December 2012 Newsletter

Senator Lamar Alexander
2012-12-13 07:15:21
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December 12, 2012

I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve been working on in Washington and Tennessee this past month:

Working to reduce the debt, reform entitlements, and avoid across-the-board tax hikes in the fiscal cliff

I have been working with a number of senators to reduce the federal debt by restraining entitlement spending and enacting pro-growth tax reform. Sen. Corker has also laid out a specific plan to reduce the federal debt by $4.5 trillion. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the president to recommend a specific plan to restrain entitlement spending and work with Congress to get a result on our debt problem. The sooner we get this done, the quicker we can get the economy moving again.

Preserving the state sales tax deduction on your federal taxes

Tennesseans shouldn’t pay a greater share of their hard-earned money in federal income taxes than taxpayers in other states, simply because we pay sales tax instead of a state income tax. Preserving the state sales-tax deduction is a matter of fairness, and it will keep an average of $400 in the pockets of more than half a million Tennesseans who itemize their taxes. I am working with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to preserve the state sales tax deduction, a provision allowing taxpayers in states with no income tax, such as Tennessee, to deduct their state sales tax payments from their federal income tax. Rep. Blackburn was the leader in restoring the deduction in 2004 and she’s the leader now in the effort to ensure it is extended again. I am a cosponsor of legislation to make the deduction a permanent part of the tax code, and I look forward to working with her to preserve this important tax provision.

Click here for more on this deduction.

Helping prevent another meningitis outbreak

The meningitis outbreak has been a nightmare for many Americans, but especially Tennesseans, and I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that it never happens again. On November 15th, I helped lead the first Senate hearing on the deadly meningitis outbreak, and during the hearing I called for a new model for oversight of the kind of non-traditional compounding pharmacies responsible for the outbreak—one that would give clear, unmistakable lines between federal and state responsibility and make clear which one will be firmly on the hook for regulating non-traditional compounding. I am working on legislation to do this with the members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on which I am likely to be the senior, or “Ranking,” Republican in the next Congress.

Before the hearing, I invited Tennessee officials to submit testimony, and requested that Dr. Marion Kainer of the Tennessee Department of Health be invited to testify. Dr. Kainer’s quick response and swift action on the outbreak was a textbook case of how to do things right, and she saved many lives in the process.

Click here for more details on the hearing, or here for Chattanooga NewsChannel 9’s coverage of the hearing.

Working to keep Tennesseans fishing in Cumberland River Dam tailwaters

Last month, I sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers urging the Nashville District to reconsider, and send me a personal report on, their decision to restrict access to fishing areas in dam tailwaters on the Cumberland River System, which is a significant source of enjoyment for Tennesseans and visitors from around the world. Tennesseans have been fishing in the Cumberland River Dam tailwaters for years and I don’t see any reason they shouldn’t be able to continue to do that. At the very least, if the Corps has some reason to change the rules, there ought to be a period of public comment and careful consideration of their decision and possible alternatives.

Last week, Colonel DeLapp, Commander of the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visited me to deliver the personal report I requested in the letter, and I am grateful that he agreed to give the public the opportunity to voice their concerns and hold several public meetings to take input from the people and communities affected by the Corps’ decision. I also encouraged Colonel DeLapp to look at alternatives to the new policy and requested that if the Corps moves forward in restricting fishing in dam tailwaters, to restrict it to the smallest area possible, consistent with the Corps’ safety requirements. I am pleased that agreed to that as well.

Click here to read the letter in full.


Michigan’s “right to work” law, like Tennessee’s, is about the right to get or keep a job without having to pay union dues

One day after President Obama’s trip to Michigan to campaign against the state’s adoption of a right-to-work law, I defended the decision by the Michigan state legislature to become the 24th right-to-work state in a speech on the Senate floor, saying it will make us a stronger, more competitive country—it has everything to do with economics. No one, in passing a right-to-work law, is taking away workers' rights. They’re actually giving them a new right: the right not to have to pay union dues in order to get or keep a job.

Thirty-four years ago, none of the states north of Tennessee had a right-to-work law. They had a very different labor environment. So Nissan came to Tennessee, in part because of our right-to-work law, and now, over the last 30 years, probably a dozen large assembly plants have come to the southeastern part of the United States, and there are about 1,000 suppliers in our state today. What has been the effect of the arrival of the auto industry in Tennessee, attracted by, among other things, our right-to-work law?  One-third of our manufacturing jobs today are auto jobs.



Working to prevent premature births in Tennessee and across the nation

On November 16, the Senate passed the PREEMIE Act, a bill I introduced with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to expand research, education, and intervention activities related to preterm birth. This bill will give the more than 200 premature babies born on average each week in Tennessee a better shot at a healthy life, by giving scientists and doctors researching premature birth the resources to continue their work. I have urged our colleagues in the House to pass this bill and continue the progress begun when this bill first passed in 2006.

Click here for more on this bill.

Winding down the taxpayer-funded wind subsidy

In an op-ed published in Roll Call newspaper, I urged lawmakers considering an extension of the wind production tax credit to end this 20-year-old “temporary” taxpayer subsidy. The main reason is we can’t afford it. According to the Joint Tax Committee, just a one-year extension of the production tax credit that passed out of the Finance Committee will mean $12.1 billion in taxpayer subsidies to wind developers over the next 10 years. That’s on top of the $16 billion in federal subsidies and grants already given to wind developers and their Wall Street backers from 2009 through 2013. Congress can’t justify such wasteful spending at a time when the government is borrowing 42 cents of every dollar it spends.

Click here to read the op-ed.

Urging the Majority Leader not to break the rules and end the United States Senate

In a speech on the Senate floor, I urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to avoid making changes to the Senate filibuster rule that I believe would mean "the end of the United States Senate" – as Senator Reid himself wrote in 2005. If the Majority Leader persists in doing what he says he will do—to break the rules of the senate to change the filibuster rules—that will be his legacy. The Senate has stood, as Senator Byrd used to say, as the necessary fence that protected minorities in America from the tyranny of the majority. That is why we have a Senate, so if a freight train runs through the House it cannot run through here. It has to slow down and stop and we have to think about it. That is why we have a tradition in the Senate of unlimited amendment and unlimited debate on any subject until 60 of us decide that is enough.

Click here to read the full speech.

I also thought you might be interested in the following news articles:

NewsChannel9: Meningitis Outbreak Hearing: Sen. Alexander Stands Up For TN Sen. Lamar Alexander plans to introduce legislation in wake of meningitis outbreak

Knoxville News Sentinel: 2000-12: A new millennium: Lamar Alexander rises to power in Washington, D.C.


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