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Donald Trump and the American Flag with Linda Fowler's wedding photo and the Tennessee Capitol

Mr. Trump and Tennessee’s Legislators Need My Wife’s Advice

Soon after I got elected to the Tennessee Senate, my wife, Linda, gave me some blunt, good advice. It’s the same advice I hope someone will give to President-elect Trump, and it’s advice I’m going to give to our legislators in Nashville.

The advice my wife gave me was in the context of an issue I got confronted with within weeks of being sworn in. I had promised not to raise taxes, but it seemed every prominent local community leader wanted the state to pass a new tax for local governments that would allow them to raise new tax revenue to build a football stadium and expand our local trade center. Since it required a new state law, I had to vote on the tax bill. I was on the hot seat.

I told my wife that the tax was really a local tax and arguably I’d only said I wouldn’t raise state taxes. But the reason I was trying to rationalize the difference between state taxes and state-authorized local taxes was because, as I told my wife, the folks calling were prominent, wealthy people who had the ability to recruit and fund an opponent in the next election cycle.

I really hate to admit that such rationalization crossed my mind so quickly in my political career, but it was good that it did, because it allowed my wife to crush it.

As I mentioned to her the names of those calling to tell me it was “okay” to vote for the tax law, my wife said (and this is a pretty accurate exchange):

LINDA: I don’t remember you mentioning any of those names during the campaign. Did any of them support you?

DAVID: No.

LINDA: Well, didn’t you win without them?

DAVID: Yes. (Said quietly and meekly.)

LINDA: Then it sounds like they aren’t that important anyway. Just do the right thing.

She cinched the political compromising and rationalizing deal for me from that day forward.

And my wise wife would say the same thing to Mr. Trump and to the Republicans in Nashville relative to the pushback they will now receive from the elite and particularly the mainstream media.

Mr. Trump, you won the election with the mainstream media squarely against you, so don’t start worrying now about what they will say when you follow through on what you said you would do. The American people demonstrated that they can cut through the lies and bias. Four years from now, if you try to tell us you did what you said, when you didn’t, we’ll cut through those lies, too. Do what you said you would do, and you won’t have to worry about whether those who actually supported you will turn on you.

And state legislators, you, too, need to ignore the media and all the threats from the gay activists if you don’t cow-tow to their agenda. North Carolina has been under constant attack since spring for voting for a law that kept bathrooms and locker rooms differentiated based on biology instead of psychology. No governor was under greater attack. And while Gov. McCrory’s race is still too close to call, the fact that it’s even close with all the forces from across the nation that came against him is itself a mini-miracle. But the critical fact is that Republicans picked up a seat in their state Legislature and their Lt. Governor, outspoken on the bathroom legislation, won by six points.

Our legislators need to vote the values of our citizens, not the values of those who write editorials for our state’s newspapers or the values of the Human Rights Campaign in D.C. and their corporate lap dogs, most of whom have their corporate headquarters in California. They do not represent the basic values of most Tennesseans, and they have never been elected. Don’t let them influence, much less dictate, what you do.

My wife taught me a valuable political lesson early on. I hope Mr. Trump and our legislators have equally wise spouses. If they don’t, and if they start worrying more about the opinions of those who were against them than those who were for them, then they may find themselves spending more time at home with their spouses after the next election cycle.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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FACT Report – February 20, 2013

Protecting Religious Liberty Is No Laughing Matter (February 20, 2013)

Tennessee legislators will soon vote on a bill to protect the religious liberty of student organizations on college campuses. Currently, the state has given law enforcement powers to public colleges and some private ones. One of those, Vanderbilt University, prohibits Christian ministries from requiring that their student officers be Christians.

This would be laughable if the principle involved weren’t so serious.

Essentially the state has delegated the protection of your right to religious liberty while on the public streets and grounds of Vanderbilt’s campus to an entity that disrespects religious liberty. Talk about the state putting the fox in charge of the henhouse!

The new bill would prohibit law enforcement powers from being given to discriminatory organizations. Protecting us from discriminatory organizations is no laughing matter.

More On This Issue

David Fowler commentary  No Laughing Matter

Laurel and Hardy in the Flying Deuces

A Fine Mess In Tennessee

Often our state tax dollar is being used to draw down another dollar or two from the federal government. So, you cut a dollar from the state budget, and you may actually be losing as much as two or three dollars because you lose the federal “match.” As the proverb says, “The debtor is the slave of the lender.”

State House Majority Leader, Gerald McCormick, was recently asked about the new effort by the Tennessee State Employees Association to have state employees identify areas of wasteful spending with the hope that elimination of waste would save state employee jobs.  This effort was launched in response to Governor Haslam’s recent decision to let go 70 planners in the Department of Economic and Community Development.

But one fascinating statement by Leader McCormick that needs digesting is that federal tax dollars represent “as much as 40% of state lending.”  Wow!

I love to quote the statement, “the debtor is the slave of the lender” and while these federal dollars don’t represent “borrowing” by the state, it does represent a dependence on the federal government that is an erosion of our liberty as a state – the notion of federalism.  Federalism was the idea that states would retain their sovereignty as a part of a group of “united states” with the federal government having limited, specific powers with all other powers belonging to the states (see the 10th Amendment).

But with 40% of our budget coming from the federal government, don’t think that there are no strings attached telling us what we can and cannot do.  There are a lot of strings that wind up dictating state policy.

And that’s not all.  These federal dollars are what makes cutting the state budget so hard.  Often our state tax dollar is being used to draw down another dollar or two from the federal government (which explains, in part, why we’re up to 40% in federal revenue). So, you cut a dollar from the state budget and you may actually be reducing the service provided by the state from that dollar by as much as two or three dollars because you lose the federal “match.”  As a former state Senator caught up in a budget mess, I know this from first hand experience.

This also means that the cuts in Washington designed to attack Washington’s budget deficit and national debt will trickle (if not stream) down to the state, putting a greater demand for state cuts (which cuts are made harder for the reason just aforesaid) or increased state revenue to make up for the “lost” federal money.

Paraphrasing Stanley Laurel’s catchphrase to his comedic sidekick, Oliver Hardy, “What a nice mess we’ve gotten ourselves into!”  Except this “mess” isn’t very funny.

protester speaking through a megaphone

The End of Civil Debate

My guess is that liberal General Session Court Judge Casey Moreland, who is more than happy to grant “free speech” rights to college students disrupting alegislative session,won’t see the First Amendment value of letting you disrupt his courtroom.

A recent decision by a Davidson County General Session Court Judge is a great example of fuzzy-headed, liberal thinking. With more judges like this one, it’s no wonder that civil political discourse seems to be coming to an end. Maybe he should be given a taste of his own medicine.

Back during the legislative session, the Education Committee for the Tennessee State Senate was conducting hearings on collective bargaining rights relative to the teachers’ union in Tennessee. Lots of people on both sides of the issue showed up. The issue was controversial.

But during the public hearing, some young college-aged students started yelling and chanting and disrupting the meeting. When they would not quiet down after half an hour and be respectful of those in the room trying to listen to the debate and engage in that debate, they were asked to leave the hearing room. Some did. But several lay down on the floor and locked arms, refusing to leave. Eventually they had to be dragged out by Capitol Police. As would be expected they were charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Well, General Session Court Judge Casey Moreland recently found them not guilty. After all, according to the Judge, these students were just asserting their First Amendment Rights to political free speech.