Johnson City Press: Sen. Alexander addresses Elizabethton Kiwanis meeting

Posted on April 18, 2017

ELIZABETHTON — Introducing Lamar Alexander to an audience of Tennesseans is usually about as needed as a 35 mph speed limit in Gatlinburg on Memorial Day weekend. Alexander has been known to most Tennesseans since he first ran for governor back in the 1970s.

Bill Fryar, an officer with the Elizabethton Kiwanis Club and a member for 45 years, was able to provide new information on the U.S. senator when he introduced Alexander to a joint gathering of the Elizabethton Kiwanis Club and the Elizabethton Rotary Club on Tuesday. It was not a hard task for Fryar. He has known Alexander since they were both Key Club members back when they attended Maryville High School and Knoxville Central High School.

Fryar drew lots of laughs when he described the competition between the two, with the Maryville Key Club topping his Knoxville club for the club of the year. He also described how Alexander beat him to become governor at Boys State that year.

“Can you see the trend?” Fryar asked.

When Alexander took the podium, he told the audience that Fryar was too modest to mention he had been elected Supreme Court justice at Boys State that year.

Alexander covered a lot of topics in a 10-minute speech that included his view on the status of news in an era of “fake news,” the changes in the federal government’s involvement with education, and reforms being made to Obamacare.

Fryar said in his introduction that Alexander had been awarded the first ever James Madison Award for his work as chairman of the Senate Education Commission in fixing No Child Left Behind and the Common Core requirements, Alexander quoted the Wall Street Journal as saying it was the largest return of power from the federal government to the states in 25 years.

Alexander was also asked by Mike Miller, supervisor of elementary education for the Carter County School System, about the fate of Head Start. Alexander said that most education at the local level is funded by local and state revenue. He said Head Start is different because the federal government provides 100 percent of its funding. He said the program is very popular and “it will continue to be properly funded.”

On the problems of fake news, Alexander said information on the internet and social media is not trustworthy. He said people could get better information by reading more and by speaking with such experts as school board members.

On the problem with medical insurance, Alexander said he is working “to give Tennessee the flexibility it needs to help Tennesseans trapped in the state’s collapsing Obamacare exchange.” He said if the two remaining insurers in Carter County pull out of the exchange next year, about 1,700 Elizabethton area residents with insurance subsidies will have no options for health insurance on the exchanges next year.

“I recently introduced legislation with Sen. Bob Corker that would help those in Tennessee and across the country by allowing any American who receives a subsidy and has no insurance available on their exchange next year to use that subsidy to buy any state-approved insurance outside of the Affordable Care Act exchanges.”