Posted on April 18, 2017
The Kiwanis Club always holds a special place in the heart of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R – Tennessee).
The Senator visited Elizabethton Tuesday afternoon and spoke to a packed house at First Christian Church in a special joint-meeting held by Elizabethton Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs.
Prior to his speech, Sen. Alexander was introduced by Kiwanis Club Secretary Bill Fryar, who praised the effort of the Senator and shared some lighthearted stories the friends shared during their time as Kiwanians.
“The lifeblood of any community like Elizabethton or the communities in Carter County are the clubs like Kiwanis and Rotary,” Sen. Alexander said. “As a youngster from East Tennessee, I was a member of the Key Club, which this Kiwanis Club sponsors. Billy Fryar is a member of the Kiwanis Club here and we met that way because we’re presidents of our Key Clubs in Knoxville and Maryville.
“That taught us as young people to be interested in the community and support community activities. A strong set of civic clubs is essential to a community,” he added.
Various organizations were represented during the event, including the Boys & Girls Club, Milligan College, TCAT, the city fire department, both county and city police departments, area high school Key Clubs and the mayors of the city and county — Curt Alexander and Leon Humphrey. J’s Corner also catered the event.
While talking about the importance of civic groups, Sen. Alexander added one of the biggest issues locally is health care moving forward.
“One of the biggest issues in Tennessee right now is the number of Tennesseans who may not be able to buy health insurance in 2018,” he said.
“There are 1,700 Carter County citizens who have subsidies from the government under the Affordable Care Act which they use to buy insurance. But the insurance companies are pulling out. So Senator Corker and I have introduced legislation that says if you end up having zero options next year for insurance, you can buy any state-approved policy, whether it’s on the Obamacare exchange or not.”
Both Kiwanis and Rotary organizations are heavily involved with school children, something the Senator knows well.
Due to his work in repealing No Child Left Behind, Sen. Alexander was named the inaugural winner of the James Madison Award in 2016 — an accolade presented by the nation’s governors to members of Congress who support federalism and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to guarantee states’ rights.
“Well, it’s changed,” Sen. Alexander said in response to a question about the federal government’s role in education. “Two years ago, we fixed No Child Left Behind. I was chairman of the Senate Education Committee and what we did was reverse the trend to a national school board. We were able to restore — Johnson City, Elizabethton, Kingsport and other local communities — the control of public education. There are no more Washington mandates for common core for example. There’s no more Washington definition for quality teaching. There is no more Washington definition of what’s a good school or bad school … those are responsibilities of local school systems.
“Federal government still requires the states to give grade-level tests to schools and make them public so the community can know how the students are doing,” he continued. “But the big change we made was that those actions should be in the hands of local schools.”
Another popular topic of discussion was the opinion of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office.
“If you look at President Trump’s first 100 days, the country has a new Supreme Court Justice, the Keystone Pipeline has a permit, Congress has overturned 13 regulations from the Obama administration that were overreaching, which is estimated to save $62 billion and millions upon millions of hours worth of paperwork, and the president has assembled what most people seem to think is a professional and competent team of national security and foreign policy advisors.”
Alexander added that North Korea is the single biggest problem that the United States has and added it was important for the country to work with China to help the country discontinue their nuclear program. While supportive of the president’s action against Syria, the Senator did add he hopes to see the president receive input from Congress if any further action is needed in the region.
Following his speech, Sen. Alexander fielded questions ranging from what classifies as fake news, the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule and the current trend of head start programs — which he added he expects to see continual funding for over the coming years.