State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, the Republican caucus chairman of the state House, is part friend and part cajoler to the 70 representatives with whom he serves.
“I help members with their legislation,” he said. “And I help the caucus rally around a few positions.”
Likening his job to a congressional whip, Casada wants to keep the House focused on a clear agenda, which, he says, he shares with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
He wants to cut taxes, especially the sales tax on food and the Hall income tax of dividends.
He wants to change the workers’ compensation law to make Tennessee more business-friendly.
And, he would like to see school vouchers and an expansion of charter schools.
“We need to create an educational system that allows kids to be educated,” Casada said. “Teachers and schools that do well should be rewarded.”
Also on the agenda this session is a constitutional amendment that would specifically prohibit an income tax on wages or payrolls – an issue that first brought Casada into state politics.
As a student at Western Kentucky University, where he earned a degree in education and agriculture, Casada says he was “somewhat ambivalent” about politics.
But he found an affinity with Ronald Reagan and said he came to believe strongly in lower taxes and self-reliance.
He was serving as a Williamson County commissioner when the legislature began debating whether to implement a new income tax.
State Rep. Glen Casada R-Franklin
Represents: District 63, the eastern portion of Williamson County including Thompson's Station and Nolensville.
First served in the General Assembly: 2006
Personal: Born in 1959, Rep. Casada is married with four children. He attends Brentwood Baptist Church. He earned a B.S. in agriculture and education at Western Kentucky University
Contact: (615)741-4389 firstname.lastname@example.org
“I felt that was very wrong,” Casada said. “By providence, this (legislative seat) opened up, and I was elected.”
After taking office in 2001, he says, he worked to ban the income tax.
He also worked to pass a controversial law allowing the state to issue “Choose Life” specialty license plates, with part of the money going to a right-to-life group. That law was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued it was discriminatory since the legislature did not also approve a “Choose Choice” plate. A federal appeals court upheld the law.
Casada said one of his top legislative accomplishments remains a less controversial law, however. It allows emergency workers responding to a 911 call to enter a home without permission if no one answers the door.
“We had people dying because the responders could not enter,” he said. Today, responders can enter if no one answers, and “we are saving lives.”
Looking ahead, Casada knows some of his members want to expand gun-owner rights.
“I support very strongly the Second Amendment,” he says, “but that’s not a top priority for me. The economic issues are the top priority.”
And he said he is deeply wary about one of those issues: whether to expand Tennessee’s Medicaid program as part of an effort to provide medical insurance coverage for all Americans.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the federal government would initially pay 100 percent of the cost for adding extra people to Medicaid in Tennessee, and would continue to pay most of the cost in years ahead.
Without the expansion, several Tennessee hospitals have indicated they could go out of business, according to the Tennessee Hospital Association.
But Casada is skeptical the federal government will – or can – meet its future obligations, leaving the state on the hook to pay for a costly, expanded Medicaid population.
“I look at the expansion with a very wary eye,” Casada said. “When you increase the care, it costs someone something.”
He said the federal government “is on a path to bankruptcy” and the federal government will ultimately “shunt those costs to the states.”