Second Amendment
The right of the people to keep and bear arms,” as put forth in the Bill of  Rights, is a fundamental right preserved for and guaranteed to each of us. 

There are two clauses in the Second Amendment, an introductory clause and a main clause. While the introductory clause, also known as the purpose clause, is not superfluous, it does not override the main clause, which is that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  One of the better explanations of the introductory clause can be found in UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh's article “The Commonplace Second Amendment,” which appeared in the New York University Law Review in 1998. 

Anti-gun advocates argue that you cannot separate the introductory clause from the main clause of the amendment. Yet, the vast majority of Supreme Court opinions that have quoted the Second Amendment only contain a partial quote, the main clause. Therefore, fundamentally speaking, the Supreme Court justices have not considered the purpose clause at the beginning of the Second Amendment to be essential to the meaning of the main clause. 

Consequently, there is no evidence to the contrary of the main clause from the writing of the Founding Fathers, early American legal commentators or pre-twentieth century Supreme Court decisions that would indicate that the Second Amendment was applicable solely to active militia members. Thus, the framers were preserving, not granting, what they saw as an inherent “right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

As a member of both the National Rifle Association and the Tennessee Firearms Association and as a gun owner, I cherish my Second Amendment "right to...keep and bear arms" and, as your state representative, I will do everything in my power on the state-level to ensure that nothing takes place to infringe upon our right to do so.


 

MARRIAGE

06/06/2012

 
Traditional Marriage
Much has been debated on the topic of traditional marriage between one man and one woman over the past few decades with papers published by various sources. Some of the new research on children of same-sex parents suggests differences matter, as reported by the Heritage Foundation. 

The problem with past studies has been a lack of representative sampling between traditional heterosexual parents versus those of same-sex parents. A new study which does have a large representative sampling has been released and provides a more detailed analysis of the benefits of the traditional family and marriage.

As Ronald Reagan so eloquently reminded us, “The family has always been the cornerstone of American society. Our families nurture, preserve, and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish, values that are the foundation of our freedoms.” I see no historical evidence that he viewed family outside of the traditional context of a heterosexual couple and their offspring, the same view I embrace myself that marriage is a sacred institution.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION

06/06/2012

 
Education = Future
I was born and raised in the 17th district and am a product of our own district's public education system. Even now, Mariah and I have a child of our own in our public school system. So, understandably, I am committed to continually improving our public education system in the 17th district and across the state for our children.

In order to make this a reality, I firmly believe more control of our children’s education needs to be returned to the local level. The farther control of education is from the local level, the less effective it can and will be. Neither someone in Nashville nor Washington, D.C. can understand the culture, dynamics and needs of our students, like the people here in our district.

While Tennessee has been ranked 21st nationally in overall education quality, it still ranks in the bottom 10 of the 50 states in the four core tested areas. However, the schools in our district are not the cause of the state’s educational woes. We can look a lot farther West in the state for that. Tennessee has 65 schools scoring in the bottom 5% in student performance throughout the state and Memphis is home to 58 of those schools, not Jefferson or Sevier counties. Actually, East Tennessee is home to some nationally recognized schools.

Our public school teachers in the Jefferson and Sevier counties should be commended for the work they are doing in our classrooms with our children, not held accountable for low-performing schools on the opposite end of our state. This is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement across every school district in Tennessee. Our teachers are professionals and, like other professionals, are always looking to hone their craft. There are multiple stakeholders in the education system. However, we have only seen the focus trained on one particular group, the teachers. Adminstrators, parents, and even the students are also stakeholders in the system, and should be no less accountable for the success of our public education system. 

As a citizen and a parent of a public school student, it is my responsibility to support our local educators and schools in their efforts to provide our children with the best educational opportunities available. As a state legislator, my responsibility would not diminish. More would be required of me, as your representative and voice in Nashville to lead on education and other issues affecting your children and you.


 

TAXES

06/06/2012

 
Ronald Reagan, 40th President
Unlike the federal government, our state government in Tennessee is required to operate within a balanced budget each year. Therefore, the state's expenditures cannot exceed revenues from taxes. As Ronald Reagan so succinctly noted, "The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much."

Between Gov. Haslam's recent
top to bottom review of all twenty-two state departments and the efforts of the 107th General Assembly, we have experienced some restructuring and reorganization of departments in Tennessee's state government. It was a good start and long overdue. However, there is still more to do in streamlining state government's efficiency and eliminating the waste of taxpayers' hard earned monies.

I am opposed to an increase of taxes on Tennesseans. State government should provide essential services to the citizens of our state and, until that is done in the most fiscally responsible manner, an increased tax burden on Tennessee's hardworking citizens should not be even entertained.  My conversations with voters of our district indicate a strong desire to see more streamlining of our state government, reducing the tax burden on hardworking Tennesseans. It can be done and, with your help, we can get it done. 

 

DRUGS

06/06/2012

 
Prescription Pill Epidemic
Speaking both figuratively and literally, our drug issue in this state is “killing” Tennesseans. Last year alone, we have seen a 23% increase in the number of prescriptions for the likes of Oxycodone, hydrocodone and similar drugs written and dispensed in our state.

Prescription pills have now moved to the forefront of Tennessee’s drug issues. Think about these drug facts:

• Prescription opioid overdose is now the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States, killing more people than heroin and cocaine combined.
• In 2009, Tennessee ranked second in the nation, with 17.3 retail prescriptions written per capita, compared with a national average of 12.
• Nationwide, prescription drugs account for the second most commonly abused category of drugs, second only to marijuana.
• 7 million Americans report current nonmedical use of prescription drugs, more than the number using cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined.
• 1,059 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses in 2010, more than doubling over a decade.
• The top prescriber in Tennessee wrote prescriptions for more than 5 million doses of painkillers in 2011.

Current projections now are that requests for prescription pill addiction will surpass those for alcohol by next year in 2013. For the folks on the frontlines battling the drug issue in Tennessee, these are huge setbacks.

While the 107th General Assembly has passed some good legislation to help our state try to turn the tide on the prescription pill epidemic in Tennessee, there is much more to be done. The collateral impact of prescription drugs and other illicit substances are huge on our children. We see increased truancy issues, accompanied by decreased student performance in our schools. Our courts indicate dockets wrought with the increased prevalence of drugs with roughly 80% drug-related cases. Our social services system is inundated with drug-exposed children being removed and placed in the state's custody in the foster care system. It's a vicious cycle, taxing the state and its citizens mercilessly the longer it continues to grow. 

To boil it all down to two generic points, we must continue to give law enforcement the tools they need to meet this epidemic head on and we must develop more comprehensive treatment to turn the tide on the addictions driving this illicit industry. Changing Tennessee’s course on the drug issue hinges heavily on those two main areas.


 
 
The Economy
We hear every day about “creating” jobs.  The fact of which we must never lose sight is that government does not create private sector jobs. Businesses create jobs, not politicians or government bureaucrats. What government can do is create an environment conducive to attracting and retaining businesses and the jobs that they can provide for Tennesseans.  

Ronald Reagan was not only one of the greatest leaders in modern American history but also an individual with a keen understanding of economics. In January 1981, when he took office, our nation was in the midst of some of bleakest economic times since the Depression. Taxes were high, unemployment was high, interest rates were high and the national spirit was low, much like we see today in our state and nation. However, Ronald Reagan had a plan. His plan was simple, yet specific:

1.) Cut taxes
2.) Get control of government spending
3.) Get the government out of the way

If we cut taxes and people have money in their pockets, folks have incentive to invest and build businesses. Jobs will be created and our economy will grow in Tennessee. To cut taxes, government spending has to be seriously curtailed. Our problem is, as I’ve noted before, not that we’re taxed too little but, rather, that government spends too much. State and local government can provide incentives for businesses to locate to our area through tax breaks, etc. However, we should exercise caution on the use of grants to businesses to create jobs and simply hire and train as a part of the grant conditions.  Doing such, without due consideration of likely outcomes, has not boded well for our state in the recent past. Our sights are falling short, if we are not focusing on maintaining those businesses in our area and sustaining those jobs over the longterm.

 

RIGHT TO LIFE

06/06/2012

 
Pro Life
I am a firm believer that all life is sacred, from the point of conception and up until our natural death.

As a result, I am adamantly opposed to abortion, the artificial termination of the life of a fetus, and am adamantly opposed to euthanasia, the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit.

 

ORGANIZED LABOR

06/05/2012

 
Organized Labor
I was asked recently what I think about unions. More specifically, I was asked in an area forum I attended for my thoughts on the National Education Association (NEA) and its affiliates. Unfortunately, I was not able to articulate my thoughts as fully as I would have liked in the couple of moments I had on the subject.

The NEA is the single largest organized labor union in the United States with about 2.7 million members comprised from its affiliates. The NEA has adopted a very left-leaning agenda in the past several decades. What some may not realize though is that, when a teacher joins the local-level education association to collaborate with their friends/colleagues, dues are automatically collected for the NEA.

Does this mean our local educators subscribe to the agenda and initiatives of the NEA? Certainly not. Joining the NEA is not an opt-in scenario for teachers, when they join the local association. Their names are automatically added to the rolls of the NEA, like it or not, since the local association is an affiliate of the other. 

We live in the heart of East Tennessee, a predominantly conservative region of the state and, primarily, Republican by voting history. In no way should the actions of the national or state-level associations be an indictment of our local educators. The 17th district is overwhelmingly rural. The dynamics of rural counties, compared to the heavily urban school districts/counties that comprise the bulk of the NEA’s rolls is much different, because our teachers are much different. The same traditionalist friends and neighbors we have working in the classrooms to move our children forward academically here in the heart of East Tennessee are not the same as teachers in Memphis/Shelby County, Metro-Davidson County or other heavily urban districts throughout the U.S. So, trying to compare our teachers to them is, simply put, like trying to compare apples to oranges.

Our teachers here on the local level are in the classroom to teach our children. The higher ups in the NEA, like any other union, are there to advance the organization.  While I cannot condone the NEA’s extreme, left-leaning political activism, I fully support our local educators in their hard work and efforts to prepare our children for their post-secondary pursuits in college and the workforce.