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 State Representative David Wright (R-Corryton) to the newsmaker line to explain some elements of the residency bill for candidates of U.S. House and Senate and his focus for 2022.
Leahy: We welcome to our newsmaker line our friend, State Representative Dave Wright. Republican from the Knoxville area. Representative Wright, thanks so much for joining us today.
Wright: Thanks for the invitation and for getting me on the radio, only I don’t know if I can talk fast enough to be on the radio.
Leahy: (Laughs) You’re talking just fine. Very interesting twists and turns on the state residency bill to be eligible to participate in a primary. It zoomed through the state Senate 31 to one.
You got to have a three-year residency before you qualify for a primary ballot. But you could run it as an Independent if you want to run for the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. I read with great interest you’re the House sponsor of the bill.
You had two interesting twists that I want to chat with you about in the bill that passed out of the House Elections and Finance Subcommittee last week. I think it’s up for full committee. Is it today or tomorrow?
Wright: This week.
Leahy: The first part, you took the bill which applied to the Senate and Congress equally, and you broke it up, which I thought was interesting. And I’d like to get your thoughts as to why you did that.
First, you say a person is not eligible to qualify as a candidate for the U.S. Senate unless a person has been a resident of the state for at least three years prior to the date of the election in which the person seeks to qualify as a candidate.
A little different language there, but then you added this. A person is not eligible to qualify as a candidate for a member of the U.S. House unless the person has been a resident of this state and the district the person seeks to represent for at least three years prior to the date of the election in which the person seeks to qualify as a candidate.
You broke that up and you added an element that the Constitution of the United States only requires that you be a resident of the state in which the congressional district is located.
So according to the Constitution, you could run for district A and live in district B. You would change that. What was your thinking on that?
Wright: There were lots of things, I guess, that sort of got into this bowl of soup. Not to bring controversy, but just to get people to discuss where we might be. There’s one other element – my bill happened to say it was effective the day after the next general election.
Leahy: Right. I remember that. We got that. But I’d like you to focus on this addition, which I think is very interesting, that adds a district residency requirement for somebody running for the U.S. House. What was your thinking on that?
Wright: It was just to get people to be closer to where it was that they were seeking a seat, I think. And it’s all about being measured by a yardstick here in Tennessee and not by what you may have done in some other state.
Leahy: So here’s the question for me. I kind of think this is a good addition. But, you know, when you look at some of the Supreme Court decisions on this, for instance, U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton in a decision where the dissent was written by Clarence Thomas, he said that the Constitution is silent on issues of the primary involvement and then the standards of residency.
But the Constitution does say this: that you just have to be a resident of the state. Adding this additional element to be a resident of the district, would that set this up for a constitutional challenge?
Wright: Since all the conversations seem to not favor this particular point, I guess to me it becomes a non-issue, because what has happened is there’s been overwhelming support in the Senate for the Senate version.
It’s actually laying on the desk in the House awaiting my bill, which will get there by next week. And what’s going to happen is everyone likes what’s happened in the Senate, so we’ll conform to that.
Leahy: Are you saying right now that the House will conform to the Senate version of the bill?
Wright: That’s what I would think is going to happen.
Leahy: And do you support that as the sponsor of this bill in the House?
Wright: Yes, because the conversation is taking place amongst all of us here wandering up and down the halls. People think the Senate bill is a good bill.
Leahy: That’s the way this legislator’s process is supposed to work, isn’t it?
Wright: Right. I’m just happy that we got everything out on the table for people to discuss it. And as you said, the Supreme Court was kind of, or the chief justice, whichever justice said the Constitution is silent, then we ought to be able to look at it. It’s been to the people of state.
I think you’re absolutely right in that regard because you and I’ve talked about this before and we’ve had a very interesting discussion about it. I’m just delighted by the way the legislative process has worked on this bill.
Wright: This is one of the high points. It was a bill that Senator Niceley started with and he’s my neighbor in East Tennessee. I just ended up being in the right place at the right time.
Wright: My name being Wright. (Laughs)
Leahy: The right Wright. (Chuckles) What other things are you working on in the Tennessee General Assembly as the session comes to a close?
Wright: There are other pieces of business that are traveling, but most of what I was looking for trying to get through these particular few months, most of it’s well on its way. Like dual credit for high school kids and TCAT and other things in schools.
And then trying to help the counties with issues where certain state law says they get a commission to operate their office by doing their transactions and some of those commissions have been cut in half and given to the state years ago. They need to be back in the county’s hands.
Leahy: Thank you so much for getting up early. I know you’ve got a busy day, coming in on the newsmaker line. If you have an opportunity before the session ends, would you consider coming into the studio so that we’d have a little longer time to talk?
Wright: Yes, we need to consider that. I think that right now we’re in the busiest two weeks of what’s going to happen in a session for people like me, the ones that are not in leadership. It’s going to get more hectic towards the end for those. But for us worker bees, this is a two-week busy period right now.
Leahy: We’ll give you a two-week hiatus and then we’ll see if we can get you in the studio. How does that sound?
Wright: Yes, you call me. Have somebody call me.
Leahy: Thanks so much for joining us.
Wright: Thanks for the opportunity.
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