The new legislative session begins on Jan. 8, and the Tennessee House of Representatives will choose its top leader.
Glen Casada of Franklin was picked by the GOP Caucus as its nominee. And, because there’s a Republican supermajority, he’s expected to easily win the position.
Casada has been in the legislature since 2002 and he’s been building his case for House Speaker since at least 2010, when he unsuccessfully ran against outgoing Republican Beth Harwell.
“I lost eight years ago and in that time I became Caucus Chairman and Majority Leader, and I just had a vision of where I wanted to take the House,” Casada told WPLN. “And so with that vision, combined with the Speaker’s spot being open, I decided to run.”
This week he is presumed to become Speaker. Casada got to where he is now because of his influence. He is loyal to the party and many credit him with building the Republican supermajority in the House through fundraising and endorsements.
And those are tasks he promised his fellow Republicans earlier this year. He told them that, if they chose him as Speaker, he would help them get re-elected.
He also promised the House will have a bigger say in the creation of the budget.
At the House GOP Caucus meeting in November, Casada said, “We have been involved in the passage of the budget by constitutional mandate. It’s time for the House to be involved in formatting that budget.”
Traditionally, this has been one of the biggest responsibilities of the Governor but, Gov.-elect Bill Lee has said he is looking forward to working with Casada and both chambers on different issues, including the budget.
Casada also wants to re-establish legislative committees to oversee state agencies like TennCare and the Department of Correction. Those committees were slashed by Beth Harwell.
And he said he’s looking at Nashville’s Community Oversight Board, which voters approved to review cases of police misconduct. He’s concerned by the potential makeup of the board and the power it will have.
“I think it’s the subpoena powers that have been given to that oversight board, I dont think it is legally correct,” Casada said.
Even though he hasn’t asked to overturn the COB, he has asked incoming House Majority Leader William Lamberth to look into it. And it is up to the House members to decide if they are going to file legislation to reverse it.
But Casada does have a voting record of nullifying or reversing local ordinances.
There’s the legislation he sponsored in 2012 effectively reversing a Memphis ordinance that would have established wage requirements for city contractors.
And there’s the bill he backed in 2011 that reversed a Nashville ordinance to protect LGBT workers.
Casada received backlash for both votes, with some accusing him of being discriminatory like former Rep. Jeanne Richardson of Memphis who in 2011 called the bill “anti-gay.”
But Casada said he stands by those bills.
“The most important thing is upholding the law, upholding the constitution,” Casada said. “So cities do not have the constitutional authority to do those two actions.”
Besides his voting record, Casada has also faced some personal controversies.
Two years ago an anonymous blog posted a video of him drinking with young women. He addressed the issue with his Republican colleagues in 2016 by saying “I have not, will not and I have not been unfaithful to my wife. I am not that person.”
Moments after that speech, Casada was elected as majority leader. And two years later, Casada says he wants others to know he is a man who lives an open, transparent life.
“Just watch what I do, watch me in public,” Casada said. “You don’t see me hide. My life is an open life, and just watch how I live.”
Ultimately, these accusations haven’t hurt his popularity among lawmakers. And despite a third of the legislature being new this week, Casada is expected to carry the Republican support.
Our ongoing conversations about Tennessee politics are available in The Tri-Star State podast. You can listen by visiting wpln.org/tristar or subscribe using your favorite podcasting app.