Live from Music Row Friday 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 (R) Tennessee Rep. Bud Hulsey of District Two in Sullivan County to the newsmakers line to discuss his background and focus moving forward in the upcoming legislative session in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Leahy: We are joined Now by state Representative Bud Hulsey from Sullivan County and the Kingsport area. Welcome to the Tennessee Star Report.
Hulsey: Thank you, Michael. I appreciate it.
Leahy: You have a fascinating background. You’re a retired police lieutenant. How long did you serve as a police officer?
Hulsey: 36 years.
Leahy: All in Kingsport?
Hulsey: Yes, sir. All in Kingsport.
Leahy: That is quite a career. And so you certainly have a perspective on what’s been going on in this country over the past year. And I think that’s probably served you very well in your service in the state legislature.
Hulsey: I think so too. Actually, I was the watch commander for the last 25 years. So it was a big thing to make sure that police officers always abide by the Constitution and they’re framed by constitutional principles. So you keep an unbiased police department that has good service when you do that.
Leahy: I love it up there in the Tri-Cities area. It’s beautiful rolling countryside and it’s just a beautiful place to live but it’s a long way from Nashville. What are the differences in terms of the interests of people in the Tri-Cities area when you compare to say the rest of Tennessee or middle Tennessee?
Hulsey: Well East Tennessee is pretty true what you say about it because it is it’s one of the best places in the country to live. But you know the same problems exist, I guess up there on some fundamental levels. But overall we still would be classified as a rural area compared to Nashville. And so the tension between rural thinking and urban thinking is kind of apparent between us. And Nashville problems really are not the same kind of problems we have up there. But I think that’s what lends itself to a pretty conservative district that I have. In fact most of East Tennessee up there is pretty conservative.
Leahy: So in terms of the current regular session of the General Assembly, and then you’re following up with a special session on education that will start next Tuesday and continue for a week or two. Would you have any examples of those differences in terms of the agenda for the Tennessee General Assembly between East Tennessee and Nashville?
Hulsey: Well, yeah. On the education side, I think we’ve got some of the best schools in the state, but Kingsport has always set the bar high and demanded high performance in the educational process. They are some of the best in the state that we have in Kingsport. They have an emphasis on that which I think across the state everybody does.
They just stick to it and make sure that that teacher and the whole process come up to the bar that they said for excellence. And so they are a great deal in this education. They would be prone to deal with the Medicaid block grant. And we’re I live they would most of those folks be prone to do the best you can do and save the maximum amount of money you can save and serve the maximum amount of money people you can serve. And then if you top it off with a taxpayer not being on the hook for it that’s even better. So they would have that kind of interest in it.
Leahy: You said something very important. The public schools in Kingsport are doing very well the public schools in the rest of the state and particularly in Nashville, and Memphis are doing very poorly. Why is there such a difference?
Hulsey: Well gee, whiz, I don’t know if I have the answer for that Michael. I think some of it is parental involvement overall where you have you probably percentage-wise I’m going to gamble and say that you have folks that maybe are more involved in their kids learning and their kid’s education. I guess the legacy of it has been expected for quite some time that we’re going to have one of the best educational systems in the state. And that’s what they’ve been committed to. and that’s what they do.
Leahy: On a personal level. You live up in Kingsport. You come down here for the Tennessee General Assembly in Nashville. That’s a long haul. What kind of personal toll to take on you to be back and forth so much during the General Assembly session?
Hulsey: It’s a four hour and 15-minute drive for me. And I’m almost as far away as you can get from Nashville’s in the state. We’re right on the Virginia line and about 30 miles from North Carolina. It does get very very old coming down every week and going home. It puts a lot of miles on your car too.
Leahy: It sure does. By the way, I don’t think this is the case but is Mountain City in your district?
Hulsey: No it is not.
Leahy: I’ve been to Mountain City it’s way up there in the far corner of Tennessee, isn’t it?
Hulsey: Yeah, they don’t get the Grand Ole Opry until Wednesday up there. (Laughter)
Leahy: What are your personal priorities in the Tennessee General Assembly this session?
Hulsey: Well, I’ve got some bills I think are important but of course everybody does. But there’s one bill that I’m running that says that state government can’t use police nor can local government police power to force somebody to take a COVID-19 vaccine against their will. That stirred up a little bit of issue. But to me those kinds of fundamental things are important. And there’s another one.
Two years ago the Supreme Court ruled that they didn’t think that if you try to manage state court and turned around and tried them in federal court for the same crime that was double jeopardy. I feel like it is especially if taxpayers are going to pay the bill. So I went back and looked at the number of inmates that we’ve got in 14 penitentiaries in, Tennessee that are in a Tennessee penitentiary, but they are waiting to go to a federal penitentiary and they’ve already got a sentence on them when they get there.
So we looked at it and you have actually over 500 inmates right now that have a federal warrant again them and they have served 50 percent of their sentence. They’re eligible for parole. And the amount of time that they have left on their state sentence is less than the amount of time they’re going to have to serve in the federal prison. This bill that I’m running says the parole board can go ahead and kick them loose and send them to the federal penitentiary and the taxpayer and Tennessee doesn’t have to pay for it.
Leahy: I note with interest that you are the chairman of the corrections subcommittees that right?
Hulsey: That is correct.
Leahy: So, that means that that you have Their legislative duties and authority over our 14th state prisons.
Hulsey: That’s what we are actually trying to morph this committee in to.
Leahy: That makes sense. I’ll tell you something interesting that we have in common. I grew up in a state prison town upstate Dannemora, New York which has a famous prison there. It’s a prison that in in 2015 two guys escaped but they finally got them. But in that small community you walk down Main Street, and for about half a mile of 40-foot cement wall was on the right was the prison. And so I’m familiar with the culture of the guards and those communities. And I think look the prison guards do is a tough job. It’s an important job. And I think they do they really really have an important job to do.
Leahy: Would you share that sentiment?
Hulsey: Indeed. And that’s part of the problem in this culture and climate with what we’re dealing with. We are vastly understaffed in the 14 penitentiaries that we have. And the hiring process is having a hard time getting folks hired on and in those positions.
Leahy: I’ve seen a lot of advertisements from folks looking to hire people for that. and I can that it’s exactly the case.
Listen to the full 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.
Background Photo “Tennessee Capitol” by Ichabod. CC BY-SA 3.0.