Live from Music Row 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 Leahy welcomed Tennessee state Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield).
During the third hour, Roberts weighed in on the recent Fetal Heartbeat Bill surprisingly passed at midnight in the Tennessee General Assembly this week. Roberts discussed the issues with the constitutionality of the COVID-19 Liability bill which would hold businesses harmless should anyone contract the virus after a visit to their establishment.
Leahy: We are joined by our good friend state Senator Kerry Roberts. Good morning Kerry.
Roberts: Good morning. How are you this morning?
Leahy: You have been busy.
Roberts: Haha. Yeah, just a little bit.
Leahy: So now the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, you’ve got to bring us in on this.
Roberts: Sometimes you have pleasant surprises.
Leahy: Let me just come back. Perhaps Kerry Roberts, perhaps this is the morning for you to take a victory lap on this. Now look, I gave you a hard time last year. Quite a hard time as a matter of fact because a similar bill was sent to summer study. Remember that?
Roberts: Yes. And we actually had a summer study, didn’t we? (Chuckles)
Leahy: Ok. Then out of the blue one of the very last acts of the Tennessee General Assembly was the passage of the Fetal Heartbeat Bill.
Leahy: How did this happen?
Roberts: It’s infuriated liberals since it was done after midnight.
Leahy: Yes. I have to ask you. Has the governor signed it?
Roberts: I doubt he signed it yet.
Leahy: Oh, it has to go through the process.
Roberts: It takes a couple of weeks.
Leahy: A couple of days?
Roberts: I think it’s a couple of weeks.
Leahy: There are a whole series of procedures you go through right? After the Tennessee General Assembly passes it before the legal document arrives on the governor’s desk for signature. Right?
Roberts: Right. And I don’t know how quickly that can be done.
Leahy: But he said he’s going to sign it?
Roberts: Oh yeah. Yes. It’s his bill. Well, he originated it.
Leahy: After just giving you a hard time all the time on multiple programs. What are they doing? What are they doing in summer study? It will never happen! Kerry Roberts, you’re just doing summer study and you are not doing anything! This was last year. A year ago. You remember it well. I’m giving you a victory lap here. (Laughs)
Roberts: I’m just one vote.
Leahy: I know. Now, the bill that passed, was this a bill that included content that you developed from your summer study last year?
Roberts: I would say yes. My opinion would be yes.
Leahy: This is victory lap time for Kerry Roberts. (Chuckles)
Roberts: It is. Sometimes nobody has a patent on good ideas right? And the way you want to go about doing something is you take your input from various sources. In the case of the summer study, I would like to think that some of the things that were discussed and talked about helped go into what the governor proposed.
Every legislative session, the governor has what’s called a legislative package. The things that are important to the governor thy pull together as a bill and they give it to the majority leader in the House. They give it to the majority leader in the Senate. So Jack Johnson in the Senate. William Lambuth in the House.
And they become the sponsors of the bill. Even though the governor can’t pass legislation, he originated the bill. In other words, it was his team that drafted the bill in consultation to some extent with the House and the Senate.
In this particular bill, it was probably done more independently of the House and Senate than maybe some other bills. They had some very clear ideas about how they wanted to proceed. I’d like to think that some of what we discussed in summer study came into play there. But I don’t know that for a fact. I don’t want to misspeak.
Leahy: I will. You don’t have to misspeak. But I’m going to give you some credit for this.
Roberts: I really don’t deserve any credit for this.
Leahy: I think your summer study played a role in the final bill.
Roberts: My takeaway from the summer study was this, is that I’ve said this before. It’s amazing to me how people could invoke the name of Jesus to support abortion.
Leahy: Yes. That’s what the left did and does.
Roberts: I’ve said this on this program before. I pulled the governor aside early on. When liberals start quoting scripture than you need to really pay attention to what’s going on. (Chuckles) They are not doing it out of the goodness of their heart. It’s a manipulative type thing.
Leahy: State Senator Kerry Roberts, it’s just you and me here. How did this happen? This was out of the blue! I had no expectation that this would happen. It passed 23 to five in the State Senate and like 70 to 20 in the House?
Roberts: In the session, it was pretty clear that Speaker McNally’s position was that he wanted to get in and get out.
Leahy: Now when you say, Speaker McNally…
Roberts: Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate.
Leahy: The state Senate. As opposed to the Speaker of the House…
Roberts: Speaker of the House. It was pretty clear that there was a tug of war going on between the Speakers of both chambers. The Senate wanted to get in and modify the budget as needed and deal with COVID-19 bills and leave. And the House wanted to stay and do the full legislative package.
There were arguments for both sides. My position on it was that I thought we should stay and work on things but only if the public is there. I didn’t agree with our meeting and the public not being there. I was fine with getting in and get out.
Originally the Heartbeat Bill, because it was a controversial bill and because it would be one of those bills that would benefit from testimony and what not. It didn’t make the initial list of bills that were going to be heard. Now it had already gone through committee. So it had been heard in committee. Sometimes late in the session, you have some give and take which is another word for negotiation.
Leahy: Where was the give and take happening? Did you know what was going on?
Roberts: The COVID-19 bill and the budget bill it looked like we were at an impasse between the House and the Senate. My guess is that the Heartbeat Bill got introduced as a way to overcome an impasse. As you’re saying, well I tell you what I want this. Well, you can’t have that! Well, how about if I give you this?
That’s kind of the thing. Where the whole thing fell off the rails though was in the COVID-19 liability bill because my hunch is that the Heartbeat Bill was to overcome some objection to the COVID-19 bill or potentially some of the stuff in the budget. Now I don’t know.
Leahy: Such a bill did not pass.
Roberts: It did not pass. It got bogged down.
Roberts: It got bogged down in the House over issues of constitutionality. There is an argument as to why it’s not constitutional. There’s an argument of why it is. At the end of the day, you have to say look at this. You have experts disagreeing.
Leahy: So the COVID-19 Liability bill is important for the governor. Tell our listeners why that bill is important to the governor and others.
Roberts: If I leave here to go to McDonald’s to get an Egg McMuffin and then a few days later I test positive for COVID-19 and I think who has got the deepest pockets that I can blame this on?
Roberts: People say why are the restaurant lobbies not open? I’m not just talking about Nashville being in the phase that they are in. When you go to the outlying counties there aren’t under these restrictions why are their lobbies open? Well if you are a Nashville chain and you have a drive-thru, why in the world would you want to open the lobby and open that exposure to yourself?
On the one hand, you’ve got the trial lawyers saying we want to be able to sue if something is wrong here. On the other hand, you have businesses saying, we didn’t have any choice in what we did. So the question is, who are you trying to protect from lawsuits here.
You are basically trying to protect the people from suing saying I got COVID-19 because of you. What I definitely think is, if you got put out of business because Mayor Cooper shut you down, you ought to be able to file a lawsuit I think. What do you think?
Leahy: If the government has shut you down you ought to be able to file a lawsuit. But an individual. It’s sort of like the Trump rally.
Roberts: If you go to the Trump rally and you get COVID-19 you’re not able to sue Trump.
Leahy: Well this is why they required the signing of the waiver.
Roberts: That’s exactly right.
Leahy: I think the legal scenario would be that there should be an implied waiver.
Roberts: But if my business was deemed non-essential put me out of business where do I get relief?
Leahy: Here’s the takeaway. Will there bill another session of the state legislature?
Roberts: There’s definitely rumor of it and that there might be a special session. But I don’t know how and when. Trying to get everybody back together to do something.
Leahy: Get the old gang back together? (Chuckles)
Roberts: And quite honestly, they’ve got to overcome the objection that the bill in its retroactive nature is not unconstitutional.
Leahy: That’s the problem.
Roberts: That’s where it got bogged down in the House. You had Republicans jump ship because Johnny Garett makes the argument that its unconstitutional and people buy into it. And he made a very good argument.
Leahy: The problem also is that it’s something like that you can’t really figure that out in a week.
Roberts: That’s right. You need a summer study. Let’s have a summer study. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: Let’s have a summer study! I like that idea.
Listen to the second hour here:
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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 “Tennessee Capitol” by FaceMePls. CC BY 2.0.