But then later on in his talk, he addressed a few more serious topics.State Rep. Brooks is the coordinator of public relations for the Church or God international offices and an award-winning Rotarian.
In fact, Brooks said his first opportunity to serve the community came through his membership in Rotary.
Brooks, also a Lee University graduate, the assistant majority house leader and the recently named a 2011 Legislator of the Year, a Cleveland resident, husband to his high school sweetheart, Kim, and father of two boys, spoke to the Cleveland Sunrise Rotary Thursday about Rotary, his role as a legislator, the Tennessee economy and bond situation, as well as the current and future role of education in the state.
“I’m a mailman,” Brooks told the surprised crowd. “I’m not the person who does all the work ... I just want to thank you for allowing me to serve.”
Brooks was referring to all the service organizations and volunteers in the Cleveland/Bradley area that take a lot of work into their own hands and get things done. Brooks said he tries to bring to Nashville all the good ideas and questions from his constituents in Cleveland and then, sometimes, he is able to bring something back to them.
He also went on to tell the group that, yes, things aren’t good in all areas right now — both in Tennessee and Washington.
But there is still much good, like the high Tennessee bond rating the state still retains.
“Our bond ratings have remained the same and never have been stronger,” Brooks said.
Hundreds of millions of bonds have been sold, and much of that money has reached the Cleveland/Bradley area, especially its businesses. In fact, in January, one of Brooks next goals is to work on making more funding available for small businesses to get their planned projects up and running.
“Small business is the backbone of the American economy,” he said. “I also believe the true path to prosperity and the key to getting out of the financial doldrums we find ourselves in is to ensure an environment where small businesses can thrive.”
Tennessee was recently ranked as a top state for growth thanks to its low tax status.
In fact, the Cleveland/Bradley area in particular is doing so well compared with other areas of the country, his fellow representatives often ask him: “What in the world are you doing down there?”
His answer to them: “God’s blessings is in this region.”
But, right now, the federal government takes up 27 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. That is the highest level since World War II. And the current total size of all government operations is 42 percent of the GDP. That is “unsustainable.” It must be “curtailed.”
Cutting the budget is his “greatest service right now,” Brooks said. In fact, the constitution of Tennessee requires that legislators must pass a balanced budget.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Brooks said.
Brooks has also worked on a great many education reforms as well. Roughly a billion dollars has been cut so far to balance the current budget — done without raising a single tax, he added.
However, some people, he said, may not have liked some of the recent education changes that have been made. That’s when many realized that “we needed someone with chalk on their hands” to develop programs that work in the classroom and not just on paper. We need to “draw a line in the sand for more stringent education standards” he said.
“Teachers are my friends. My sister is a teacher. I love teachers,” Brooks said. “We hear you ... We’ve started the process (of making changes to education) and we’ll tweak these changes ... We’ll go back in January and work on fixing them.”
In other business:
— Sunrise Rotary’s membership drive continues throughout October.
— The Sunrise Rotary, challenged by the local Kiwanis club to raise more money for the recent fundraiser — CASA’s (which stands for Court-Appointed Special Advocates) Moonlight Walk — earlier this month, did. The Sunrise Rotary raised the most money between the two groups this year.
— The Sunrise Rotary is asking for Rotarians to volunteer to ring the Salvation Army bells on Saturday, Dec. 17. It will save the Salvation Army thousands of dollars by not having to have paid bell ringers.