Hello, below are some highlights from August:
Obamacare continues to spiral out of control
On August 20, I had the opportunity to deliver the weekly Republican address. Regardless of your political views or your “position” on Obamacare, the law is in real trouble. Tennessee’s largest newspaper, The Tennessean, quoted our state health commissioner as saying Tennessee’s Obamacare exchange—where individuals and small groups who obtain a subsidy get their health insurance—is “very near collapse.” Many Tennesseans next year will face a 44-66 percent increase in their Obamacare premiums that will force them to make difficult decisions about their daily lives and family budgets. That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. And it’s happening all over the country.
If we have a Republican in the White House next year, we need to repeal and replace Obamacare with common-sense reforms that lower costs. If we have a Democrat in the White House, we will still need to fix Obamacare in a fundamental way.
Watch a full video of my remarks here.
This month, I hosted a roundtable at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) to discuss the recent $71.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that puts Vanderbilt front and center in the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative. Precision medicine has the potential to touch every American family, expedite research for rare diseases and improve the lives of millions who are sick by personalizing medicine for better solutions. This award is a giant credit to Vanderbilt’s research, leadership and talent and one of the most exciting developments for Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and for medicine in a long time.
Protecting bald eagles and saving taxpayer dollars
This month, I wrote a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe urging the agency to reconsider a proposal that could allow Big Wind to kill more bald eagles. The proposal, which extends the number of years a company can receive a permit for the incidental deaths of bald eagles, could allow giant wind turbines to kill nearly 3 percent of our country’s bald eagles every year. We should be increasing efforts to protect the nation’s symbol of freedom and sovereignty instead of handing out killing permits to wind developers.
I also wrote a letter to Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging against a proposal that would provide additional incentives to wind producers, who already have an unfair advantage over other more reliable forms of electricity such as nuclear power – the country’s largest source of clean electricity. There is no reason the federal government should provide additional incentives to build unreliable and unsightly wind turbines.
This month, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. Documentarian Ken Burns has called the National Park Service “America’s best idea.” If Burns is right, then the Great Smoky Mountains National Park must be America’s very best idea because each year it attracts nearly twice as many visitors as any other national park. To celebrate, I joined students and boy scouts for a hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and attended a luncheon to honor employees and volunteers. The beauty, magic, and serenity of national parks, especially the Smokies, provides a great way to celebrate what’s right with America. Find a park in Tennessee here!
New proposal by U.S. Department of Education is not only unlawful but specifically prohibited by law fixing No Child Left Behind
With the expiration of the U.S. Education Department’s conditional No Child Left Behind waivers on August 1, last month marked the end of the “Mother, May I?” era in K-12 education. The new education law signed in December reversed the trend toward a national school board and required the U.S. Education Secretary to keep his hands off of Tennessee’s classrooms.
Unfortunately, in early September, the Secretary of Education issued a proposal that would take us back in the opposite direction. His proposed regulation would regulate the way states and school districts spend nearly all state and local tax dollars on schools in order to receive federal Title I dollars and give Washington, D.C., control over state and local education dollars that it has never had before. It would likely upend state and local education finance systems and collective bargaining agreements in many states. Federal law gives him zero authority to do this. In fact, our new law specifically prohibits his doing this, and if anything resembling this proposal becomes final, I will do everything within my power to overturn it.
On Aug. 26, I talked with Monroe County business leaders about their success in bringing new jobs to the area, including the expansion of JTEKT Automotive and the Mastercraft plant receiving Industry Week’s “Best Plant” award. These are just a few examples of how Tennessee is the right place for automotive and other advanced manufacturing industries, which brings good-paying jobs to our state.
The Obama administration’s crippling $2,250 fee on Tennessee gunsmiths is unnecessary
This month, I joined a group of 24 Republican senators in sending a letter to the Obama administration opposing its new plan to impose crippling fees and requirements on the nation’s gun hobbyists and gunsmiths. This enforcement policy would force Tennessee gunsmiths – the vast majority of whom make little to no income from their activities and often do it as a hobby – to pay a $2,250 fee and register as manufacturers. No Tennessean should have to pay the U.S. government because they simply enjoy working on antique firearms for a hobby.
On Aug. 29, I met with the Jefferson City Rotary and praised their work to help renovate a local Boys & Girls Club. While it’s easy these days to hear what is wrong with America, it’s easy to see what is right – and members of the Jefferson City Rotary who contributed $10,000 to make a nicer club facility for the children helped by the Boys & Girls Club are a great example of that.
NLRB decision to allow student assistants to unionize may destroy programs that have helped millions afford an education
On August 23, the Obama administration’s runaway National Labor Relations Board issued a decision that will allow graduate “student assistants” at private colleges and universities to unionize and opens the door for undergraduate unionization as well. If you’re earning a BS or an MBA from Union University in Jackson or an advanced engineering degree from Vanderbilt, your primary purpose and benefit during your time there is to gain the skills needed to launch into the career and future you want – not to garner wages as an employee of the university. Last month’s decision by the Board – a reversal of its previous policy – is a shameless ploy to increase union membership rather than a genuine attempt to help students. The result may well be that colleges end undergraduate student assistant programs so that 18-year old -freshmen aren’t dealing with union reps rather than focusing on their degree.
Aug. 30 marked the end of an era – the last of the five uranium enrichment buildings in Oak Ridge was cleaned up – making land available for new companies and new jobs coming to East Tennessee. I attended the final demolition and praised the local community, contractors and the Department of Energy for completion of this historic achievement. Oak Ridge is the model of a how successful cleanup should be done. Thanks to years of hard work, more than 720 acres of land is available for new economic development, leading to an estimated $100 million of private investment in technology, industry, and renewables. This is great news for the Oak Ridge area, which has some of the best scientific brainpower, energy research and technological capabilities in the world.
Tennessee is setting an example for all states, as 70 percent of high school seniors applied for federal financial aid last school year
Last school year, seven in 10 Tennessee high school seniors filed a FAFSA form, the form required for obtaining federal financial aid. Our state is setting an example for the nation on how to assist students in filling out the complex FAFSA so they can take advantage of Tennessee Promise, Tennessee’s free community college program. I’m working on the next step – to simplify the 108-question FAFSA – which will help students overcome this complex obstacle and achieve the dream of attending college. I have introduced the FAST Act with a bipartisan group of senators to reduce the form to as few as two questions.
Here are some articles I thought you would enjoy:
Knoxville News Sentinel: Editorial: Finally, funding is finalized for the ‘Missing Link’
Knoxville News Sentinel: Final wall of old K-27 building in Oak Ridge built as part of Manhattan Project, comes down
Maryville Daily Times: Smokies Park celebrates NPS 100th anniversary
Chattanooga Times Free Press: Alexander says Obamacare rate increases are intolerable and show need for change
Knoxville News Sentinel: Greg Johnson: Alexander foresaw train wreck of Affordable Care Act
The Tennessean: Sen. Alexander: Speed up personalized meds
Lebanon Democrat: Wildlife Federation opposes wind farm
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