VOL. 129 | NO. 68 | Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Lebanon’s Pody Works for Amendment Passage
JE MORRIS | Special to The Daily News
Helping people with insurance requires the ability to plan for multiple scenarios.
That’s something Rep. Mark Pody, a Republican from Lebanon, Tenn., has taken with him to the Tennessee General Assembly, and he says it helps even when everyone is in agreement on a bill’s final outcome.
“Even with a supermajority, we sometimes have a lot of disagreement on how to get to a specific goal,” Pody said. “We may be on the same page when it comes to the destination, but we may have many different routes on how to get there.
“The goal is to get to that destination, and even if some people want to go straight and others want a longer route, we have to try to get there.”
That could easily describe the work around Senate Joint Resolution 127, which goes before voters this fall.
The constitutional amendment was drafted in response to a Tennessee Supreme Court decision that struck down previous legislation regarding a 48-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion and other restrictions.
Additional legislation was introduced this year that would require providers to show a woman an ultrasound before the procedure, but that was withdrawn, with supporters eventually saying that they would focus their efforts on the amendment’s passage and not pull focus by putting forth related legislation.
“We are working to make sure that the amendment passes this fall, so that the voters can make the choice about what laws we put into place,” Pody said. “I am very passionate about wanting to see that passed and adopted, and that is really the catalyst that inspired me to run.”
He also sought his seat, which he has held for two terms, because of his fiscal conservatism and growing concerns that the state was spending taxpayer money inefficiently.
“I had gotten some charges for workers’ comp that I thought would be set one way, and ended up being charged retroactively to myself and other business owners,” Pody said. “I didn’t think that was right, and there were other issues with the budget that I thought needed some correcting as well.”
He also says he believes in rotation of leadership, going so far as to introduce a bill – his first – that would set term limits for legislators.
While he admits to not being surprised that it failed, he has stuck to his campaign promise that he would only serve eight years in the House, should he be elected to four terms. At the halfway point, he feels as though he is doing some good, but will honor that promise.
“I’m a strong state’s rights person, and so anything we can do to block things I feel are intrusive by the federal government, I am supporting,” he said. “I think we can let Tennessee find its own way, and I work toward that.
“We are a group of 50 individual states, but we come together for the collective purpose of things like defense and interstate commerce. I want to make sure that while I am serving, we do what we can to make sure all 50 states are running themselves.”
To that end, he’s produced a health care compact that would require the federal government to give the state health care funds in a block grant.
“We’re not asking for any more or less spending, but just letting us decide what to do for Tennesseans,” he said. “What works in Washington or California may not work here, and we think we can improve health care and do it cheaper.”
That effort might align slightly with Gov. Bill Haslam’s efforts to create a “Tennessee plan” that would pass muster from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but Pody says he and other legislators don’t want to wait while those talks drag on.
“What (Haslam’s) doing is totally separate from our efforts,” he said. “We want to look at a fiscally solid program now, not down the road. We believe that even if the federal government pays for a program, they will eventually not continue those payments, and we want to be sure we can afford what we start. We can do that without taking services away from the citizens.”
More than anything, Pody says he relies on his strong Christian faith as he weighs the issues.
“I think we need people up here who stand for their beliefs, whatever they are,” he said. “For me, it’s a solid, Christian belief that I can work to keep our state, and our country, safe. I will stand against the wall to fight for those beliefs, and even if I didn’t get any bills passed, I feel I would be successful if I was doing just that.”
Even so, he does make sure to weigh in on as much legislation as possible, and to that end, he works with an advisory board he’s built back in his district to get some help.
“My favorite committee is fiscal review, because we get to see the individual contracts the state enters into,” he said. “But there’s a lot of research, and the legislators have a lot to read and understand.
“That’s why I formed this committee, which meets every week when we are in session. I have Republicans, Democrats and independents, retired people, law enforcement personnel, teachers, business owners, attorneys and others on it. I try to sit down with them and talk about these bills and get their input on how I should vote, and that way I hear from all sides. It’s not just what I believe, but what my voters’ points of view are as well.’’
He’s had more than 100 constituents serve for a month at a time, and he hopes to keep that level of local support going as long as he’s in the statehouse.
“I have to be open-minded and get everyone’s point of view,” he said. “It’s not just a political thing, but it’s what’s good for my district.”