State Representative Chris Todd of Jackson, Tennessee Talks Redistricting, Education, and School Board Recall Elections


Live from Music Row Monday 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 Representative (R-TN-73), Chris Todd, to the newsmaker line to weigh in on redistricting bill, education, and top priorities for 2022.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by our very good friend, State Representative Chris Todd from Jackson. Good morning, Representative Todd.

Todd: Good morning, Michael. How are you today?

Leahy: I’m great. So you are in the midst of another session of the Tennessee General Assembly. Are you driving up from Jackson today? Are you here? Do you stay here when you’re in session?

Todd: I’ll be driving up later today. I have some local meetings this morning in Jackson with some of our leaders. First topic is about education, and then I’ll be heading up around lunch today. I’ll be there until probably Thursday afternoon.

Leahy: Is the House going to be in session later today?

Todd: Yes. Every Monday at 5:00 p.m. and probably until the end of April.

Leahy: I hear that the House will take up the new congressional redistricting bill this evening at 5:00 pm. I guess it passed the Senate last week. Do you know if it’s going to be on the floor for a final vote this evening?

Todd: I believe it will. I think it went through calendar and rules on Thursday morning. And so it would be then slated for the next available calendar, which I think would be this evening.

Leahy: This is the redistricting that creates a new Fifth Congressional District. It doesn’t touch many of the others, but it takes the current Fifth Congressional District, which is, in essence, Davidson County.

A very Democrat area currently represented by Jim Cooper and breaks it into three pieces. And Jim Cooper’s district now would have parts of Wilson, parts of Williamson County, all of Maury, all of Marshall, all of Lewis. It would go from a plus 22 Biden to plus 11 Trump district.

Is it your indication that this revised map is likely to pass in the House when the vote comes up tonight?

Todd: I firmly believe it will. I don’t I see any indication that it would not pass? This has been a very gerrymandered area when the Democrats had control for 140 years.

Matter of fact, I think Jim Cooper got there because they structured that district in such a way to get him elected. And, of course, it’s changed a little bit since then, but it was a very odd looking district 20 years ago I’m understanding because of that.

Leahy: The bill then, if passed in both Houses, goes to the governor for signature, do you anticipate the governor will sign it into law?

Todd: I haven’t seen any indication he wouldn’t. I think he would certainly support this, but I’ve not talked to him personally about it. I feel like he would because I think there’s a lot of folks in that area that have felt like they have not been truly represented because of the way that district has been drawn for so long, and this will finally give them some equal representation that they’ve been hoping for for so long.

Leahy: Do you have any indication whether or not the Democrats will sue in federal court charging that this violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act?

Todd: I have no doubt they will if they can raise enough money. I know they’re struggling to raise money for everything right now. And it’s no wonder why with looking at what their party is doing in D.C.

They’re literally taking this country down piece by piece, and everybody can see it at the gas pump. They can see it at the empty shelves at the grocery store. So Democrat failed policies will not be successful.

They never have been, except for very brief times to get them elected, and then they fall apart. And that’s why Tennessee is conservative. Most of our citizens are conservative and want those principles pushed and fought for every day in our legislature. So that’s what we try to respond to.

Leahy: Crom Carmichael, our all star panelist, is in studio and has a question for you.

Carmichael: Represenative, why wouldn’t the government employee unions throw money behind a lawsuit to try to keep Cooper in office?

He does every single thing that the national government, employee unions and Nancy Pelosi want him to do. Why wouldn’t they fund a lawsuit?

Todd: The only reason I could think they wouldn’t is if they think it’s a lost cause and that they want to save their pennies for later this year and try to take out some key people in local races and even on the state level. That’s the only reason I can think of it. I would sure imagine they would invest some in it.

Leahy: The buzz that I’m hearing is that the new maps were drawn up very much in alignment with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act and that it would be a bit of a Hail Mary for the Democrats to file a lawsuit.

It wouldn’t have that much chance of success, unlike some other States where they have filed successful challenges. In Ohio, the challenge was based on a new change to the state Constitution there.

We haven’t done that here in Tennessee. You talked about education. They’re going to do this. The BEP Basic Education Plan, I guess you call it, for how they give money from the states to the various counties. What do you hear from folks down in Jackson? What do you think that bill is going to look like?

Todd: I’ve actually heard very very little about this from the local Jackson residents so far. I think it’s a little far removed from most of them, unless they’ve been possibly involved in a survey or something. I don’t have any feedback on that to know how that may go.

Leahy: That’s very interesting. We’ve heard that, generally speaking, some counties in that allocation of money is a very complicated formula. Of course, Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn has done a tour of the state asking for comments.

Most of the comments at those eight or nine events around the state have been from teachers who say we need more money. Period. Do you see more money being spent in K12 public schools here in Tennessee, or do you see some other twist on that?

Todd: Traditionally, certainly in the last 10 or 12 years. I think every single year we put more and more money into education. And I know for my situation, my county, we actually have lost population in our local schools, yet we pour more money into it every single year.

And so then the citizens want to know, what are we getting for that? And we see third grade reading levels at just incredibly low rates. We see high school graduation and even graduation rates a little bit lower than they should be.

But then we see what can those students that graduate actually do? And the employers are telling us and colleges are telling us, we’ve got problems. We’re having to teach these kids in college basic math and basic reading skills that they’re not getting otherwise.

So the citizens are asking me what are we getting for our money? This is well over $6 billion of state taxpayer money on top of what the feds put in a little bit, and the locals put quite a bit into it in all of these districts. That funding formula certainly is important.

We need to make sure that it is fair and equitable across the state to accomplish what the Constitution says we have to accomplish. But as you well know, we’re spending a lot of money in that education formula and in that system educating kids that are here illegally and by some court order, we’re supposed to do that.

I know in Davidson County, I’ve understood that at one time. This was months ago that I heard this, that there are literally 120 something languages that they’re having to deal with in Davidson County to teach kids. So that ought to tell you a lot.

If anybody’s in business, they can do the math really quickly about that and see how many specialties you have to have, how many teachers you have to have to teach that many languages. It’s incredible cost.

And with the Biden administration who keeps dumping these illegals into our state day in and day out and won’t tell us any information, they’re stonewalling us. And this is costing Tennesseans money day in and day out.

Leahy: Do you have any particular agenda items that you want to promote this session of the Tennessee General Assembly?

Todd: One in particular, since we’re on the topic of education is I plan to tweak the law that we passed a couple of years ago that allowed local recall elections for school board members. As we passed it, it only applied to Madison County.

And so I’m planning on removing that part of the law and make it statewide. I’ve actually had not so many locals talk to me about that, but folks from across the state have asked me to revisit that and make sure they have that ability statewide. Some communities have it based on their charter.

Leahy: Have you introduced it already has a bill? Have you filed it?

Todd: I have not. We’re working on the language. Probably we’ll file it this week.

Leahy: What are the odds that will pass in the House and the Senate this year?

Todd: I think pretty decent just based on the number of folks that have come to me saying they want this for their citizens. I think we have a decent chance of that.

Leahy: I’m very supportive of that bill and I think the correction of a previous law that was ruled unconstitutional. State Representative Chris Todd, thanks for joining us today.

Todd: Good to talk to you guys.

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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.







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