Speeches & Floor Statements

Speech: Kingsport Chamber Luncheon

Posted on May 4, 2016

I saw the mayor […] Kingsport, and it reminded me of a story. Right after I was elected governor, I got a phone call to the governor’s residence and this old […] wanted me to come pick up his garbage. So being respectful to the people of Tennessee, I wrote carefully down his name, telephone number, and I told him I’d take care of it. And then I said, do you mind if I ask you a question? He said, no.

I said, why’d you call the governor? Why didn’t you call the mayor? He said, I didn’t want to go that high.

[…] when you get those midnight calls and get respected for what you are. I’m also glad to see […] Ramsey at the […] is a straight shooter and he’s a principle republican who knows how to govern. Governor Haslam and the state of Tennessee is going to miss him when steps down as Lt. Governor. He’s done a great job. I told him if he doesn’t screw up between now and the end of the year, he’s going to go out hitting .400 like Ted Williams, and he said well, it’d be hard to mess up because we’re out of session!

So he’s going out on a very high note. And Phil Wroe, because of his intelligence and medical background, has become our go-to guy in the U.S. House of Representatives on health and health care.

He knows what he’s talking about, he’s respected, people listen to him and pay attention to him, I know that I’m delighted to see him here today as well.

The Presidential race, I suppose you could say, is a little bit over the top. It’s not over by a longshot yet. And sometimes it helps to get a little perspective of what’s going on, and as you get that in United States History, which is the worst subject among high school students. Not math or science, but United States history.

So here’s a little United States history to put what’s being said today in some perspective.

I read this in a book I was reading about the 1st Congress which was in 1789 in New York at that time. And the book said that one observer suggested to the press that public […] ought to be done with truly descriptive titles, such as, “Your turbulence, your littleness, most fascist, most stupid.”

Vice President John Adams considered any Congressmen willing to settle for less than His Highness as the title for the first President to be, in Adam’s words, “a driveling idiot.” And a South Carolina United States Senator who disagreed referred to Adams as “His rotund […]”

So maybe what we’re hearing isn’t all that new, maybe the difference is 24 hour television, talk radio, social media, we just don’t have to hear it all the time. Maybe that’s a big difference. And another thing I’ve run across which might help with the election perspective, came from no less than Abraham Lincoln.

He said the following: “Elections belong to the people, it’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they’ll just have to sit on their blisters.”

The election of a president is important and this luncheon today reminds us of how important it is. I think giving a United States senator from Tennessee an award for having 100% score on keeping a good business environment is kind of like giving a boy scout an award for telling the truth – that’s what we’re supposed to do. And I try hard to do it.

I’m glad that my view of creating a good business environment turned out this year to be the same as those in the Chambers of Commerce. But there’s some real threats to good business environment. Governor Haslam, and Rod, Timothy, and others, the mayors, we’ve done a really good job over the past 40 years really, creating Tennessee […]

So while other states struggle, Tennessee’s headed in a good direction, and is a good place to invest more money and create more jobs. But there’s a steady stream of actions from Washington, D.C. which make that much harder.

In fact, I would say the most radical part of the Obama administration is its labor agenda. And that reminds us of the importance of a president because a president appoints the labor secretary who can make rules, a president appoints the national labor relations board who can make rules, and a republican majority in the Senate and Congress can overturn some of those rules, which we will do. But then it takes 67 votes to overturn a veto by the president, overturning this rule, such as the overtime rule.

Now if you haven’t heard about this, you’re going to because this will affect hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans. It’s going to mean that they’re all going to have to punch the time card, that’s what it means. All Tennesseans are going to have to do it. It’s going to mean more employees punching the time card with fewer employees who feel like coming to work a little early and staying a little late, earns respect from their colleagues and the boss says, you can’t do that anymore. You punched the time card. Because if you say that, your employer has to pay time and a half. After that, the cost that it causes to be an employer – now I’m not just talking about businesses in the upper east Tennessee area. The Tennessee federation of independent colleges told me, this is the nonpublic colleges, that the average cost […] could be as much as a million dollars per campus. 

One college told me that overtime with the added cost of this one regulation will decrease the cost per student, and therefore I assume the tuition per student, by $850 a student. So why would you do that if this is the time that everyone’s running around saying we need to keep the cost of education down?

Why would then have the federal government putting on that kind of rule? And after that, the ambush election rule, which means that a union can call for an election before the employer or employees know much about what’s going on. The microunion decision – Volkswagen […] meeting today to talk about this in Chattanooga, but […] workers organized a small part in Volkswagen. Volkswagen is from overseas so […] apparently but they’re saying the common sense thing, which is, we’re trying to have a cohesive unit of people in our plant all working together, so if we’re going to have a union, we’d like to have everybody in it. We don’t just want this, this, and this, but that’s not what the rule says now.

Or the joint employer decision. This is a straight out assault on 780,000 franchises. Ruby Tuesday’s is in my hometown of Maryville – the headquarters. […] when it started, […] they have hundreds of franchisees around the country, maybe even thousands of franchisees.

These are owned and operated by men and women who work 14 hours a day and […] the middle class. This rule says that Ruby Tuesday in Maryville has to make more of the decisions for all of these individual franchisees, so what will Ruby Tuesday in Maryville say? We don’t want to have so many franchises. And what does that do? that takes away the […] hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Equal employment opportunity commission. Just without a rule that will require private employers in America to collect 20x more data on their employees and send it to Washington than they do today. I introduced a bill saying that I’ll do that first to federal employees and see how much trouble that was.

[…] passed if a president vetoes it. So those are some of the reasons why it makes a difference who’s in the white house, even if you have a republican majority.

Now, let me tell you 3 quick stories and then I’ll sit down. […] and sit down, make a suggestion. He said, if instead of when you start making a speech, “let me tell you a story,” somebody might actually listen to what you have to say.


let me tell you 3 quick stories. I’m in the awkward position of patting myself on the back […] chamber of commerce, […] which I really appreciate, which is the James Madison Award that the national governors association created this year for the first time to give to a senator of congress, who in their opinion, defended the 10th amendment and federalism more than any other.

And they gave it to me because the work that we did to fix No Child Left Behind, which the Wall Street Journal said was the biggest devolution of power from Washington back to the states in 25 years. What happened was, well-intentioned people in Washington and other places, you know people have this disease – I used to notice it as governor – you fly to Washington for the week and suddenly get smarter […] fly home, and forget about all of that.

Suddenly the US Secretaries of Education decided they knew what the academic standards ought to be in Kingsport, and they knew what the tests ought to be, and they knew how to fix the school that wasn’t doing as well, and they knew how to evaluate teachers. They don’t know how to evaluate teachers. That’s hard to do. we started to try to do that, we were the first state to do it. And we worked and worked and worked and we’re still working on it. The last thing we need is somebody looking over your shoulder from a distance trying to tell you how to do it.

But they made everybody so mad. They were telling us so much, they’d become a national school board. So the teacher’s unions as well as the governors were saying get out of our way, give us back control over our children, our schools, and our districts, and that’s exactly what the law we passed last December did.

It put back in the decisions of your governor, your legislators, […] decisions. A big brouhaha erupted over Common Core as Tennessee was moving to approve it’s […] I think much of that […] because Washington’s […] knows it.

Tennessee was doing just fine in terms of academic standards, in terms of tests, in terms of teacher evaluation. Because we’re working on it for 30 years among other stuff, but as soon as Washington says you have to do it, people bone up their backs.

And I think that’s a big part of the reason you’re having a problem right now, is your tests.

The legislature backed off, the legislature changed tests, and you can’t do that easily. That takes tens of millions of dollars. So, Washington’s involvement interfered with a buy-in and now, you put it back in Kingsport, back in […], back Maryville, back in the state legislature, back in the classroom teachers decisions, about what the standards should be, the tests should be, how to turn around schools, and how to evaluate teachers.

So if you don’t like the standards, you may call me. I’ll always be glad to take your call, but call your state legislator and your school board because they’re in charge of that now, which is where it ought to be. So that’s number 1.

That was the most important bill that congress passed last year, but here’s the one that we can get done, but it’s far from getting done yet, but Bill knows a lot about it. And here’s a story.

Doug Oliver from Nashville, 52 years old, emailed me in February. He told me that in august of last year, he went to the Vanderbilt Eye Institute and he was legally blind. A rare form of inherited macular degenerative degeneration. And the doctor’s said, no treatment, no cure, but check the internet.

He did, and he found a clinical trial in Florida. He went there and the doctors did an FDA approved procedure, inserted a needle into his hip bone, took out cells, put it in a centrifuge, inserted his own cells into his own retinas of each of his eyes, and in 3 days he could see.

It’s a breathtaking story and he’s being monitored by the Vanderbilt Eye Institute ever since then.  No one can be sure how long that will last, but it’s lasted so far. He’s gotten his driver’s license back, which he had to surrender 11 years ago, and he’s thinking of getting back to work in August.

So the legislation we’re working on is to try and take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity that we have today in biomedical research to help improve the lives of almost every American.

One of the most remarkable people in government is Francis Collins, who’s the head of the National Institutes of Health, he calls it the National Institutes of Hope. They spend $32 billion a year on research on such things I described.

And Dr. Collins led the genome mapping exercise 12 years ago, 1 of the 2 that were successful. Now the president has said that we want a million volunteers to map their genes so that if Bill has a problem, and if I have a problem, it might be a similar problem, but we don’t get the same medicine. We call that precision medicine. It takes a lot of work to get that done, it takes making electronic healthcare records work a lot better than they do today.

That’s been a big failure by the government over the last several years. But Dr. Collins came and testified yesterday about the promise of the things that could happen. In the next 10 years, he said, and they’re equally breathtaking to the story I told you about Doug Oliver, an artificial pancreas, which if you have diabetes or know someone with diabetes, checking blood and a precision measure of insulin is very important to take care of that.

Rebuilding your own heart – put Bill Frist out of business, because you wouldn’t have a heart transplant anymore. In the same rough way you would use your own cells to restore your sight, Dr. Collins says within 10 years you’ll be rebuilding your own heart with your own cells.

We know about the problem with opioids and the epidemic it’s causing and pain addiction, we read in here every day in this region and every country about it. He believes that in 10 years we’ll have a new array of non-addictive pain management medicines so that you can avoid the pain but not be addicted to it.

He goes through a further list of things that I won’t do today, but what is an astonishingly interesting time, and I hope we can work together and pass legislation that will move through the investment and the regulatory process more rapidly. These cures and treatments, put them in the doctors’ offices, medicine cabinets.

Let me mention one last thing and then I’ll stop. Senator Corker and I were invited to go to this […] on January 27th. […] Robbie Edmunds.

Robbie Edmunds was from Knoxville, and was a Baptist preacher in Maryville, which is how we got involved, but in 1945 on that same day January 27th, Robbie Edmunds was lined up with 1,400 other American soldiers to be captured at the Battle of the Bulge.

And the German officer said, all Jews step forward. And Edmunds was probably 20, he was Master Sergeant, he was the ranking officer, so he said, “We are all Jews.” The German officer put his gun to his head and said, if you don’t have the Jews step forward, I’ll kill you.

And Robbie Edmunds said, then you’ll have to kill us all because we know who you are, and you’ll be tried as a war criminal when the war is over. The German officer walked away in disgust.

I sat next to a man named Tanner from New York City, who was 91, and I asked, did he really say that? He said, yes he did, I was standing next to him. And he said those words, and he probably saved the lives of 200 of us among those 1,400 who were Jewish.

It was an almost certain death. I thought about that a few days later when I heard George Schultz who was Reagan’s Secretary of State, who’s 95 years old today.

Someone asked him what his advice would be for the next president. He said, I think I would remind him or her and say what’s good about the country. And I was thinking about that too.

It’s easy enough to see what’s wrong about it. We see the dislocation of jobs, we see the terrorism, we can make that list, we hear about it every day. It’s harder to say what’s good about it. I just mentioned biomedical research that we have the opportunity to pursue in this country. We can look at the economy that we have, that still produces nearly a quarter of all the money in the world, for just 4 or 5% of the people.  I don’t think that anybody doubts that we have the strongest military. People wanting to start a business, they probably want to start it in the United States, not somewhere else.

We can make our list of things. And I think our presidents probably ought to take George Schultz’ advice because the strongest thing we have is in our country people like Robbie Edmunds, who in 1945, 20 years old, growing up in East Tennessee, might never met many Jewish people, […] our country, what’s important to us, whom we say it’s all Americans, saying that officer that’s about to shoot him were all Jews.

A country that has those kinds of men and women – we’ve got medical facilities, we’ve got universities people all over the world are standing in line to get into, an economic system we have, we have a lot to be grateful for. Maybe over the next few months, we’ll hear more from our presidential candidates about what’s right with our country, than what’s wrong with it.