Cooper: Nominate Rep. Mike Carter for speaker of Tennessee House

Cooper: Nominate Rep. Mike Carter for speaker of Tennessee House

July 23rd, 2019 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

District 29 State Rep. Mike Carter, right, shakes hands with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee during a Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon in March.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

Election Day is not normally in the third full week of July, but Wednesday will be an Election Day of sorts for Tennessee Republicans.

On that day, the state House Republican Caucus will meet to select a nominee for speaker of the House. The current speaker, Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, has said he will step down from his position on Aug. 2. On Aug. 23, three weeks later, a special session of the House called by Gov. Bill Lee will meet to elect a new speaker.

Since Republicans have a super majority of representatives in the House, the individual who Republicans select is almost certainly assured of victory.

Six men have put forth their names as candidates. One of those is Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. We couldn't imagine a better choice as speaker.

We don't profess to know the chatter in the back halls of the state capitol, who's on whose team, who's not popular with his fellow members and who's easy to work with.

But what we know about Carter from our dealings with him is he is smart, conservative, compassionate, proactive, honest and prudent. We think all those are important attributes in a speaker, the most powerful person in the state House.

The four-term state representative is probably best known for his landmark 2016 annexation reform legislation, which requires residents of a municipality to vote to approve annexation instead of municipalities simply passing an ordinance to bring in new territory.

"We were told it could not be passed," Carter said, according to Times Free Press archives. "It was difficult, but it passed."

But that is hardly the extent of his accomplishments.

In recent years, Carter steered legislation toward ending emissions testing, sponsored the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act that prevents innocent citizens from losing property when a crime in committed, sponsored legislation that will help stop batterers from filing frivolous lawsuits designed to bankrupt or inflict financial harm on the people they already have abused, sponsored legislation allowing people with disabilities to make as many decision as possible about their lives, sponsored a bill that allows law enforcement agencies to be reimbursed for having to transport individuals believed to be mentally ill to hospitals, and backed measures that streamlined the adoption process and banned most underage marriages.

While many of his competitors for House speaker have backed popular legislation, the former Hamilton County Sessions Court judge has done the heavy lifting of researching matters large and small, figuring out how they might work fiscally and constitutionally, and introducing them as common-sense legislation.

Indeed, we're impressed that Carter, who might have been re-elected to a six-figure post as judge as long he desired or could spend all his days practicing corporate law, even chose to run for the legislature in 2012.

"I feel like the luckiest man in the world," he said of his legislative slot in 2018. "I hope and honestly believe I speak for those who have no power and no resources with which to purchase power. Doing the right thing is not always the politically correct thing."

It also was Carter whose exposure of what he was asked to do probably helped bring Casada's 8-month tenure as speaker to an end. After allegations about some of Casada's untoward actions came to light in the spring, Carter, as a member of the House Ethics Committee, was asked to sign a draft ethics advisory report essentially acknowledging the speaker's version of his actions as fact.

However, the Ooltewah Republican noted that the speaker's version of events did not jibe with facts in the public record and said he wouldn't sign the statement. After some back and forth, he said he could sign a statement of facts as long as it included an addendum of facts already in the public record.

Ultimately, no statement was signed, Carter revealed what had occurred, and Casada a short time later said he would resign his position on a date in the near future, which became Aug. 2.

We believe Carter is the type of conservative Tennesseans have elected to the United States Senate and to be their governor for most of the past 50 years. At various times during his tenure, he has been chosen as the "Best Overall" member of the legislature by the Tennessee Forum and "Legislator of the Year" by several organizations.

Although his 29th District constituents won't have the opportunity to cast a ballot for him, we hope his fellow House members see the wisdom of electing a sensible conservative doer to lead them.

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