Live from Music Row Thursday 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 Andy Roth from The Club for Growth to the newsmakers line.
During the second hour, Roth disclosed percentages for the newly released scorecard for the Tennessee General Assembly which is conducted by The Club for Growth. He outlined how the scores were calculated citing disappointment in the percentages which revealed a lack of fiscal conservatism among Republicans and a less than favorable voting trend nationwide.
Leahy: In the studio with me is the all-star panelist, good friend, and long time Tea Party activist in Nashville Ben Cunningham. And on the newsmaker line, our friend Andy Roth with The Club for Growth is going to talk about a scorecard for the Tennessee General Assembly. Good morning, Andy.
Roth: Hi, thanks for having me.
Leahy: And you know Ben don’t you? Ben Cunningham?
Roth: Hey, yeah, I know both of you guys. In fact, Michael I was thinking about the last time we spoke is probably been 10 years.
Leahy: I know. At the very beginning of the Tea Party Movement. You’ve been fighting the good fight ever since as well as Ben. And I’ve been trying in my own ways. You’ve got a scorecard out now for the Tennessee General Assembly. Tell us about it, Andy.
Roth: Yeah, in fact, we’re breaking the news with you guys right now on this. So we haven’t released it yet, but it’s actually a little dismaying. You know, everybody knows that Tennessee is a one-party state but it’s not limited government conservatives who are the one party. It appears to be a big government bipartisan collection of Democrats and Republicans, who are trying to grow government in Nashville and it’s unfortunate.
I can go through the numbers with you and a bit but it looks like instead of you know, expanding economic freedom and reducing the size of government this past legislative session was mainly about handing out cronyism, corporate welfare, and raising taxes. There were a few good bills in there but for the most part it just look like, you know special interests or handing out favors.
Cunningham: It is really is disappointing Andy. Hey, this is Ben. We send these guys up there. They’re elected as conservatives and they campaign as conservatives. They campaign as limited government conservatives and then they come up here to Nashville to the capital and when they start to press that vote button that finger gets kind of nervous. And they just never do quite come through. We have some good ones.
Unfortunately, we’ve lost some good ones this time around. Several of our really good staunch conservatives are not going to be back. But it is it’s depressing. When they campaign and when those words come out of their mouth and you believe them and then they come to Nashville and betray us almost immediately.
Roth: Yeah, and you know what it is that you make a very good point Ben. When Democrats say they want to grow government you believe them because they actually follow through on that. But when Republicans hypocritically say they want to cut government and reduce taxes and reduce spending but then do the opposite that stings a lot more than what the Democrats tell you. So I agree it is unfortunate.
Leahy: Andy what are some of the key votes that you looked at? How did you do this? Did you take five or ten key vote? What was your process?
Roth: So we looked at every single floor vote that was cast both in the Tennessee House and the Tennessee Senate. And then we whittled it down and by the way, there were over 4,000-floor votes. We whittled that down to 20 key votes in the House and 20 in the Senate.
Leahy: Ah ha!
Roth: And what we were what we were looking for were bills that were economically related. Did they raise taxes or lower taxes? Did they increase spending or lower spending? Did they increase regulations or reduce regulations. All of those. and the ones that we found we put into the scorecard. And some of them are quite atrocious.
We’re dealing with this COVID pandemic and the Tennessee legislature decided to raise taxes forcing small businesses, including restaurants and bars to collect more taxes from their customers and pass it along to Nashville. That’s just one. Plus there’s also corporate welfare raising hotel taxes handing and out money to the Great Wolf Lodge. When we post this on our website your listeners can go and see all of the different votes that we scored.
But unfortunately, it’s just really disappointing. There were a couple of good ones. Let me say that they did pass legal liability protection for COVID. They did reaffirm although this is more of a symbolic vote. But they did reaffirm the right-to-work status of Tennessee, which is good. And they also passed medical care agreements which just basically allow patients to have more direct access to their doctors and without bureaucrats getting involved. But those were minor compared to everything else.
Leahy: Where will you post this Andy? We’ll be able to see that and when?
Roth: This will be at ClubForGrowthFoundation.org and we’ll have it later this morning
Leahy: You heard about it first here. Ben?
Cunningham: I’m so glad you’re doing this because we don’t have that many groups that look closely at the Tennessee legislature. Because like you say, we’re a super-majority Republicans. People assume we’re a conservative state. But when these votes come, Down it really is an eye-opener for a lot of people.
It’s an eye-opener or any time you get down at the legislature and you actually watch how the sausage is made and you go to the committee meetings and you see people equivocate and obfuscate. The people that are down there know what’s going on. But for most people scorecards like this really are the only insight they have. And I for one really appreciate The Club for Growth doing this Andy.
Leahy: Andy, do you score just the Tennessee General Assembly on these votes passed? Or do you score individual legislators for their vote?
Roth: Oh, definitely. We score each and every lawmaker. In fact, let me give you some numbers. The average score in the Tennessee Senate for Republicans, just Republicans, was 43 percent. Now I remember going to school and if I got a 43 percent on anything I failed. The Democrats in the Tennessee Senate got an 18 percent.
Leahy: Well, I’m surprised they got that high. (Roth laughs)
Roth: Well in the Tennessee House, the numbers aren’t much different. 45 percent for Republicans. 32 percent for Democrats.
Leahy: Interesting. That’s John Mark Windle in that I think. The Democrat.
Roth: But your leaders like Randy McNally in the Senate was just 42 percent. And Cameron Sexton 43 percent. So top-down, there’s not much leadership in either chamber for fiscal conservatism.
Cunningham: Andy, see you look at a lot of state legislators, Where do the Republicans fall down? I mean they campaign as fiscal conservatives what how do they get pushed? And how do the liberals use their leverage to push these guys over to the other side? What happens when they get to the state legislature?
Roth: Well, let me back up because we do state scorecards in other states. And I’m seeing a trend in all states except for a few. Florida by the way is exceptionally conservative despite the belief that it’s a swing state. But one thing that I see even in Florida, Tennessee, and elsewhere is a lot of bills passed unanimously with Republican and Democrat support. And it’s because the lobbyists come in to make their argument.
There’s very little debate. The bills pass. And a lot of rank-and-file members just do what leadership tells them. Which begs the question like, you know, why do you even have a vote card if all you do is just follow the leader? But I do think that a lot of Republicans are ignorant. I literally believe that they do not know what they’re voting on.
When you vote for licensing for barbers or cronyism you think that’s being pro-business because the people that represent those industries are saying they need it. And you know Republicans think that business is good so they do what business tells them. That is where I think they fall down the most. Now when it comes to raising taxes or raising spending, I think that corruption gets a little bit deeper and more nefarious when that happens.
Leahy: Andy Roth, thank you so much for joining us here. Tell us again where we can see this later today.
Roth: You bet. go to ClubForGrowthFoundation.org. You’ll see the 2020 Tennessee scorecard on there. And you also see 2019. So we’ve done it for a couple of years and you can see every lawmakers’ score going for both years. So it’s a good handy resource and I hope you’re listeners take advantage of it.
Listen to the full second hour here:
– – –