Paul Sherrell and Rush Bricken rode the Republican wave to one-sided election victories Tuesday night.
Now the men are setting their priorities as they prepare for their two-year terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Both have parts of Warren County included in their districts.
Bricken says he’s eager to glean input from key county officials as he gets ready for his first legislative session in the General Assembly in January.
“When you’re talking about state government, the things you want to look at are education, public safety and roads,” said Bricken, a longtime member of the Coffee County Commission. “I plan to meet with the director of schools, the sheriffs and the road superintendents in Coffee County and in Warren County and find out what they have to say. I want to hear about their most pressing issues and take that to Nashville.”
Sherrell will be entering his second term in the Tennessee House. As a member of the Criminal Justice Committee the past two years, Sherrell says he see pressing issues when it comes to law enforcement.
“I think one of the major problems in the state of Tennessee is our drug problem,” said Sherrell. “We need to work on making things harder on people selling drugs to our kids, make the penalties stronger for crime.”
Sherrell says jail overcrowding is also a major issue and says if the penalties are so stiff, it will serve as a deterrent for people committing crime in the first place. He also praised the value of school.
“We can work to improve education,” said Sherrell. “If they get a good education, they might not end up in jail in the first place.”
According to a Fox News survey released Wednesday, the No. 1 concern voiced by Americans during this midterm election cycle was healthcare.
Sherrell wasn’t in office when state lawmakers declined to expand Medicaid in 2014 so he has never voted on the issue. He says affordable healthcare remains a priority for him.
“We want to help as many people as we can have the best healthcare that they can,” said Sherrell. “Maybe there will be some new thoughts on what we can do. The federal government might also do something to help with prescription costs.”
Several Democrats running for election, including Karl Dean who made an unsuccessful bid for governor, said Tennessee is losing billions of dollars by not expanding Medicaid. Bricken has not yet taken office, but he’s already done research on Medicaid expansion and worries about its possible long-term implications.
“The federal government contribution starts at 100 percent, but the way I understand it, the amount goes to 90 and then 80 percent over time,” said Bricken. “That’s what got the state into trouble 12 years ago when we had to cut 100,000 people from the TennCare rolls or risk an income tax. We have to figure out some way to tap into Medicaid expansion without putting the state’s long-term finances in jeopardy.”
Bricken said he would like to use his background in banking and as a CPA to benefit small business owners and work to simplify some of the paperwork they must complete. He also praised his opponent, Mike Winton, for an enjoyable campaign.
“It was a clean, positive race,” said Bricken.