State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, sees a simple, biblical guidepost for the lopsided Republican majority in the state House.
“To whom much is given, much is required,” said Brooks, the assistant majority leader.
With a 70-28-1 “supermajority” in the House and a similar majority in the Senate, Republicans clearly have the power to enact the laws they want. Now, they must choose wisely, Brooks said.
From his viewpoint, that involves moving toward a “leaner, more-efficient government,” with legislators working to reduce the “size and the footprint” of government in people’s lives.
Atop his agenda are changes to the state’s workers’ compensation law, which aids workers injured on the job.
“Small businesses and Tennesseans are eager to see that program reformed and realigned,” Brooks said.
Next, he would like to “add transparency to the budgeting process.”
And, Brooks believes, steps should be taken to ensure that Tennesseans with intellectual or developmental disabilities are able to get gainful employment to their maximum potential.
Brooks, who was elected to his leadership post by Republican House members, said there has never been a time when he wasn’t Republican.
“I grew up in a Christian, conservative home,” in Marietta, Ga., he said, adding his parents and grandparents influenced his views. Brooks said he was hooked on politics during a high school trip to Washington.
State Rep. Kevin Brooks
Represents: District 24, a portion of Bradley County in East Tennessee including Cleveland, Hopewell and Wildwood Lake.
First served in the Senate of the General Assembly: 2009
Personal: Born in 1967, Brooks is married with two children. He earned a B.A. from Lee University
Contact: 615-741-1350, firstname.lastname@example.org
“I was allowed to go behind the scenes and sit at the desk of a U.S. senator,” he said. “I decided this is what I want to do.”
After graduating from high school, Brooks moved to Cleveland, Tenn., to attend Lee University, an institution sponsored by the Church of God. He never left.
After earning his degree, Brooks went to work for the university president. Then, he went to the Church of God headquarters in Cleveland, where he today does public relations and conference management.
Meanwhile, his interest in politics blossomed. After seeking, and failing, to win an appointment to an open seat on the Cleveland City Council, he won appointment to the City Planning Commission.
It was a “truly transformational” experience, he said. He learned how to deal with competing constituents, which has proven “foundational” to him as a legislator.
“There’s not a session that goes by that I don’t refer to that earlier experience,” Brooks said.
In 2006, his state representative moved up to the Senate and Brooks ran for the open seat. He won.
Since arriving on Capitol Hill, Brooks said he is perhaps proudest of the trust his colleagues have shown in electing him one of their leaders.
As assistant majority leader, one of his jobs is to help implement the governor’s legislative agenda.
On a variety of these issues, Brooks is confident his fellow lawmakers will make the “right decision.”
Some legislators, for instance, want to prohibit the state from expanding its Medicaid program, as outlined in the new federal health care law. Several hospitals have said they could be forced out of business without the expansion.
“I’m hoping we will do the conservative, right thing,” Brooks said. “We have a really serious national health care problem, and we have to deal with it.
“But does the state have the money to pay for everyone? The answer is no.”
On school vouchers, which would allow students to attend the schools of their choice, but which some believe would undermine public education funding, Brooks said:
“Whether it’s vouchers, virtual schools or charter schools, I support excellence in education. We need to give our students every opportunity possible. And if it adds to the Tennessee educational toolbox, I think it’s the right thing to do.”