On Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill and Leahy talked to State Representative and good friend Cameron Sexton about his new role as caucus chairman for the Republican State House of Tennessee and the current misconception promoted by the failing Tennessean newspaper about open caucus meetings for Republicans.
During the segment the men got further into the discussion noting that the Democrats proceeded to have an unannounced, locked door meeting claiming that it was open, however, the Tennessee media outlets somehow missed that headline.
Gill: Cameron Sexton is the new caucus chairman for the Republicans in the State House. House Speaker Glen Casada moving up a step. A little bit of shuffle in the leadership. And new committee chairman including, our friend Robin Smith becoming a committee chairman as a freshman member of the state house. A lot of new things coming and more oversight of what the executive branch actually does after the legislature passes legislation. Cameron Sexton, long time friend is with us. And if you believe the mainstream media, again, there’s your first mistake. You would think that the Republicans under the new management would start voting in secret, passing legislation in secret, and not letting you know how they vote. Because that’s what they’re telling you they’re up to and Cameron Sexton here with us to try and set the record straight. Cam good to have you with us.
Sexton: Thank you Steve, it’s great to be here.
Gill: If you believe the Tennessean and the other media, you guys are planning on meeting and voting in secret these days.
Sexton: Well that’s what they try to say. You know all we’re really doing is going from a default and really placing more of an emphasis on how open we are. And so what we told the press is when we have a caucus meeting we’re going to tell them when it’s going to be open and when it’s going to be closed. And more or less we want to have an emphasis on how open and transparent we are and that they would be notified of every caucus meeting and that they would be noticed if it was open or closed. But if there was ever public policy or public business discussed or any votes taken and all those meetings would always be open just like they had that.
Gill joked about how they want them to have an open discussion to learn strategy so they can report it to the Democrats. Sexton confirmed that Republicans do reserve the right to close the meetings when politics or political strategy is being discussed along with something in regards to leadership style. He professed that the only group that held closed meetings at this point were the Democrats in the House and that the MSM has fallen silent to that fact.
Leahy: Representative Sexton, Michael Patrick Leahy here. So I am looking at this headline in the failing Tennessean. I don’t know if you saw it by the way. This vulture capital fund has put a bid to buy the Gannett and the Tennessean because they say it’s not being well managed right now. But, here is the headline, and I’m going to, it sounds like this is a misleading headline from what you tell me, the headline in the story in the failing Tennessean. “Tennessee House Republicans to Close Caucus Meetings as Legislature Convenes for New Session.” I read that it and it looks like their saying you’re going to close all caucus meetings.
Sexton: Yeah, that’s not right. I mean even when we were having the discussion with them and even last week if you look at the record, we had three caucus meetings and all three were open to the media for the entirety of it. And in that discussion with them when we said we’re going to place our emphasis on how often we’re open not on the very rare instances that we may be closed, and we’re going to move forward in that direction. And then we even specified that anything to do with public business, public policy or any votes on such would be open without regard of anything else and they still want to say that we’re having closed meetings.
Gill: And I noticed they didn’t do a big blaring headline when the Democrats had their closed caucus meeting.
Sexton: It’s an interesting concept. The Democrats came in right after our caucus meeting. They had the room reserved which can be confirmed through general services if anybody would like to do that. But you know the Democrats closed their meeting. They said they were open but they didn’t send out any announcement saying that they were having a meeting. They said they opened but locked the door so you couldn’t get in the room. Then they were talking about the Derrick Tibbs case internally. And so…
Gill: That was the guy that what, stole like twelve thousand dollars or something.
Sexton: Yeah from their campaign account over there. And so you know, we alerted the news meeting and I think the Democrats are also kind of doing little spin stories about how they were open and sorry they didn’t notify people.
Gill: It was an open meeting behind a closed, locked door. That’s how everybody has their open meeting.
Leahy: (Laughing) Really.
Gill went on to question what the new top priorities would be based on Casada’s commitment to more oversight and in special regard to TennCare spending their money right. Sexton believed it will work very well, since Casada has changed up the committee systems which has re-implemented the TennCare and Department of Corrections oversights back in. He added that he thinks you’ll see an active House in the budget, tax cuts, and the management of state resources. Sexton added that policy-wise they were focused on creating a pro-consumer, pro-provider approach which would open up access in the marketplace. “I think you’ll see more pro-business, less regulation in making Tennessee even better,” said Sexton.
Leahy: Representative Sexton, Speaker Casada has told us here a week and a half ago that school choice, parental choice will be one of his top priorities this year. Do you see that being a top priority of the legislature?
Sexton: Yes, I mean, well I think, anything that’s priority of the speaker is going to be a priority of the House of Representatives. And I think if that’s Speaker Casada’s priority I think Governor Lee is kind of moving in that direction as well. And I think we’ll see how that goes. I haven’t, the education committees chair has four different sub-committees on it so I think it very well could be the top priority and be able to move things out onto the House floor.
Gill: When you look at Governor Lee’s campaign he was an advocate of school choice. It was one of the things that was kind of a specific issue that he was wanting to push. He’s backed off of that. He’s actually, through his communications director told people it is no longer a priority, they don’t think they can pass it, they’re not going to pass that as his priority this year. You indicated you think he’s moving in the direction back towards school choice, parental choice being a priority. Is that in part because Glen Casada has made it clear that’s his priority?
Sexton: I think that could be part of it. And I think you know, also I think it’s still on the Governor’s radar and we haven’t been told it’s off his radar. So, you know, the last conversation I had with the administration was is they’re still looking at it and still looking at whether or not, how they’re going to pursue it or not pursue it. So, we haven’t been told or I haven’t been told it’s off the radar.
Gill: I know the opioid crisis is another one that you all have been hearing a lot about. I saw a statistic last night that was literally shocking that you were more likely to die in this country right now from an opioid abuse overdose than you are in a traffic accident. More people are dying from opioid overdose than car wrecks now in this country. It’s something that’s got a lot of attention. What can the legislature do to make it less likely that we continue to see more people dying or getting addicted to, or overdosing on opioids?
Sexton concluded the segment by stating that a lot of it had to do with a rise in fentanyl and heroine and that prescription opioids have seen a decline in the last three years. He noted that this is a federal issue and that President Trump needs support to build the wall which will help keep these illegal drugs from crossing the border and entering our country. Sexton added that the supply will always be there and that there is a need to address mental health and substance abuse disorder as well.
“The cartels just change the drug as they go over time. So we will really need to take away the supply,” concluded Sexton.
Listen to the full segment here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Cameron Sexton” by Cameron Sexton. Background Photo “Tennessee Capital” by Chris Connely. CC BY 2.0.