PULASKI -- The lawmaker representing Marshall County in the state House took a position in contrast with his two challengers during a recent debate sponsored by the Tea Party group in the Pulaski Recreation Center.
State Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect) and his challengers, former Marshall County Commission Chairman Billy Spivey, a Lewisburg Republican, and former Spring Hill Alderman Ted Roop, an Independent, now of Lynnville, had been asked where they would cut state spending.
Bass and Spivey would, in effect, spread the pain across the board. Roop suggested not filling jobs when employees leave on their own.
There was a follow-up question.
How about cutting preschool -- pre-kindergarten -- programs?
Roop and Spivey agreed. Bass did not.
"Two weeks ago, I would have danced all around it," Bass said of the question on what's normally called Pre-K.
"We don't live in a perfect world," the incumbent lawmaker said.
Mothers are working and their children frequently attend two different schools, he said, reflecting on the difficulties of everyday life.
Bass visited a pre-school program and left "impressed," he said. Three children couldn't be controlled when they started the program, but he indicated that's been corrected.
"I am all for pre-K," Bass said, endorsing expansion as money allows.
"I disagree with my fine opponents," Bass said.
He spoke after Spivey and Roop.
"Tennessee has a great pre-K program," Spivey said, receiving applause for his next statement: "It's called Mom and Dad."
Children "need more from them than from you or me," he said.
"Pre-K need not exist in Tennessee," Spivey said.
Tennessee has more funding problems, he said.
Roop also supports cutting Pre-K: "But it's like coffee. Some is good; some not... Parents need to be more involved."
Giles Patriots President Tammie Warner said she spoke with a Lewisburg woman at a Tea Party event more than a year ago and got the name of another Giles County woman interested in forming a Tea Party group in Giles County. The Patriots in Pulaski grew from there.
About 85 people attended the debate conducted only for the 65th District House race.
The first question was about kindergarten. There were more questions than those reported below. Candidates answered in a rotation, so they'd have an equal chance to answer some questions first.
Q: Should the date be changed from Sept. 30 to July 31 for determining when a child is old enough to go to kindergarten?
Bass: A child could start too early. He'd consider sponsoring a bill to change the date, but he'd want to consult with educators and parents.
Spivey: If it makes sense, he'd consider sponsoring such a bill, but for the sake of conserving energy, and therefore money, changing the school schedule is worthwhile.
Roop: Changing a date to allow younger children start school could be considered, but he asked, "What happens when they get to middle school, or high school?"
Q: Are you willing to sponsor a bill permitting use of a teaching certificate applicant's juvenile court record to deny the certificate?
Spivey: There's only one person who's walked the Earth "mistake free," he said, but children's safety is No. 1. He would sponsor such a bill.
Roop: Agreeing with Spivey, Roop said the nature of the juvenile delinquent act should be considered.
Bass: The legislation is not necessary. Juvenile records can't be used against individuals when they're adults.
Q: How is the state paying for the restaurant at Henry Horton State Park?
Spivey: The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has questions about keeping the restaurant open. [It costs more than its revenue.] But since Marshall County has high unemployment, jobs should be preserved, but he said, "As a conservative, I would look at other alternatives."
Roop: The Bredesen Administration didn't feel it had the money to support it and there are other restaurants, small businesses, nearby that compete against it. "If the others can't compete, you may have t shut it down. The state has shut down golf courses. One was built for $10 million and it was sold for $2 million, Roop said.
Bass: "I'm proud to say I led the charge to keep it open," he said. "The restaurant is vital." Without it the rest of the park is threatened. TDEC has a budget of millions of dollars, but the state wanted to close it. Why not try to get the restaurant "back on track?" Its funding is up to TDEC officials.
Q: Would you support laws for Tennessee like those in Arizona regarding immigration?
Roop: Noting state Sen. Bill Ketron, who represents Marshall and Giles counties, had gone to Arizona to learn more about Arizona's law, Roop said that if he's elected he would help Ketron's Senate bill get passed in the House. "We have to do it on the local level if they won't on the federal level."
Bass: Sheriff's departments could round them up, Bass said of illegal immigrants. Claiming "good relations across the aisle" with Republicans, the Giles County Democrat said he'd sponsor Ketron's bill in the House. States can't enforce immigration laws and it's a shame, he said.
Spivey: Border states have different circumstances, but if such proposed legislation would remove illegal immigrants from this community, then the bill appears worthwhile. Spivey said he knows Bass voted against a bill for voter identification and English as the official language, but Bass countered saying he was a co-sponsor of the photo ID bill and there were several versions of the bill.