In addition to being up for reelection, Van Huss plans to carry two controversial pieces of legislation this session: “The heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detected, and a bill imposing tougher penalties on cities and counties that remove public monuments without the permission of the Tennessee Historical Commission.
The following are some questions Van Huss answered earlier about what’s to come this year:
Q: You’ve already picked up your nominating petition to run again in 2018. Are you definitely committed to running again and why? Do you feel like you have more to achieve in the state legislature?
A: “I am running again. I have God's peace about running again. It's not about what I can achieve, but about protecting, and in some cases, restoring the constitutional rights of the people of Washington County.”
Q: Are you expecting any challengers in this year’s Republican primary and would you welcome a challenge?
A: "Nothing entitles me to this seat. This is the people's seat and running for state representative has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and I highly recommend it for anyone interested."
Q: What would the “heartbeat bill” do if passed, and why is restricting abortions, except in medical emergencies, important to you?
A: “First of all, the heartbeat bill would ban abortions after a baby's heartbeat is detected. Of course, I believe that life begins at conception. The heartbeat is really the earliest point you can detect a pregnancy. If we had the technology to detect conception, then I would like to ban it there.”
Q: The Health Subcommittee voted 5-4 to roll the bill to this current session. You’re scheduled to present the same bill to the same committee on Wednesday. What will it take to get passed?
A: “It's going to take three flips, but (the committee) voted to roll it for a year, which in essence doomed over 3,500 babies to death. They can't do that again this year because it’s the last year of the session. They can do other things where they don't have to vote on it. They can summer study it, which is basically a "no" vote (and) they can completely amend it to say something else ... If they have the votes, they can do whatever they want.
“They really just don't want to vote for it, which is mind-boggling to me. When I get down here, so few people have a spine where they don't want to vote on a piece of legislation because they're in a hard spot with it. Well, I'm sorry, but my constituents didn't send me here to not vote on a piece of legislation. Have the backbone to say "yes or no" and quit playing games. Well, they're playing games with the ‘heartbeat bill’ so we'll see soon hopefully what's going to happen.”
Q: What is your response to the arguments made against the “heartbeat bill,” even from the pro-life organization Tennessee Right to Life?
A: “The Tennessee Right to Life (organization president) last year told me they were against it because they did not want to make waves, poke the bear, or so to say make the judges who were ruling on Amendment 1 mad. But Amendment 1 passed (appeals court) a few weeks ago so that argument, or the official reason they told me, is over.
“I think, from what I can tell, the best reason they don't want me to bring it is because Planned Parenthood is going to make money (by requesting for donations) if this legislation goes to court. First of all, I think everyday an abortion spends in court is what? Eight babies that don't get aborted that day. So I don't think that's a bad thing to put Planned Parenthood or doctors in court who would do that.”
Q: What’s your response to the critics who say this law is unconstitutional?
A: “On the constitutionality, the partial-birth abortion ban failed in court 42 times. The one that is important is the 43rd time when Nebraska's partial-birth abortion ban was upheld by the United States Supreme Court, making all partial-birth abortions illegal.
“So, the question becomes: Yes, the heartbeat bill probably would be challenged in court but are you willing to fight? There is no guarantee the Tennessee legislature will have a pro-life majority come November. So while I am where I am, I feel its my duty to fight for these babies.”
Q: Why do you believe there is so much opposition to this bill?
“My opinion, the reason why there is so much opposition to the “heartbeat bill” in Tennessee is a lack of leadership from the executive branch and a lack of leadership from the attorney general.
“If this were Texas, the legislature wouldn't have any question about passing this because they know their attorney general and their governor are going to stand up for the heartbeat bill.”
Q: What other legislation are you going to file this session?
A: “I’ve got a resolution recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. I've got another bill along the lines of Confederate monuments. There are a number of bills on Confederate monuments, but the one I wrote and got a Senate sponsor for says that cities will forfeit all state funds for the fiscal year if they remove historical monuments after being denied by the Tennessee Historical Commission, which is what happened in Memphis.
“The Historical Commission denied the right to take those statutes down and they went ahead and did it anyway. So if this law passes, and they were to do that, they would have to give back all the money that Tennessee had given them in that current budget.”