CANDIDATE PROFILE: Jeremy Durham looking for third term in 65th House seat


CANDIDATE PROFILE: Jeremy Durham looking for third term in 65th House seat

After serving in his position since 2012, Jeremy Durham said he would like a third term in office to champion for small business and health care spending.

Running for his third term in the 65th House District, Franklin Republican Jeremy Durham said he would like to continue his work in the General Assembly, aimed at helping small business and staying mindful of how the state spends money on health care.

Durham has worked as an attorney in Williamson County. He attended the University of Tennessee for his undergraduate degree and then attended the University of Memphis Law School. In the legislature, he’s served on the House Insurance and Banking Committee, House State Government Committee and House Insurance Banking Committee.

This year, Durham served as the House’s majority whip until late January after allegations of inappropriate behavior arose and he was asked to leave the GOP caucus. He’s since left the GOP caucus with the Attorney General still investigating the claims.

As a part of the Home Page’s candidate profiles, we’ve asked every candidate running for a house seat the same questions regarding issues from traffic to funding across the board.

When you ask Williamson County residents what’s the biggest problem they want addressed, it is traffic. What sort of traffic solutions do you advocate and how do you pay for them?

This past session, I co-sponsored legislation adding $142 as amended million of extra money into the highway funds. I also passed a bill last year giving Williamson County a higher voter percentage in allocating federal transportation dollars through the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Neither of these required raising taxes.

When our state has nearly $1 billion in excess revenue, the last thing we should consider is increasing taxes on hard-working Tennesseans. I absolutely oppose increasing the tax on gasoline.

Do you think there is school funding equity, and if not, is there a way to correct the funding formula?

Williamson County does not receive its fair share of state education funding. Fortunately, our county leaders step up and provide additional money to our schools. Part of this problem is due to a ruling many years ago from the Tennessee Supreme Court. I fear that another lawsuit would not help our county because our children are performing exceptionally well and thus it is difficult to make the argument that our schools are in dire need of additional funding. Forcing a lawsuit could potentially even decrease the funding we receive.

One idea to save money would be eliminating wasteful expenditures such as hiring taxpayer-funded lobbyists.

The legislative session is 90 days. Do you think the priorities based on the legislation and time spent on legislation are appropriate? Rank them on the most pressing issues facing Tennessee – health care, education, transportation, state economy, social issues and religion and culture.

No issue can be considered greater than creating jobs and protecting our state economy. When businesses look at coming to Tennessee, they often look at Williamson County. We must continue developing pro-business legislative solutions and keeping regulations low on small businesses so we can compete with our neighbor states and remain a booming economic engine.

Not expanding Medicaid pursuant to Obamacare must remain a top priority because our state almost went bankrupt the last time it made a similar move.

Education is the largest single part of our state budget and must also remain a top priority. Our education system is one of the things that sets Williamson County apart from our neighbors and we must make sure we continue to move forward, make significant gains and prepare the next generation to compete in an ever-broadening global economy. This requires maintaining high standards and accountability, paying teachers what they are worth and allowing parents — rather than the government — greater latitude in making decisions that affect our children’s future.

Williamson County is an ideal place to live, work and raise a family. This is why our population is growing much faster than our infrastructure. We must remain focused on providing the necessary foundation to ensure that our county continues to grow the right way.

Protecting the right to bear arms and the sanctity of life cannot be undervalued. Nor can our religion and culture be ignored. These are the cultural issues that separate our state and country from other parts of the world and we must fight to preserve our freedoms and preserve the moral fabric of our society. Our founding fathers believed strongly in these ideals and I believe that is one of the reasons our country has remained strong.

In legislation such as the bathroom bill, is that a case of our state making a statement or addressing a problem? Based on the consequences to North Carolina, do you endorse such legislation?

I don’t believe a male should possess the right to use a women’s restroom so I fully supported the legislation.

Williamson County will continue to grow. From the state level, how will you oversee it is done responsibly, and do you think the urban growth boundary system still works?

Due to normal growth circumstances, we should always remain willing to revisit urban growth boundaries. We must carefully balance the needs of cities as our economic engines versus the self-sufficient rural lifestyle that many Williamson Countians have validly chosen to live and very much want to see preserved.

The legislature overturned affordable housing set asides at the municipal level. Do you think affordable housing is an issue and if so how should it be addressed?

It is important to support our cities and their legislative priorities but there are times when we must protect our state economy from bad public policy. Putting additional regulations on businesses is not the way to create a pro-growth environment and I was happy to co-sponsor this legislation to restrict cities from enacting ordinances requiring inclusionary zoning. We did, however, preserve the right of cities to offer incentives to achieve a desired result.
Do you believe the state should enact its own legislation to discourage the presence of illegal immigrants and what kind of measures should those be?

Yes. We cannot become a destination state for illegal immigration. It is extremely important that we use state agencies to enforce our federal immigration laws and not provide state resources to persons who entered our country illegally. We can do this by strengthening the penalties on people who knowingly hire illegals and using e-verify in greater instances. It is also important that the Tennessee Department of Labor track how our existing laws affect illegal immigration in Tennessee so we can make better-informed public policy decisions.

When ever would Tennessee need a full-time legislature?

This concept is inconsistent with our state constitution. There are a limited number of legislative days we are allowed to meet so we would need to amend the constitution.

Do you prefer a complete elimination or a gradual phase out of the Hall Tax? Is there a way to replace the lost revenue to cities?

I support repealing the Hall Tax as quickly as possible. Punishing people who’ve already been taxed and disproportionately targeting retirees is simply bad public policy. If Tennessee wants to truly be income tax free, the Hall Tax must be eliminated completely.

It is true that $3 of every $8 goes back to local governments, but remember that all $8 comes from taxpayers. I don’t know of any other part of a local budget that could generate $8 in tax relief by cutting $3. If additional revenue exists again next year, we should consider holding local governments harmless for a portion of this revenue but we’ve discussed eliminating the Hall Tax for a number of years and this is simply something local governments must prepare to do.

Do you think the legislature will be ready at the beginning of the session to deal with the Medicaid expansion question in light of the Insure Tennessee summer study and the comprehensive task force. What is your position on the expansion?

Obamacare Medicaid expansion is something we must continue to reject. The U.S. Supreme Court did taxpayers a huge favor by saving states from one of the worst parts of Obamacare. I was prime sponsor of the law affording the legislature the final say on whether or not Obamacare can be expanded. Not only should we learn from our state’s last Medicaid expansion which nearly bankrupted our state, but many states that have expanded face dire fiscal situations after doing so.

It is also important to see what the next presidential administration looks like before taking any step in that direction so I’m not sure that the task force will be properly informed to make valid recommendations.

Editor’s note: Jeremy Durham’s interview was conducted over email.

Emily West covers Franklin and Williamson County government and schools for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at emily@franklinhomepage.com. Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.

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