By Lacy Hilliard
On Friday May 4 city, county and state government officials as well as members of the Chamber of Commerce and representatives from community organizations gathered together in Johnson County for the annual Legislative Breakfast.
Field Representative for Senator Lamar Alexander, Lana Moore, was first to take the podium at the breakfast. Moore spoke of the senators past accomplishments as well as his future aspirations. Moore expressed Senator Alexanders support of the Student Loan Interest Rate Reduction Act of 2012. The bill passed the House on April 27. The bill would replace the Higher Education Act of 1965 and would work to control interest rates and loan duration on student Stafford Loans; however the real challenge lies in whether or not the bill will pass the Democratically controlled Senate. Senator Alexander is also involved in a bipartisan coalition created in support of the Marketplace Fairness Act; a bill that would help businesses close the current internet sales tax loophole.
Senior Field Representative Bridget Baird for Senator Bob Corker spoke next at the breakfast. Baird cited Senator Corkers main concerns to be centered on fiscal reform. Senator Corker recently joined forces with Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn in urging Postmaster General Patrick Donahue to enact cost-saving changes within the postal system. It is projected that the United State Postal System stands to lose 21 billion dollars annually by 2016 if it continues with its current methods of operation.
Representative for Congressman Phil Roe, Bill Snodgrass, was in attendance. Snodgrass spoke about Congressman Roes focus on Social Security and VA issues. Recently Congressman Roe introduced the Veterans Affairs Employee Accountability Act. The bill would ensure that no VA employee that has violated civil law will be eligible for a bonus. In a recent press release, Congressman Roe said of the bill, Government employees, specifically those who serve our veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs, need to be held accountable for their actions, and that includes abiding by the law. Currently, there are loopholes in the Veterans Affairs Acquisition Regulation that allow employees who are in violation of civil law to receive a bonus. Snodgrass also voiced the congressmans concerns about the current 15.6 trillion dollar national debt and the high unemployment rate in both Johnson County and across the state as well as the Congressman Roes opposition to military budget cuts.
State Representative Scotty Campbell took the podium next. Representative Campbell spoke to the crowd about local hot button issues like synthetic and prescription drug mandates. Campbell worked closely with local law officials to enact the recent Mountain City moratorium on the sale, trade, barter, or exchange of synthetic drugs. He also reaffirmed that he will not seek a second term but expressed his faith in the current administration.
City and County Mayors Lawrence Keeble and Larry Potter also took their turns at the podium. County Mayor Potter spoke about the new Venture Tourism grant; an 8.8 million dollar investment that will go to purchase the faltering Doe Mountain and turn it into a multi-use recreational park for Johnson County residents and area tourists to enjoy. City Mayor Lawrence Keeble gave thanks to our state representatives for their past work and also expressed his continued commitment to improving city animal control. Mayor Keeble hopes that the recent purchase of two acres of land adjoining the current Mountain City Animal Shelter will aid the facility in accomplishing much needed expansion goals.
Concluding the breakfast was Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey. Lt. Governor Ramsey touched on various local and state issues such as the repeal of the Tennessee Death Tax and the health of Tennessees Rainy Day Fund. The governor also touched on the synthetic drug issue saying, Synthetic drugs are the worst thing to hit the community in my time as governor and possibly in my lifetime. Ramsey was also in praise of the Venture Tourism grant; citing the importance of Johnson Countys goal to market the natural beauty of the region while creating jobs and boosting current local businesses. He closed the annual Legislative Breakfast with a hopeful tone for the future of Johnson County and the future of Tennessee.
Though each official spoke about their most pressing issues, no question and answer session was held at the event. The Legislative Breakfast was sponsored locally by Johnson County Bank, Farmers State Bank, Trey Youngblood and Farm Bureau Insurance, and the Farm Bureau Women.
By Lacy Hilliard