Rep. Hazlewood Defends Legislative Record In Talk To Civitan

  • Monday, June 24, 2024
  • Hannah Campbell
Rep. Patsy Hazlewood
Rep. Patsy Hazlewood
photo by Jim Robbins

Tennessee House of Representatives District 27 incumbent Patsy Hazlewood spoke to the Chattanooga Civitan Club Friday about her own history of entrepreneurship, cutting state taxes and what it means to be pro-life.

Rep. Hazlewood is running against Michele Reneau in the Republican primary election Aug. 1. Early voting is July 12 through July 27.

Rep. Hazlewood was a founding organizer and director of CapitalMark until it was acquired by Pinnacle Financial Partners in 2015. and she described the unease that all entrepreneurs experience.

“I know how tough that is,” the speaker said. “I know how gut-wrenching that can be.” Rep. Hazlewood was the first woman to serve as president of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. She has served as the Southeast Regional Director for the Tennessee Department of Economic Community Development.

“I took that to Nashville,” Rep. Hazlewood told the group. She has served in the state House of Representatives since 2014. She said her motto is, “Work hard, get things done, and not just take up space.”

Rep. Hazlewood is chairwoman of the House Finance, Ways and Means committee. Area state Senator Bo Watson is chairman of the Senate finance committee.

“That’s allowed us to get some things done that’s good for the state, that’s good for the county,” she said.

“No one there questions my integrity and I’ve earned their respect,” she said.

“You have to be able to work with people and bring people alongside you,” she said. She must convince 49 fellow representatives, and Sen. Watson must convince 17 fellow senators, to pass a bill, she said.

Rep. Hazlewood may not have toed the party line in some pro-life and immigration votes, but she said it’s not that simple.

“I am pro-life,” she said. “That includes... the life of the mother as well.”

Rep. Hazlewood abstained from the Heartbeat Bill vote in 2020, because she said the wording seemed to expose a doctor to felony charges who removed an ectopic pregnancy any time before it actually burst, which causes deadly blood loss in the mother.

The fetus in an ectopic pregnancy cannot survive where it has been implanted, outside the uterus, but it sometimes does have a heartbeat.

“That’s just nonsensical,” she said. “We have got to protect the life of the mother.”

Though states can mitigate trouble caused by illegal immigration, she said that anyone who believes states can control immigration is “uninformed.”

“It has to be done at the federal level,” she said.

She said action will come when President Joe Biden leaves the White House, when Republicans gain a stronger majority in the House and also gain a majority in the Senate.

But public safety is a government responsibility, she said.

Rep. Hazlewood said she has worked to make being an illegal immigrant a sentencing factor in Tennessee, which increases a criminal’s sentence.

Rep. Hazlewood voted against a bill prohibiting Tennessee sanctuary cities in 2018.

“That bill would have hurt businesses. It would have hurt families,” she said.

It states that all state money will be withheld from any state or local government entity that adopts sanctuary policies, which she said would harm economic development plans a city might have and related new jobs.

“There are better ways to punish the city, directly,” she said.

Rep. Hazlewood said she agrees with the sentiment but not the implementation of other bills, too.

She supported a bill in 2022 that would require small businesses with as few as 35 employees to use the federal E-Verify program to check that new hires are legally able to work in the U.S., lowered from 50 employees. She said she did not support talk of lowering the threshold to 25 employees because E-Verify is a lot of work.

“You’re getting down now to really small businesses,” she said.

Rep. Hazlewood said the Republican legislature has doubled K-12 funding since it took over in 2010, from $3.3 billion to $6.8 billion. Education and TennCare are the state’s biggest expenses. The state’s new funding formula which took effect in 2023 gives at least $7,000 per student to public schools.

“The money now follows the child,” she said. Each student’s funds are weighted for various disabilities or distance from home to school, which affects busing costs for a school district.

Rep. Hazlewood said she is proud the state has awarded $54 million in school security grants for hardening, locks, bulletproof window film and monitoring technology.

In the state’s higher education system, she praised UTC’s new nursing school and new business school.

Rep. Hazlewood said she has helped increase the state’s savings by 167 percent since her chairwomanship of the finance committee.

“We will have an economic downturn and we are prepared for that with our Rainy Day Fund,” she said.

The legislature has cut $3.4 billion in taxes but continues to fund rural hospitals.

“That’s the kind of leadership I would like to continue to provide,” she said.

Other points:

Rep. Hazlewood said she is proud of helping to pass the Right-to-Work Constitutional amendment, which means employees can’t be forced to unionize to keep their jobs.

Tennessee has the lowest per-capita debt in the country, and the second-lowest taxes per capita.

Cutting property out of state franchise tax calculations totals $40 million in recurring savings for Tennesseans. Rep. Hazlewood said it was hard to make the change in one fell swoop, but the effect is worth it.

“We could afford to do it,” she said.

Rep. Hazlewood said Republicans have brought in $1.3 billion locally since 2010 for road projects including the widening of Highway 27 north of Olgiati Bridge, and Signal Mountain’s main roads.

Rep. Hazlewood supported the Truth in Sentencing Bill of 2022, which means people convicted of certain crimes must serve 100 percent or 85 percent of their sentences without parole.

Rep. Hazlewood supports the Protect Tennessee Minors Act which requires websites with explicit material to verify a viewer’s age.

“We don’t let our children under 18 go in an adult bookstore,” she said.

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