State Rep. Rick Staples (Knox District 15) had to hit the ground running when he went to Nashville, and he doesn’t sound ready to slow down now that the legislative year is over. One of the things he’ll be doing this summer is going to the Legislative Plaza twice a month to shepherd a bill he’s co-sponsoring that requires local school districts to test schoolhouse drinking water for lead.
Usually, summer study is a euphemism for the place where bills go to die, but Staples said he’s committed to requiring statewide lead testing, even though Knox County Schools already has a testing policy in place.
“I’ve got Knox County’s support on this,” he said. “And if it passes, Knox County can get help and benefit from information sharing. The burden wouldn’t solely be on Knox County.”
Appointed by the Knox County Democratic party to fill the vacancy created when longtime Rep. Joe Armstrong resigned after entering a guilty plea to a charge of income tax evasion last August, Staples ran unopposed in the November general election, and had less time than other first-time legislators to plan an agenda.
Rick Staples had a lot of catching up to do.
Nine months later, he’s getting good marks from his colleagues. He managed to pass three bills he sponsored or co-sponsored, which isn’t bad for a member of the minority party – Democrats are outnumbered 74-25 in the House.
One of Staples’ bills was a measure he cosponsored with Republican Eddie Smith (Knox District 13) to create an additional Fourth Circuit Court judicial magistrate to handle the overflow of domestic violence cases left behind by former Judge Bill Swann, who had made this his signature issue. This bill required an opinion from the state attorney general to get kick started.
The second bill with Staples’ name on it strengthens existing law requiring car dealers to be transparent with customers who are buying or leasing vehicles that are subject to manufacturer recall, and was inspired by the death of a young Nashville woman who was killed when her brakes failed. Her parents had no idea that the car was under recall.
“In other words, don’t sell dangerous vehicles,” Staples said.
Dubbed the “Rickshaw Bill,” it earned Staples a nickname.
“They started calling me ‘Rickshaw Rick Staples,’ and it stuck,” he said.
Staples’ third bill gives armed service members stationed overseas the right to marry someone in Tennessee via Skype or videoconference.
“If you’re in prison, you can get a marriage certificate and get married (this way). If you’re in the military, you couldn’t,” he said.
Staples said he intends to re-engage with community groups like 100 Black Men of Knoxville Inc. and will be keeping a close eye on the upcoming City Council elections.
“People elect you for a certain period of time, and you have to do something with it,” he said.