Local freshman lawmaker reflects on busy first session
Published 9:12 am Thursday, May 7, 2015
When taking on a new job, it sometimes takes a little while to get your bearings, but one local freshman lawmaker hit the ground running during his first legislative session.
In 2015, state Rep. John Holsclaw of Elizabethton sponsored 10 bills and co-sponsored 21 more. He also co-sponsored a total of 57 resolutions. His bills covered a wide variety of topics from education to handgun permits and from praying for students to toughening criminal laws.
“I was bound and determined I wasn’t going to sit on my heels; I was going to make something happen,” Holsclaw said. “The first session of the term is the toughest, especially for a freshman.”
Despite being the new kid on the block, Holsclaw said he was welcomed into the House of Representatives. It wasn’t quite what he expected, though.
“A lot of people envision the Legislature as a group of gray-haired men,” he said. “There is a lot of youth in the House, a lot of Christian-based morals. I was pleasantly surprised.”
“If our federal government was like our state government, we would be in a lot better shape,” he said.
During this year’s session, the House of Representatives debated several pieces of legislation that drew a lot of controversy, but Holsclaw said he would not let the criticism push him away from doing what he felt was right.
One of those measures, Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal, sought to use federal funding to expand the state’s Medicaid coverage to more low-income residents and help working people buy into employer-sponsored health insurance plans. The proposal was debated and ultimately failed during a special called legislative session. The measure was presented and failed once again during the regular session.
“I was probably the only freshman that stood up and said, ‘I’ll support that because it’s the right thing to do for the people of Tennessee,’ ” Holsclaw said, adding he drew a lot of criticism for supporting the proposal. “I’m trying to do something decent for the common people, and you get all these radicals that don’t do any research and say I supported Obama.”
Another controversial bill brought before the Legislature this session proposed to make the Bible the official state book of Tennessee. Holsclaw co-sponsored the bill, a move he said he believed was the right thing for the citizens.
“Our whole country is founded on religion,” Holsclaw said. “If you look at all our monuments and even our money, it says ‘In God We Trust.’ ”
Haslam signed into law three bills Holsclaw proposed. One created a lifetime gun permit for Tennessee residents, another created a statewide day of prayer over students and the third clarified how the state classifies violent juvenile sex offenders.
And while this year’s session has ended, Holsclaw is still not resting. “I’ve got a couple of major things I’m working on,” he said.
Though dividing his time between his duties in Nashville and his family and business here in Elizabethton was difficult at times, Holsclaw said the experience was still one he enjoyed.
“It was a great learning opportunity and extremely challenging,” he said.
To try to keep up with his business, The Jeweler’s Bench, Holsclaw would work part of the mornings on Monday at his shop before driving to Nashville for the late day meetings. He would remain in Nashville all day on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursdays are short days at the Legislature so Holsclaw attended morning sessions before returning home that afternoon. Then he would spend Friday, Saturday and often Sunday working to get caught up at his business.
“I committed to my customers that I would fix the jewelry here and not farm it out, so I made it work,” he said.
But, all of the travel and keeping up with all the different responsibilities affected more than just Holsclaw.
“I reckon the ones that really pay are your family and kids,” he said. “If it was full time, I don’t know that I could do it.”