Statement of Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris on Blue Cross Blue Shield announcement
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) made the following statement concerning Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee’s decision to withdraw from the Affordable Care Act Marketplace in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville.
“Blue Cross’s decision is the latest canary in the coalmine. This is the collapse of coverage Commissioner McPeak warned about last month.
“This is the legacy of Obamacare – failure and collapse. When the Blues quit coverage, it should tell you something.
“Now others see more clearly why Medicaid expansion in Tennessee was always an intolerable risk. The uncertainty of an unreliable federal government puts Tennesseans unreasonably at risk. This is just the next chapter. Uncle Sam failed to keep his commitment earlier this year which caused the Obamacare co-ops to fail in January. Now the exchanges are in grave jeopardy.
“The collapse of the co-ops was a harbinger of things to come. During her testimony before the Senate in January, the Commissioner of Insurance blamed it on the fed’s failure to keep its commitment. It was true then. It is true now.
“My main concern right now is for the folks who must now find coverage where it may cost too much or may not exist at all.”
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“A republic…if you can keep it.”
September 17th is Constitution Day. We celebrate adoption of our Constitution 229 years ago.
On the eve of Constitution Day, I’m reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s response when asked whether we’d created a republic or a monarchy; “A republic…if you can keep it.”
“Keeping the republic” is the business we have been attending to in Nashville this week. State sovereignty, nullification, the Supremacy Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and the separation of powers are among the doctrines of law and principals we debate and hold dear as Tennesseans — and Americans.
The General Assembly was called into “special session” by Governor Haslam in Nashville this week to resolve a conflict between the federal government and the State of Tennessee.
A state law we enacted to toughen penalties against minors who drink and drive caught the federal government’s attention in August. They contended our law conflicted with a federal “zero tolerance” law already on the books, and the Secretary of Transportation threatened to withhold $60 million in federal highway funding, unless we cleared things up before October 1.
Understanding the relationship between our states and the federal government is hard sometimes. Maintaining it is even harder.
Whether it is President Obama increasing the number of refugees by 30% next year and requiring Tennessee taxpayers to pay the bill for those he sends here, or unelected federal bureaucrats threatening to withhold our own tax dollars from us, we vigilantly defend our state sovereignty at every turn.
Picking our battles, knowing which hills take, and at what cost — not just monetary, but on principle — is important.
We have recently won four important battles in defense of state sovereignty and the Tenth Amendment in four cases involving immigration, education, preemption and the environment. But those victories are not secure.
We’ve been saying it for years here in Tennessee. “It matters who governs.” Make certain you are registered to vote in time for Election Day on November 8th.
We have a republic, but only if we can keep it.
Watch me on the floor of the Senate discussing the importance of Constitution Day!
Happy Labor Day!
“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
-Francis of Assisi
Labor Day is a good time to reflect on our progress in workforce development in Tennessee. Unemployment is down, and prospects for new employment opportunities are up.
In fact, more Tennesseans are employed today than at any time in history. More than 324,000 new private sector jobs have begun since 2011. Tennessee is number 1 in the Southeast and number 2 in the U.S. for job growth.
Tennessee also ranks number 1 among U.S. states for advanced industry job growth since 2013 according to a recent report from the Brookings Institute.
Putting Tennesseans to work means more than just finding a job these days. It means making sure we have the skills necessary to do the jobs that are available including those in advanced industries and manufacturing. That was the reason for the creation of the LEAP program.
LEAP’s primary goal is to close skills gaps by ensuring that students enrolled in courses provided by Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) and community colleges gain the necessary skills to meet the requirements of high-skill and high-technology jobs demanded by industry leaders in the state.
LEAP accomplishes this goal through grant funding to communities for the development of a framework for regional partnerships – comprised of postsecondary institutions, industry partners, workforce development professionals, and K-12 educators, particularly those associated with Career and Technical Education (CTE). Collectively, the stakeholders create tailored workforce pipelines designed to provide the requisite technical skills that meet local employers’ needs.
On May 4th, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission announced the release of the Request for Proposals for the second round of funding for LEAP. A total of 35 Letters of Intent to Submit have been received by THEC. The interest stems from communities across the state seeking to facilitate the development and implementation of employer-driven career pathways. In this second iteration of the program, known as LEAP 2.0, proposals may seek to:
- Enhance, expand, or acquire equipment to create and academic program that fills a critical, demonstrable local workforce need; and/or
- Develop and implement a collaborative work-based learning programs such as paid internships or similar programs that prepare students for rapid entry into the workforce.
A total of $10 million dollars has been allocated to support these proposed programs. Each proposal may apply for up to $1 million in funding for periods up to 30 months. The grants will be awarded later this fall.
Thanks to everyone for working together for the promise of a more prosperous tomorrow in Tennessee this Labor Day and every day as we proceed.
NFIB Voting Record
Earlier this week I was pleased to be among the legislators receiving a 100% voting record on small business issues for 2015-2016.
“Most members of the Tennessee General Assembly continue to be very supportive of small business,” said Jim Brown, Tennessee NFIB Executive Director.
“NFIB members appreciate the strong backing from our state senators and representatives, many of whom own and operate their own businesses back in their districts. It’s clear that regardless of political affiliation, legislators who own are have owned a small business tend to support the small business agenda.”
NFIB Tennessee’s Voting Record in 2015-16 included 14 key votes on a variety of issues important to small business, including workers’ comp, unemployment, tort, labor, healthcare, environmental, and tax reform. Click here to download the 2015-16 Voting Record, which includes the results for all legislators and an explanation of the issues.
NFIB is Tennessee’s largest small-business association with 7,200 dues-paying members representing a cross-section of the state’s economy.
Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force
The Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force convened earlier this month pursuant to Public Chapter 1057 passed by the General Assembly this session. We are charged with looking at new approaches to the administration of juvenile justice. I was honored to be elected chair of this group and look forward to our next meeting September 12. You may read more about our efforts here.
This week the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, which I chair, heard testimony about Broadband Internet. Testimony from the former director of Connect Tennessee brought to light that access is only one part of the conversation. Adoption and usage must be addressed in addition. This avoids a piecemeal approach and allows all options to be considered. I’m committed to expanding broadband for Tennesseans without expanding government.
Also, the Attorney General’s office gave an update on the lawsuit between Tennessee and Obama’s FCC. The federal court sided with Tennessee saying that the FCC has no right to overrule Tennessee law. I told the press that the ruling puts it back squarely on the General Assembly. But that the decision strikes a blow for liberty!
Look for TACIR’s first draft of recommendations at our next meeting in December.