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Alexander to Propose Bill Requiring Weekly ACA Exchange Reports

Press release from the office of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn; October 22, 2013:

Bill would require administration to reveal data on exchange enrollment and website problems to public, Congress, and states

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KNOXVILLE, Oct. 22 – The senior Republican on the Senate health committee today announced on a Knoxville radio show that he will introduce a bill requiring the administration to provide weekly reports to Congress and to states with data about Obamacare enrollment, efforts to resolve the site’s technological problems, and information about organizations contracted as navigators.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said of his legislation: “As millions of Americans have sat frustrated at their computers and on their phones, wasting hours trying to fulfill the Obamacare mandate and enroll in the exchanges, the administration has refused to provide critical information about what’s going wrong, or has dribbled out news through anonymous statements to reporters. This bill will require the administration to be honest and transparent with the public, governors overseeing state exchanges, state consumer protection regulators, and decisionmakers in Congress. No more hiding the damage of the train wreck—Americans are on this train.”

The bill would require the Obama administration to provide weekly reports to Congress, states, and the public about the 36 federally run exchanges, including easily tracked data such as the number of individuals who have visited the site and the number who have successfully enrolled, their zip code, and the level of coverage they’ve obtained. The reports would also be required to contain information on the department’s efforts to resolve the site’s widespread technical problems.

Recent analysis by an outside firm found that traffic to the HealthCare.gov website fell 88 percent between Oct.1 and Oct. 13, as users were scared off by problems with the site, the Washington Post reported. Less than half of 1 percent of Americans who tried to use the site in the first week were able to successfully enroll, according to the Post.

Yet, as technological problems with the site prevent Americans from being able to satisfy the Obamacare individual mandate and purchase insurance, the administration has provided little to no information about the cause of the site’s problems and its efforts to resolve them, and has provided no information about who has successfully enrolled.

Senator Alexander recently called on the Obama administration to improve the way it provides information to Americans about Obamacare, saying, “This law is about as clear as mud, and instead of helping Americans understand their new obligations, the Obama administration has been burying important changes—not announcing them boldly as you’d expect an administration that’s proud of its new health care law to do. Americans deserve better from the officials who are so committed to implementing this train wreck of a law.”

He noted the requirement that Americans sign up for health insurance by mid-February to avoid the tax penalty was confirmed by an anonymous administration official to an AP reporter on October 9 and the revelation that problems with the federal exchange website were also due to a design failure that needed to be fixed was made to a Wall Street Journal reporter on Sunday, after the administration repeatedly told Americans that the problems were due to volume.

Alexander announced his legislation on the Knoxville area’s Hallerin Hilton Hill Morning Show.

Haslam Named Chairman of Nat’l Governors Assn Health Committee

Press release from the National Governors Association; October 23, 2013:

WASHINGTON—The National Governors Association (NGA) today announced the new leadership of NGA’s five standing committees for the 2013-2014 year. NGA Chair Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and NGA Vice Chair Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made the following appointments:

Economic Development and Commerce Committee

  • Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, chair
  • West Virgina Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, vice chair

Education and Workforce Committee

  • Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear, chair
  • Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, vice chair

Health and Human Services Committee

  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, chair
  • Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, vice chair

Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee

  • Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, chair
  • Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, vice chair

Natural Resources Committee

  • North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, chair
  • Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, vice chair

For a list of the executive committee, click here.

Alexander Calls on Interior Secretary to Spare TN Fish Hatcheries

Press release from the Office of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; September 11, 2013:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to support Tennessee’s national fish hatcheries at Dale Hollow and Erwin today. He did so while also joining a letter with House and Senate colleagues representing mitigation fish hatcheries that called on Jewell to delay the implementation of recommendations in a pending U.S. Fish and Wildlife report that could jeopardize the future of mitigation hatcheries in Tennessee and around the country.

Alexander said, “These hatcheries provide broodstock that help make trout fishing in Tennessee some of the best in the country. The nearly 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who buy fishing licenses each year depend upon these hatcheries to replace trout in Tennessee’s fisheries.”

“If federal locks and dams are going to destroy fish, then the federal government has a responsibility to replace them. That’s why it’s important to make sure Tennessee’s hatcheries remain open,” Alexander said. “I helped work out a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep the hatcheries producing fish for the next three years, and as part of its national review I hope the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take that into account.”

The letter, which Alexander joined with U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), asked for a 60-day delay in the implementation of any recommendations for closure of any national fish hatcheries or other plans, so the public could review them.

“It is our understanding that this study is soon to be released, along with decisions about hatchery closures,” Alexander and his colleagues said in the letter. “We are gravely concerned that Congress has not been consulted on the matter.”

In May, Alexander announced that he had brokered a deal to keep open Tennessee’s hatcheries at Dale Hollow and Erwin. The three-year agreement between the Tennessee Valley Authority and federal and state wildlife agencies has TVA paying to keep the hatcheries producing fish after budget woes had threatened their ability to do so.

US DOJ Won’t Challenge States on Marijuana Legalization ‘At This Time’

Press release from the U.S. Department of Justice; August 29, 2013:

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale.

In a new memorandum outlining the policy, the Department makes clear that marijuana remains an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and that federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce this statute. To this end, the Department identifies eight (8) enforcement areas that federal prosecutors should prioritize. These are the same enforcement priorities that have traditionally driven the Department’s efforts in this area.

Outside of these enforcement priorities, however, the federal government has traditionally relied on state and local authorizes to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. This guidance continues that policy.

For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the Department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the Department’s guidance. These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding. Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time. But if any of the stated harms do materialize—either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one—federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states.

A copy of the memorandum, sent to all United States Attorneys by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, is available below.

Speaking for U.S. Senate GOP, Alexander Rejects ‘National School Board’

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; June 15, 2013:

‘Between now and the end of the month, Senate Republicans will work hard with the President and with the House to produce an agreement that ensures all student borrowers benefit from today’s low interest rates. That would mean that 100 percent of all new student loans made this year would have a rate below five percent.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the Weekly Republican Address, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) calls on Senate Democrats to put politics aside and support a long-term fix to prevent an increase in student loan interest rates. A former U.S. Secretary of Education and the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, Senator Alexander also highlights a Republican proposal that emphasizes state and local decision-making in K-12 education while a Democratic alternative, in essence, creates a national school board to oversee the 100,000 public schools that educate 50 million American children. A full transcript of the address follows:

“I’m United States Senator Lamar Alexander.

“This is the season for high school graduations. And more than two million of those graduating are going to college.

“Both Republicans and Democrats agree that college is the surest ticket to the middle class and we want to help by making it simpler and smarter to get a student loan.

“That’s why the Republican House of Representatives has passed, and President Obama and Senate Republicans agree, on the same idea: A permanent solution to all student loan interest rates before some automatically rise on July first. The idea is to allow the market to set interest rates.

“It’s fairer to students and fairer to taxpayers.

“Now some Senate Democrats want a short-term political fix that will only benefit forty percent of new student loans, but they stand alone.

“Between now and the end of the month, Senate Republicans will work hard with the President and with the House to produce an agreement that ensures all student borrowers benefit from today’s low interest rates. That would mean that 100 percent of all new student loans made this year would have a rate below five percent.

“We may be in agreement on student loans, but we have a major disagreement about who should be in charge of our 100,000 public schools that educate 50 million American children.

“To put it simply, Democrats want a national school board; Republicans favor local control.

“Over the last decade, the United States Department of Education has become so congested with federal mandates that it has actually become, in effect, a national school board.

“If you remember the childhood game, ‘Mother, May I?’ then you have a pretty good sense of how the process works—states must come to Washington for approval of their plans to educate their students.

“This congestion of mandates is caused by three things: No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the administration’s use of waivers. Together, they’ve imposed federal standards for what children must know in reading and math, they’ve coerced some states into adopting Common Core standards, and they’ve imposed federal definitions of how a state should measure school, teacher, and principal performance.

“This week, Senate Democrats reported to the full Senate an eleven-hundred-and-fifty-page plan that would not only freeze these mandates into place, but double down, creating more than twenty-five new programs as well as more than 150 new reporting requirements.

“Republicans voted to move in a different direction. We offered a two-hundred-and-twenty-page plan to help children in public schools learn what they need to know and be able to do by restoring responsibility to states and communities, and giving teachers and parents freedom, flexibility, and choice.

“We call it, ‘Every Child Ready for College or Career.’

“Our plan emphasizes state and local decision-making. It puts Washington out of the business of deciding whether local schools are succeeding or failing. It rejects federal mandates that create a national school board, and prohibits the Education Secretary from prescribing standards or accountability systems for states. It continues the requirement that states have high standards and quality tests, but doesn’t prescribe those standards.

“Our proposal makes it easier for states to offer low-income parents more choice in finding the right public school for their child. And it gives teachers and principals more freedom by encouraging the expansion and replication of successful charter schools. It encourages states to create teacher and principal evaluation programs, free of federal mandates, and offers states flexibility in spending federal education dollars, while cutting waste.

“This is not a proposal just for Republicans. We believe this proposal represents the views and will attract the support of governors leading the charge for education reform, teachers who value the freedom to teach, parents who want more choices for their children, and state legislators who are working for better schools.

“The Democratic proposal establishes a national school board. What such a proposal really says is they don’t trust parents and they don’t trust classroom teachers and they don’t trust states to care about and help educate their children, and they want someone in Washington do it for them.

“We completely reject that. Our proposal places responsibility for helping our children learn squarely where it ought to be —on states and communities, and it does that by giving teachers and parents more freedom, more flexibility and more choice.”

Audio of Weekly Address.

Video of Weekly Address.

Download Weekly Address.

TN Conservative, Tea Party Groups Condemn National Internet Sales Tax

Press release from Tennessee Campaign for Liberty; March 21, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. – Conservative and Tea Party groups across the state of Tennessee have signed a resolution condemning Senator Lamar Alexander, Governor Bill Haslam, and Senator Bob Corker’s push for a national Internet sales tax scheme, known as the “Marketplace Fairness Act” (MFA). Sources close to the Campaign for Liberty indicate that language contained in the Act will be voted on in the US Senate in the next few days. Read the entire resolution and list of signers at www.TNCampaignForLiberty.org

The MFA would seek to overturn a 1992 Supreme Court decision (Quill vs North Dakota) which ruled that businesses that do not have a physical presence in a state cannot be forced to collect sales tax for that specific state government. The Quill decision protects online businesses from having to collect tax for all 50 states, and also prevents taxation without representation by prohibiting state governments from enforcing their laws on business outside of its borders.

The MFA would force each online retailer to create different pricing structures for every individual customer, a massive burden and significant increase in cost to doing business. It’s assumed that these costs would be passed on to the customer, causing the price of all online purchases to increase on top of the new taxes imposed as a result of this Act. These types of regulation would likely be stifling to online commerce and detrimental to the economy overall.

Matt Collins, a coordinator with the Tennessee Campaign for Liberty discusses the issue: “This is reflective of a bigger question, that of how much authority will the government hold during the Internet Age? Will states get to exercise power outside of their borders, or will there be an unlimited reach available to every government? Taxation without representation is always appealing to the politicians because they cannot be held accountable by the people they are taxing. We are at a fork in the road and can move forward with either more freedom, or move backwards with more government; Internet taxation is one of the first steps in deciding which direction we’ll take.”

Free market groups like Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, Nat’l Taxpayers Union, Heartland Institute, Heritage Foundation, Reason, and even eBay and the Direct Marketing Association are opposing this measure. Liberty activist and professional WWE Wrestler from Strawberry Plains, TN, Glenn Jacobs, authored an opinion piece earlier this week in which he called the Act “fraudulent” and “anything but fair”: http://lewrockwell.com/jacobs/jacobs12.1.html

Political experts suggest this issue may be a point of contention during any potential primary race against Senator Alexander in the 2014 election season.

Matt Collins also noted that “Republican elected officials who are joining Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, and Al Franken to support this measure should know that recent polling shows almost half of Americans do not want an expansion of sales taxes on the Internet and 63% of conservatives are opposed to it. When the question is framed about states pushing their laws outside of their borders 61% of Americans oppose it and 77% of conservatives do too. In fact 84% of Republicans oppose any sort of expansion of governmental power over the Internet, especially taxation or regulation. It is likely that any Republican who supports this massive expanse of government power will see a primary challenge because of it.”

The mission of the Campaign for Liberty is to promote and defend the great American principles of individual liberty, limited government, sound money, free markets, and a Constitutional foreign policy, by means of education, issue advocacy, and grassroots mobilization. The Campaign for Liberty was formed in 2008 after the conclusion of Congressman Ron Paul’s Presidential bid.