News from the Tennessee Rhino, Senator Lamar Alexander -> Helping songwriters, farmers, and the self-employed – Health Insurance

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News from the Tennessee Rhino, Senator Lamar Alexander -> Helping songwriters, farmers, and the self-employed – Health Insurance

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Back to School

Two years ago, Tennesseans were saying, “Get rid of Common Core and give us more control of our schools!” The start of a new school year is a good time to remember the law we passed 18 months ago to fix No Child Left Behind. The Wall Street Journal called it the biggest devolution of power back to the states in 25 years. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) not only banned the federal government from mandating Common Core, it presented an opportunity for state-by-state innovation because it moved decisions out of Washington, D.C., and back to states and local communities – back to those closest to the children.

In fact, Tennessee and 15 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, submitted plans this past spring to the Department of Education. In those plans, each state took advantage of the new flexibility in the law to focus on improving the educational outcomes of students in creative and unique ways. Tennessee’s plan holds districts—and the schools in those districts—accountable for student progress, while calling for additional state support for helping schools focus on improvement for all students.

Under ESSA, Tennessee now decides how best to help its students succeed in the classroom, and I’m glad our state is taking this opportunity.

Announcing hearings to help thousands of Tennesseans access affordable health insurance in 2018

Last week, I announced the Senate health committee, which I chair, will hold a series of hearings to help the Americans in the individual health insurance market. There are 350,000 Tennesseans – songwriters, farmers, and the self-employed – who do not get their health insurance from the government or on the job, which means they must buy insurance in the individual market. My goal by the end of September is to give them peace of mind that they will be able to buy insurance at a more reasonable price for the year 2018. At our first two hearings we will hear from state insurance commissioners and governors – including Tennessee’s state insurance commissioner Julie McPeak and Governor Bill Haslam.

While there are a number of issues with the American health care system, if your house is on fire, you want to put out the fire, and the fire in this case is in the individual health insurance market. Commissioner McPeak has described the individual market in Tennessee as “very near collapse.”

We’re fortunate that Governor Haslam and Commissioner McPeak are willing to provide senators with their insight and expertise as we work to help ensure that the 18 million Americans in the individual insurance market will be able to buy insurance at more affordable prices in 2018.


On Wednesday, I talked to Holly Fletcher, a reporter at The Tennessean, about the importance of holding hearings and taking steps to stabilize the individual health insurance market.






Republican majority is stopping a Washington threat to 15,000 Tennessee franchise owners

Last Thursday, I talked with restaurant owners from across Tennessee about how, after 8 years of a radical labor agenda in Washington, the Republican majority in Congress is starting to make significant changes that roll back job-destroying policies. The new labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, is already reworking the Obama administration’s harmful overtime rule that would have raised college tuition, cut non-profit services and sent the nation’s workers backwards, demoting millions back to punching a time clock. Tennesseans are fortunate to have a labor Secretary who understands how a good-paying job is critical to helping workers realize the American dream for themselves and their families. The Republican Senate is also confirming new members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who will help restore the board to a neutral umpire. The NLRB’s 2015 ‘joint employer’ decision – which could impact 15,000 Tennessee franchise owners – is the biggest attack on the opportunity for small businessmen and women in this country to make their way into the middle class that we’ve seen in a long time. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he wants to bring the nomination of another Republican NLRB appointee, William Emanuel, to the floor when the Senate returns in September – which will create a Republican majority for the first time in nearly a decade. Republicans have a real opportunity to help workers succeed in the rapidly changing workplace.

It was great to meet and thank volunteers and employees at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for all the work they do to ensure future generations can enjoy the great outdoors.













Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to celebrate the 101st anniversary of the National Park Service

On Friday, I hiked the Rainbow Falls Trail at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, park volunteers, and young conservationists to mark the 101st anniversary of the National Park Service. Secretary Zinke is trying to solve the maintenance backlog in the Smokies – a problem our national parks are struggling with. This maintenance backlog – which includes roads, buildings, campgrounds, trails, water systems and more – limits access to our national parks and diminishes visitor experiences. Park employees and volunteers are filling this gap, donating nearly 120,000 hours to the Smokies every year. I am glad Secretary Zinke is exploring ways to address the maintenance backlog in order to help get the next generation of visitors out to our nation’s parks.

President signs bill to speed delivery of safe, effective cures and treatments to patients

Earlier this month, President Trump signed bipartisan legislation I helped author with the Ranking Member of the Senate health committee, Patty Murray. This bill will speed the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) work to review new cures and treatments and get them into patients’ medicine cabinets and doctors’ offices. The first step was last year’s passage of the 21st Century Cures Act to spur medical research, and this is the next step to help ensure these breakthroughs in research make it to patients. You can read more about this legislation here.


Last Monday, I enjoyed watching the eclipse with my grandkids in Nashville.



And one final thought from me this week:

The deplorable hatred and violence that occurred in Charlottesville earlier this month defaces our most cherished values and traditions. White supremacists have said they are meeting in East Tennessee next month. Their views are wrong and not welcome. Our constitution guarantees them a right to assemble. But it also guarantees that we are all Americans without regard to race.  And we must say that loud and clear.

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