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 State Representative Bruce Griffey to discuss his HB1648 which would disable Tennessean taxpayers from funding illegal immigrant education, his opinion on the primary election residency requirements and how soon it would go into action if passed by Governor Bill Lee.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line right now by a very good friend, State Representative Bruce Griffey. Good morning, state Representative Griffey.
Griffey: Good morning, Michael Patrick, how are you?
Leahy: Are you in your car driving towards the Capitol? Have you arrived at the Capitol yet, and are you ready for today’s work?
Griffey: No, I’m not headed up there just yet. I’ve got some things to take care of here at the house and feed some horses and stuff like that. But I will be heading up there today.
Leahy: Well, what is on your agenda as we begin to close out this session of the Tennessee General Assembly? What will you be doing today up there?
Griffey: Well, I think we’ve got some meetings. We’re going to have a bill review before we go into session this evening for any legislation that’s on today’s agenda. I’ve got a couple of bills I’m still pushing if you want to jump right into it.
Leahy: What are they? Tell us.
Griffey: This is sort of an important one for me and, I think, important for, in fact, the nation. It’s HB1648, and what it does is it’s a challenge to the 1982 Supreme Court decision Plyler versus Doe.
And that’s the case that Texas had a law that said the state of Texas is not going to pay for the education for children that are here illegally. And you can have arguments back and forth on the policy importance of that and whether it’s good policy or not.
But my problem and, in fact, [in] the dissent, Chief Justice Berger, Justice White, Justice Rehnquist, and Justice O’Connor recognized that what the court did back then was simply legislating from the bench.
And that’s not the function of the Supreme Court. And it fundamentally damages, in my opinion, our constitutional framework, when one branch of government oversteps its bounds.
Leahy: This is an ongoing problem when the Supreme Court legislates from the bench. And this has bugged me for a long time. Taxpayers in Tennessee are forced to pay for the education of illegal alien children.
Leahy: And I think that’s wrong. But here we are stuck with this Supreme Court precedent. How would your legislation overturn that precedent? I mean, it’s the Supreme Court. How are you going to fight that?
Griffey: And a lot of people get up in arms about this and look, nothing’s going to change, but you have to first pass a law that challenges that Supreme Court decision. If enacted and signed by Governor Lee, it will be immediately enjoined by anybody that objects to it.
Leahy: The scenario is that basically, you would pass a law that says Tennessee does not have to pay for the education of illegal aliens in K-12 correct?
Leahy: Okay. Then the minute it becomes law, if it were to become law, if the governor were to sign it, five million lawyers from the Left would file a lawsuit asking for a temporary injunction by a federal district court to stop this law.
Nine times out of 10, some liberal judge would grant that injunction, and then it would move all the way up to the Supreme Court. You’re trying to set this up as a precedent for the Supreme Court, am I right?
Griffey: Exactly. It doesn’t even have to be a liberal judge because there’s Biden’s Supreme Court precedent. Any federal judge, district court judge is going to have to enjoin it immediately. So it’s not going to affect anything.
But that allows our attorney general to start pursuing that case through the court of appeals back up to the Supreme Court. And this Supreme Court may have a difference of opinion and a different view on what the law is.
The ’82 decision has been criticized roundly as simply legislating from the bench. It wasn’t based upon prior precedent. So it should be attacked.
Leahy: So I agree with you on that. Here’s the question, though: If this were to pass, would Governor Lee sign this bill?
Griffey: (Chuckles) I would hope so, but that’s up to Governor Lee and that’s his prerogative.
Leahy: Has your bill made it through committees and do you have a state senate sponsor?
Griffey: I’ve had so many other things going on, but it’s going to be heard in K-12 administration this Wednesday at 3:15 p.m.
Leahy: And so what do you think the odds of making it out?
Griffey: Pretty good, I think. We’ve got a pretty good committee there. Why would you vote against this bill, is my question. It’s not going to change the landscape, but what it will do is allow our attorney general and the taxpayers of Tennessee to have an opportunity to challenge that 1982 decision that is, I think, clearly wrong. Just flat wrong.
It’s legislating from the bench, and we should address those bad decisions. There’s another decision right now that would impose residency requirements for people running for Congress. There was a Supreme Court decision out there that says, oh, the Constitution doesn’t necessarily allow …
Leahy: You’re talking about the five-to-four decision in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, a very close decision in 1995.
Leahy: The state of Arkansas passed a statute that said three years and three terms, and you can’t run again. The Supreme Court ruled five to four, that that law in Arkansas was unconstitutional.
However, the dissent was written by Clarence Thomas, agreed to by Scalia. I think you’re going to go and say the current court would say probably would agree with Thomas in that dissent. Your thoughts.
Griffey: Exactly. The Constitution didn’t abate it by the state. So if we want to enact residency requirements, I think the dissent back then would have allowed it, and I think the current court may allow it.
Leahy: I agree.
Griffey: If it’s not specified in the Constitution, the states reserve those powers unto themselves.
Leahy: The old 10th Amendment ploy. Very good. (Chuckles) Now, State Representative Griffey, let me ask you this: That bill, the residency bill is scheduled to come for a floor vote this evening.
I hear that the House sponsor State Representative David Wright is going to amend it to conform to the state Senate bill which passed 31 to one, which says it’ll go into effect immediately.
Three-year residence before you can run on a primary ballot. Do you think that that bill will pass when it comes to the floor in the House today?
Griffey: Yes. It will.
Leahy: And I’m getting the sense that it could pass pretty handily. What do you think?
Griffey: By 74 something. It’ll be 74, 72, 70-something votes for it. That’s my guess.
Leahy: You know it’s interesting to say that I think it’s probably going to be that. Perhaps more. That’s at least a two-thirds majority, and then it’s going to pass 31 to one in the state Senate. I guess then Governor Lee would probably not veto the bill, that’s my sense. That’s what I’m hearing.
Griffey: I don’t think so. And look, this is a bill, that’s another bill that makes a lot of sense. And if somebody wants to challenge that in the Supreme Court or whatever, that’s fine.
That’s the way we resolve differences in America and which makes America the greatest country in the world. We have a system of rules and laws and we settle disputes peacefully in our courtrooms and not in the streets.
Leahy: So, you’re an attorney, State Representative Griffey. We’ve got a little interesting element to this. Here’s what I think the impact of this law would be if it were to pass.
If the Tennessee Republican Party follows its bylaws and removes from the primary ballot people who have not met the standard of having voted in three of the last four statewide primaries – that means Ortagus, Starbucks, and Vitalli, the three carpetbaggers, (Griffey chuckles) would be removed – they would not be removed by the state law. No one would challenge the law of this cycle in federal court. I think that’s a good move by the state party.
It would be challenged in the 2024 cycle but anybody wanting to be a carpetbagger would have to put aside a couple of hundred grand for legal challenges. What do you think of that?
Griffey: Well I think that’s probably a good analysis and scenario on how things may very well play out.
Leahy: It will be very interesting. State Representative Bruce Griffey, thanks so much for joining us today. Have a great day up on Capitol Hill.
Griffey: Thank you, Michael Patrick.
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