Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – You have a most intriguing and peculiar piece of legislation that actually was the brainchild of one of my organizations, the ReFounding Father Society. This is at least partially James Knox’s idea here, about how to restore some manner of federalism in the election or selection of senators, in this case in the State of Tennessee. Can you just elaborate a little on what the bill does and does not do? Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Let’s go to the Dude Maker Hotline for a moment or seven and talk to Senator Frank Niceley from the great State of Tennessee, who has a very intriguing little piece of legislation that is making its way through the Tennessee legislature. Senator Niceley, nice to have you as a first-time guest. Welcome to the program, sir. How are you?
Senator Niceley: I’m fine, Mike. How are you? It’s good to be here this morning.
Mike: It’s fantastic. First of all, tell the folks at home, who all just scuttled for the mouse holes in the walls, scurried rather, what district in Tennessee you’re from, what cities you represent, a little bit of background.
Senator Niceley: I represent six counties in upper east Tennessee: Jefferson, Grainger, Hawkins, Hancock, Claiborne, and Union Counties. In Tennessee we have 33 senators. I’m one of 33 senators in Tennessee.
Mike: You’re legislature is currently meeting, correct?
Senator Niceley: It is.
Mike: You have a most intriguing and peculiar piece of legislation that actually was the brainchild of one of my organizations, the ReFounding Father Society. This is at least partially James Knox’s idea here, about how to restore some manner of federalism in the election or selection of senators, in this case in the State of Tennessee. Can you just elaborate a little on what the bill does and does not do?
Senator Niceley: This bill would allow us to regain about 80 percent of what we lost in 1913. The problem with this bill — I have to give a history lesson most every time we talk about it. Most people don’t realize that up until 1913, the state legislatures actually elected the U.S. senators. The founding fathers looked at the senators as ambassadors to Washington from the states. They were elected by the state legislature. In 1913, in the midst of all that progressive movement that got us the Federal Reserve and IRS, we started direct election of U.S. senators. This is constitutional. This doesn’t interfere with the election of U.S. senators. Through the years, the courts had allowed the states a lot of leeway in selecting the nominees. Some states have a caucus. Some states have a convention. California has what they call a blanket primary, which the two top vote-getters go on the ballot. In Tennessee, if we pass this bill, which it has an amazing amount of support — it’s amazing how many people, the speaker of both houses love it. Everybody likes it. The state legislature would nominate the nominees for the U.S. Senate. The Democrats would nominate the Democrat nominee; Republicans nominate the Republican. There’s a provision for the third-party candidates to get on the ballot in their own way. They would run in the fall and best man wins. It’s getting very little pushback. It’s amazing.
Senator Niceley: More people understand that Washington is clearly out of control. Washington is not going to fix itself. If we save this country for our grandchildren, the state legislatures and the people have to do it. I’ve given up on Washington. It’s totally out of control.
Mike: I gave up on it a long time ago. We all heartily agree on that one. Senator Frank Niceley from the State of Tennessee, the Volunteer State, is on the line. We had an argument or a joke passed the airwaves the other day from a listener from Tennessee who was jibing at a listener from Texas who informed the former caller from Texas: I know you guys think you’re the original UT, but we in Tennessee know better.
Senator Niceley: I went to the original UT. My wife is from Texas. We have this argument a lot. I remind her that I went to the original UT.
Mike: You say there’s not a lot of pushback. Is there a lot of enthusiasm for your colleagues in the Senate and on the other side of the building in the House?
Senator Niceley: More than I would ever imagine. It’s refreshing to hear the people that are for it. It’s amazing. They realize it’s not working. It’s been 100 years. We’ve tried it this way for 100 years. It’s clearly not working. We’ve got to try something else. The people that are against it, I say: We agree Washington is not working. What do you want to try? At least I’m trying something.
Mike: What is their response?
Senator Niceley: Along about that time they give up and say: Well, I don’t know what to do. You probably know more about it than I do. Let’s try it.
Mike: Just to be clear here, folks — and by the way, Senator Niceley, this bill will hopefully be introduced in the Louisiana session that begins in April. I see no reason why Tennessee has to go this alone. I’ve encouraged anyone that listens to this program to try and get a copy of your amendment or to take a copy that we started with at ReFounding Fathers Society and bring it to your state legislature. Most legislators that have been around for a while are smart enough to go: I have to change this into some legal language, but this is worth doing. Let me ask you the next question on the bill in Tennessee. Does this amend your constitution or is it just an act of the legislature?
Senator Niceley: No, this has nothing to do with the Constitution. This just goes into the code. This is just a law. I understand Texas would actually have to change their state constitution to do this. I think Arizona and Wyoming may be going to do it this year.
Mike: What this then will do, ladies and gentlemen, is it will return some manner of accountability from a United States senator back to the legislature of the state from whence he or she came, right?
Senator Niceley: Right. Mike, I went back and counted the U.S. senators in Tennessee from 1813 to 1913. Then I added them up from 1913 to 2013. It turns out we had twice as many during the 1800s than we did during the 1900s. This pretty much takes care of the problem of term limits. They were serving half as long in the 1800s as they did in the 1900s.
Mike: I had a gentleman who called me a couple weeks ago or so and brought something like that up. He asked me a question about it. I said: You do realize that in the early days, being sent as a member of the United States Senate was drudgery. People avoided it, especially for six years. No one wanted a six-year term. Two examples that I know of, John Taylor of Caroline County, when he was appointed by President Jefferson, he went for about two years and said: Get me out of here. I don’t want to do this anymore. This is boring. There’s nothing to do. All we do is tell the House you can’t do that because the states aren’t going to sign off on it. People didn’t want to be senators.
Senator Niceley: A lot of senators in the 1800s stayed two years and came home.
Mike: That’s right.
Senator Niceley: Mike, here’s the thing my Tea Party friends and these recent converts to this conservative movement, they all say we need term limits and this and that. I say: You’re moving farther and farther away from the Constitution. Let’s turn around and move back towards the Constitution and we won’t worry about these problems. If we turn around and move back towards the Constitution with this bill, term limits on U.S. senators will take care of themselves. We won’t need term limits.
Mike: Senator Frank Niceley from the State of Tennessee, you’re currently in session. What is the actual progress of the bill? Is it out of committee, ready for floor vote? Where’s it at?
Senator Niceley: No, we’re just moving around getting people to sign on. This is a major bill. I half-jokingly tell my friends: This bill could save the free world. They say: Frank, you’re overstating it. I say: Think about it. If 26 small red states get control of their senators, we control the U.S. Senate. It doesn’t matter at that point. The wonderful thing about this system, it’s checks and balances. The senators from Rhode Island have as much clout as the senators from California. All we’ve got to do is get control of 26 states, get 26 states to do this. We’ll have some people with brains and common sense who realize you can’t continue to print money the rest of your life.
Mike: I say amen to that. What should a concerned citizen in Tennessee do?
Senator Niceley: They should immediately call their state representative and state senator and encourage them to sign on the bill. We’re trying to get people to sign on now. That will show support. That will give our leaders a comfort level to go ahead and get behind this bill. The speaker of the senate, Ron Ramsey, told me: There’s no doubt in my mind we can pass this bill. He’s still thinking if he really wants to. This is a major bill. You have to think it through. We’re still all thinking it through. So far nothing bad has come up. The speaker of the house likes it. Our comptroller Justin P. Wilson likes it. The speaker of the house, Beth Harwell, she loves the bill. We all realize — what this does, this gives the informed voter more power and the uninformed voter less power.
Mike: Excellent, excellent, excellent. Senator Frank Niceley from Tennessee. The bill should not be limited to the State of Tennessee. I have a copy of Knox’s original draft. I’m sure it’s probably going to be amended and shaped so it comports with the way your laws are.
Senator Niceley: Anyone who wants a copy of my bill, if they will contact my office, find it on the internet, we will email you a copy of this bill.
Mike: I’m going to be the first one to contact you. Be looking for my email later today. I want to share it with the listeners. I’ll make it easy to get. Senator Niceley, that’s all the time we have. I appreciate your time, my friend. Godspeed.
Senator Niceley: Thank you. Call anytime.
Mike: You’re very welcome, sir. That’s Senator Frank Niceley. I’m not kidding. I’m going to solicit a copy of that because it needs to be introduced in Louisiana.
End Mike Church Show Transcript
Here’s the link to the Niceley bill: