being reg being issued.

There are also just some constitutional issues. We don’t think that the spending clause of the Constitution grants the federal government, the authority to broadly regulate this area of law, especially without congressional delegation to do so.

Those are important questions for us on a number of topics, and those principles apply to a number of things, but yes, we’re excited about it. War on Appliances is here and we’re fighting it.

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 Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Brandon Smith” by Office of the Attorney General. Background Photo “United States Capitol” by Caleb Perez.