During a specific discussion, 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 all-star panelists Crom Carmichael and Carol Swain to the show.
During the third segment, Carmichael discussed Lee’s recent decision to accept refugees without the consent of the local government and how he believed it was a decision made in poor form and heavy-handed in “compassion.” Swain interjected stating that the governor’s expedient use of compassion is inexcusable and that he should be focused on the best interest of the people of Tennessee and not for what she believes to be his presidential aspirations.
Leahy: During the break Crom, you made a very important point and I’d like you to elaborate on that. The governor sent a letter to the Secretary of State on December 16 saying, bring on the refugees! The president had signed an executive order in September saying no refugees will be sent a state or a locality if the state government and the local government says no. Now we’re talking about what is the state government, Crom.
Leahy: And you were making an important point. And I want you to elaborate on that. Is the governor acting alone?
Carmichael: Well, I don’t know. That’s what I’m saying. If the legislature let’s be sure we’re clear on how legislation is passed in Tennessee because it’s not the same in other states. In Tennessee, if the state House and state Senate pass legislation, which means each House has to pass it by a majority. Then it goes to the desk of the governor.
Leahy: For signature.
Carmichael: For signature and the governor can veto it. If the governor vetoes it, it goes back to the House and the Senate. And if they pass it by a simple majority again, it becomes law.
Carmichael: There’s no super majority required to override a governor’s veto in the state of Tennessee.
Leahy: What scenario could you see developing in this counteraction I suppose you could say to the governor’s decision to welcome more refugees?
Carmichael: My understanding is that Gov. Lee did not consult the legislature before he made the decision. Politically I think, and not just politically, I just think that was not good form. On a decision that big, you shouldn’t act as a dictator. I don’t care how compassionate you think you are.
And Bill Lee is a compassionate guy. His Men of Valor campaign with the prison systems are just terrific. So he is a guy filled with compassion. But just because you have compassion, doesn’t mean that all your decisions are correct. And the governor should have consulted with the legislature. Apparently he did not.
If the legislature now passes legislation, and he vetoes it and the legislature overrides the veto on the issue of refugees, it would seem to me as a layperson a non-lawyer, one who got his law degree at the Holiday Inn Express. (Leahy laughs)
It would seem to me that would be the state law and that it would represent the position of the state. Because it would be at that point not a resolution, but a statute that was passed legitimately by the legislature. The governor vetoed it but it was overwritten. Now, this is just for a little history lesson because it’s kind of interesting. When the Democrats with Sundquist and that’s the only way to describe it.
Leahy: Back in 1999.
Carmichael: When they tried to pass the state income tax, the fact that the legislature could override the governor with a simple majority made it much more difficult to pass an income tax. Because the Democrats controlled the legislature and they wanted Sundquist to act like the big thug and force them to sign an income tax the same way that Lowell Weiker and the Democrats did it in Connecticut.
Because there were some Republicans in Connecticut who wanted a state income tax. All of the Democrats in Connecticut wanted the state income tax. There, it required a two-thirds vote to override the governor. So Lowell Weiker, a republican governor just like Sundquist was a Republican, the legislature passed a budget. It did not have an income tax. Back in those days, Connecticut did not have an income tax.
Carmicheal: And so the legislature passed a budget and submitted it to the governor. And the governor vetoed the budget and said if you don’t pass an income tax I will not sign the budget. And so it went back and forth. And there was gnashing of teeth and everybody took their positions. And the people who were for an income tax had to say they were against an income tax.
They would scream and yell at the governor and say I am against an income tax. And I’m blah-blah-blah. And then after it got vetoed three or four times, those same people said, “Golly gee, I hate the idea of an income tax it’s a terrible thing, but if I have to pick between a little-teeny-weeny income tax and getting our state budget, that nasty guy Lowell Weiker is forcing me to do something I don’t want to do.” And then they passed an income tax. Well, now the income tax in Connecticut is up about 10%.
Leahy: They are crushing the economy there.
Carmichael: And it’s crushing the economy.
Leahy: People are fleeing Connecticut coming to Tennessee.
Carmichael: They studied Connecticut, but the fact that you could override a veto with just the same vote as the original one, Sundquist didn’t have the power to be the bad guy. And so you had a few Democrats in the House who actually did not want an income tax. But Jimmy Naifeh was a very tough Speaker of the House.
Carmichael: Yes. A very tough Speaker of the House. And these Democrats very cleverly told Speaker Naifeh individually, “Jimmy I love you and I support you and I will vote for an income tax as long as my vote is the one that puts it over the top because Mr. Speaker as soon as I vote yes, I will lose my next election.And I will do that for you because of my allegiance to you as long as my vote is the one that puts it over the top. So he thought he had five yeses.”
But he had five, I’m going to wait until the last vote. And Nathey needed the other four to get to the last one.
And when he called for the vote, these five people dispersed (Leahy laughs) in the chamber to the four corners of the room and one in the center. Nathey held that vote open for three hours. And he could never get all five people to come together. They stayed apart. And finally, after a while, he realized he’d been had.
Leahy: He’d been had. Now let’s talk about the Tennessee General Assembly today. I’m hearing Carol, that virtually every conservative Republican is opposed to the governor’s decision.
I think more importantly the people of Tennessee may be opposed to the governor’s decision. And I think Crom is on to something that if the House and Senate members represent the will of the people and they pass legislation then that is the state position. It shouldn’t be something that the governor decides on his own without consultation.
Leahy: So I do think there is a push back opportunity here Crom that you well point out. That the state government would be a statute even though it overrides the governor’s veto in this arena. Now, this would be unprecedented in this arena. But we’re in unprecedented territory. And I think it would stand up legally.
Swain: It’s important for Gov. Lee to represent the will of the people and not his personal preferences on these issues. And I think that we need to get it set straight now in his mind and in his heart that he was elected to represent all Tennessee. He should put the interests of the state above his personal preferences.
And when it comes to all this compassion that he has, there were several death row cases where people had changed their lives and people wanted mercy shown. As far as I can recall there was no mercy shown to any of those death row candidates and prisoners. And so the governor I think that he uses his compassion when it’s politically expedient.
Carmichael: Well I’m going to push back on that a little bit because Men of Valor is something that Bill Lee has…
Swain: I know all about Men of Valor. I know about his involvement with it and it’s wonderful that he’s been involved with many important causes. But I think what is motivating the governor is long term political interests at the national level.
Leahy: Crom, I guess the idea in his mind is that he maybe would run for President someday.
Carmichael: I’d rather just say it’s a bad idea. (Leahy laughs) I oppose the idea because I think it’s a bad idea. I’m not going to oppose it because I think the governor has political motivations. I don’t care.
Listen to the full third hour:
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