State Rep. Glen Casada, who has served as the representative for District 63 in the State House since 2003 and is running for reelection, spoke with the Home Page last week ahead of the upcoming state elections on Nov. 3.
The 17-year incumbent faces Democratic candidate Elizabeth Madeira and Independent candidate Brad Fiscus as challengers.
During the interview, the Home Page asked Casada about his positions on access to health care, criminal justice reform and education, as well as his thoughts on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Questions from the Home Page are paraphrased.
If reelected, what legislative principles would you stand by?
Casada: It’s the agenda that got Trump elected, it’s the agenda that got Republicans in the majority, it's the agenda that made Republicans the majority in Williamson County, which is small government, low taxes, less regulation, defense of life and defense of our Second Amendment just to name a few. Those are the macro principles that I run on.
As some states increase restrictions after reopening, would you support increasing restrictions on businesses as a means to help stop the spread of COVID-19?
Casada: The way we've reacted to COVID-19 is unlike any reaction we've ever had to any other pandemic disease. About every 10 or 12 years, this nation has a pandemic disease, and it kills 100,000-200,000 people, but in the past, we have relied upon personal responsibility to stop the spread.
For example, if you are susceptible; you're over 66, which is [a lot] of all this, you have a compromised immune system, in the past you were expected to protect yourself, and you were expected to isolate yourself. This time we've totally reacted [more] than we've ever done in the past 100 years and we've shut everything down. It has been a disaster.
So number one, I hope we don't re-implement [restrictions], number two, we need to go back to what was effective in handling pandemics in the past, which is self-responsibility.
About one in every 10 Tennesseans have no health care coverage or insurance. Your Democratic opponent, Madiera, has championed Medicaid expansion as a method to help remedy this problem.
You've stated that Medicaid expansion would be a "burden on the taxpayers:" what then do you propose as a way to help ensure more Tennesseans have access to health care?
Casada: Block grants ... It's going to cost the taxpayers of this state about a quarter of a billion dollars to expand Medicaid — that's on Tennessee, that's not the federal government. So that's the first question: How do you pay for [it]? Do you raise taxes? What do you cut if that's what you're advocating [for]?
So to me, Medicaid expansion would be a burden on the taxpayers, and we're going to have to raise taxes, or we're going to have to cut somewhere to provide this free health care. And so I'll go back to my solution — and you're seeing the Republicans in the majority working towards this — is block granting Medicaid dollars.
Federal government, give us the money without strings, and what we would do with it is expand telehealth, we would expand the health clinics so you would have a first line health care provider to help you, and number three, everybody has to have skin in the game on their own personal health care.
You cannot expect me to pay for all of your health care, and so maybe a major medical policy; instead of covering from dollar one for those that can't afford it, maybe you pay the first set amount and after that a major medical policy kicks in. Those are just ideas [where] if we had full control of our federal health care dollars, we could do innovative things like this, but right now we can't.
Medicaid expansion is not the way to go where a bureaucrat tells you what doctor you can see and can't see, we need to get away from that.
Police reform has been a highly discussed topic as of late, with state Democrats introducing the George Floyd Act recently, which proposes new restrictions on law enforcement such as banning choke holds and no-knock warrants. Do you support the George Floyd Act, and do you support any other kinds of police reform?
Casada: Unlike the Democrats, I do not look at the police as the enemy. [With] the police, 99.9% do a good job; they're honest, hard-working individuals. The rare occasions when they abuse their power, they are prosecuted, they present their case in front of a jury of their peers and then they're determined guilty or innocent. (Editor's note: Data shows around 1.5 percent of officers are ever charged when they shoot someone.)
The one thing we don't need in this country is politicians — and definitely don't need community activists — setting guidelines for police. We know nothing about that, we need to sit down and have study committees formed of people who know about police.
So if there's any reform to be done, it needs to be done by those who have been in the business, not community activists, who, let's be honest, they want to defund the police. I think that's the wrong way to go.
Regarding calls to 'defund the police,' a lot of advocates for those calls still say they are in favor of having law enforcement, but instead are calling for portions of police budgets to instead be spent on social services and other things that they argue could aid in preventing crime in the first place. What are your thoughts on that definition of calls to 'defund the police?'
Casada: The solution is to fully fund our police. They are there to protect us from bad guys, so for every dollar you take away from them, that's less protection you and I as law abiding citizens have. So once again, you've got community activists and politicians trying to make decisions on something they know nothing about.
Regarding education, what would you do if re-elected to ensure Tennesseans have access to the best education available, and what is your case for the school voucher program?
Casada: Tennessee is one of the fastest improving states in education in the nation — other states are looking to us for solutions. When the Democrats were in control, we were 48th, 49th in every measurable category, and we're now anywhere from 38th to 28th on third grade reading, math, science, and so we've in 10 years made dramatic gains in education. (Editor's note: Tennessee was the fastest improving for a time period, but no longer holds that distinction.)
We need to continue that path.
We are leaving a few people behind, almost exclusively in Metro Nashville and Metro Memphis. So why the Democrats insist that those children must go to the school in the zone they live in is beyond me.
What they're saying is those children must go to unsafe, poor-performing schools, and we're going to throw some money at them and nothing changes. I'm interested helping those children get out of those failing schools in Shelby and Davidson County, let's give them a lifeline to go to a better school, and that's all I'm advocating.
Are there any other proposals on education that Tennesseans can look forward to in the near future that you may push in the State House?
Casada: Something that we've talked about and that we do need to implement is we need to pay for success. Just like me and my job, if I do well, I make more money. So why do we pay good teachers the same as bad teachers, I have no idea. That's the place we need to go: reform on compensation.
What is something a representative Glen Casada can offer the residents of Williamson County that your opponents cannot?
Casada: Continue the path that we have begun some 10 years ago when the Republicans took over because of not only our success in education, but our success in the business world. Tennessee now is one of the lowest taxed, fastest rising of incomes, highest producer of jobs per capita, and lowest expense state to live in in the Union.
I want to continue that, because that creates independence from dependency on government. Success is measured by how many people we can get off federal and state social rolls and dependent upon themselves.
I intend to continue that path that we've begun. Excellence in education through measurements, and excellence in economics through job creation and wealth creation.
The primary election in Tennessee will be held on Aug. 6, with early voting taking place between July 17-Aug. 1. Those wishing to request an absentee ballot must do so by July 30.
The general election will be held on Nov. 3, with early voting taking place from Oct. 14-29.
The voter registration deadline is Tuesday, July 7. To see if you’re registered to vote, click here.