‘Latest from Lamar’: Senator congratulates primary winners, highlights job skills program

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

Congratulations to Marsha Blackburn on winning her primary last week. I look forward to working with her in the United States Senate to continue our Republican majority and deliver conservative results for the American people – including lower taxes, fewer regulations and conservative judges.

Congratulations to Bill Lee on his primary victory. As I’ve often said, there is no better job than being governor of your home state, especially if that state is Tennessee. I look forward to working with Bill to continue Governor Haslam’s excellent leadership of our state.

President Trump signed into law a bill I helped write and pass – with the support of Ivanka Trump – that will help the 200,000 Tennesseans who participate in career and technical education programs learn the skills they need to find good jobs. The need for skilled workers is the issue I hear most from employers in Tennessee.

Millions of Americans who are between jobs and who pay for their own insurance will welcome an extended option for lower-cost, short-term, renewable policies that the Trump Administration provided last week.

Republican Congress gets results for TN

Legislation to give our troops at Ft. Campbell a pay raise is headed to the president’s desk. The bill, which authorizes $716 billion for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, also supports important programs at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge to strengthen our national security.

The Senate passed legislation to help fund five Land and Water Conservation Fund projects in Tennessee:

  • Three National Park Service projects in Tennessee national parks
  • One U.S. Forest Service project in the Cherokee National Forest
  • One Forest Legacy project, the Skinner Mountain Forest

The bill will also begin to reduce the maintenance backlog at our national parks – helping restore campgrounds, trails, and roads – as I work with my colleagues to pass the Restore our Parks Act, which would do more to restore national parks, including the Smokies, than anything that has happened in the last half century.

The Senate unanimously passed my legislation to help bring new animal drugs to Tennessee farmers and ranchers, families, and veterinarians to keep our pets healthy, prevent outbreaks of disease, and protect our food supply.

Boosting career and tech ed in Tennessee

I was at the White House last week with President Trump as he signed into law legislation I helped pass to fund the programs that train skilled workers. For example, a Tennessee high school student wanting to become a computer coder or an adult going back to school to learn about commercial construction. At a time when our economy is booming, what I hear most often from Tennessee employers is that they need more skilled workers, and this new law delivers a boost to more than 200,000 Tennesseans who participate in career and technical education programs and help put them on the path towards the middle class. I’m grateful to Ivanka Trump for her work on this bill.

Reducing administrative health care costs

The Senate health committee I chair continues its work into reducing health care costs. Last week, I chaired a hearing on reducing the cost of administrative tasks – which include everything from the time doctors and nurses spend filling out insurance claims to buying software for an electronic health records system.

I talked about Dr. Reid Blackwelder, a Kingsport family physician who chairs a residency program with three clinics in Tri-Cities. Dr. Blackwelder is required to have an electronic health records system because he sees Medicare and Medicaid patients, but unfortunately, electronic health records systems have ended up being something physicians too often dread, rather than a tool that’s useful. Dr. Blackwelder still can’t see a patient’s records from the hospital he can see out his office window.

Praising zero tariffs goal

It’s time to do what President Trump said last week – zero tariffs is exactly the right policy. That’s what we did with the North American Free Trade Agreement. Over 15 years, we worked to reach nearly zero tariffs on many products, and now it’s time to get rid of the steel and aluminum tariffs which are driving up the cost of cars and hurting the 136,000 Tennesseans who work in the automotive industry.

Working on park maintenance

I joined Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Wednesday to build support for the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act to help address the nearly $12 billion in deferred maintenance at our national parks. That means filling potholes, fixing bathrooms, maintaining trails and campgrounds, repairing visitors’ centers and restoring our 417 national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so Americans can enjoy them.

This legislation could cut in half the deferred maintenance backlog in our parks over the next five years. The good news is that Republicans and Democrats who often disagree are in near unanimous agreement to fix our national parks, and we agree that it should happen this year.

Supporting rural Tennessee

The Senate approved legislation last week that will help support Tennessee’s agriculture industry and rural communities. This legislation is good news for Tennessee’s farmers because it funds the Farm Service Agency, Department of Agriculture Rural Development programs and agricultural research at Tennessee universities. It also includes $30 million to help expand broadband to rural communities.

LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-Tenn.) is the senior U.S. senator, former Tennessee governor and former U.S. Secretary of Education for 1991-1993. He chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and also serves on the Committee on Appropriations, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Committee on Rules and Administration. Alexander may be reached at his Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-4944 or via his website contact page at alexander.senate.gov.