In an exclusive interview Tuesday 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 Michael Patrick Leahy spoke with Tennessee State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) about his proposed constitutional amendment regarding “right to work.”
During the second hour, Kelsey described the nature of the amendment as a simple law that says that you cannot be hired or fired based on whether you chose to join a union. Kelsey thought this was important for for job growth in the state. Furthermore, the senator worried about neighboring Virginia’s current legislative actions which has created the urgency of getting this law in the Tennessee State Constitution as soon as possible.
Leahy: State Senator Brian Kelsey joins us now. Welcome, State Senator Kelsey to The Tennessee Star Report.
Kelsey: Hi. Thanks for having me on.
Leahy: Great to be with you. Of course, your colleague State Senator Kerry Roberts is in the studio here.
Roberts: Good morning. Now there’s a reason that I asked you to call in because I know Michael Patrick Leahy is going to ask me about your proposed constitutional amendment. And I thought rather than bumbling through the explanation we’d just get the guy who wrote the thing himself to call in and explain what he’d done.
Kelsey: Well you’re very generous Kerry and I certainly appreciate all of your support in getting it across the finish line last night.
Leahy: What’s in the bill and what happened last night in the state Senate?
Kelsey: Well, basically what this amendment does is it takes the language from the 1947 right to work law in Tennessee and it would place it in the Tennessee State Constitution. This law is a very simple law that says that you cannot be hired or fired based on whether you chose to join a union.
So it protects both those that chose not to join and protects union members from being retaliated against by their employers. And last night we took step one in what will be a law in a three-year process that gets this amendment on the ballot in front of voters in 2022. But thankfully we had a huge overwhelming vote of 22 to 4 state Senators in favor of the amendment.
Leahy: Could you describe the process by which this would become an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution?
Kelsey: It takes a little while. The first step is that it’s got to pass the House and Senate by a simple majority. So next it will go on to the House here in the next few weeks. And Representative Robin Smith from Chattanooga will be the main House sponsor. But it already has support from Representative Lamberth, and Speaker Sexton are already sponsors of that resolution.
And then after this year, then it’s got to come back in the next two years and pass the House and Senate by a two-thirds majority. And that’s why we’re thrilled last night to get over that two-thirds majority even on the first vote. We needed 22 to get to that threshold. So that’s encouraging for the next step-around.
Then after that, it goes on the ballot in November of 2022. So two and a half years from now. Then it’s got to get a majority of the voters. But even then there’s another step that it has to get a majority of that in the governor’s race. In other words, if you leave it blank in essence that counts as a no vote.
Leahy: So, if for instance, the governor’s race, for the sake of discussion, a million vote and only 900,000 votes are cast on the constitutional amendment ballot, that would mean that you would have to get a more than 500,000 out of 900,000 votes cast for this to become a constitutional amendment? Do I have that right?
Kelsey: That’s exactly right.
Leahy: So here’s the big question for you State Senator Kelsey. There’s already a law on the books, a statute from 1947. Why then do we need this to be a constitutional amendment to the Tennessee State Constitution?
Kelsey: Well, that’s a good question. There are 27 states that like Tennessee that are right to work states and nine of those states have gone through this process and placed it in their state constitution. Three of those are our neighbors competing for job growth. Those would be Arkansas and Mississippi. And Alabama was our latest neighbor to take this legislation, and they passed it on the ballot in 2016, just four years ago.
This will help us compete with those states. But more importantly, the timing is crucial right now because of what’s happening with one of our other neighbors. In Virginia, we have the state legislature that has also had that right to work law on the books since 1947, and they are presently debating whether or not to repeal that law. This has serious momentum in Virginia and Tennessee could find itself in the same situation.
In fact, just last week, the US House passed a law called the pro-act that actually would repeal the right to work in all 27 states including Tennessee. And that passed with 224 votes in favor of it. So this is an issue that is currently under attack. It’s time for Tennessee to say that, “No, we’re going to stand up for the right to work. We think it’s an important enough civil right hat we want to put it in our state constitution.”
Leahy: It’s very interesting you mention the Virginia state legislature that the Democrats control now in Virginia in the state Senate and the state House. They call it the House of Delegates there. They are passing some crazy loony tune leftist laws, aren’t they?
Kelsey: Well, yeah. I mean the first thing they’re doing, of course, is they’re trying to take everyone’s firearms away from them.
Leahy: Yeah, and they’re just getting crazier and crazier. Now hopefully the demographics won’t change as much in Tennessee as they have in the past decade in Virginia. But you never know. And that’s the reason for the constitutional amendment. State Senator Brian Kelsey, thanks so much for joining us today on The Tennessee Star Report and good luck with the rest of the Tennessee General Assembly.
Kelsey: Thanks for having me on Mike.
Listen to the full second hour here:
– – –