By Paula Walter
Parking was at a premium at the Crewette Building in Mountain City as the yearly legislative breakfast was held on Friday, May 16th. With this years elections approaching quickly, many of those in attendance were hoping to hold onto their positions, as well as those vying for a win in the August 7th election.
After a breakfast prepared by the Levi Retirees and a welcome to the event sponsored by the Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, Lana Moore, field representative for Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, took the floor and gave a summary of happenings in Congress. There has recently been a debate on Capitol Hill on the topic of increasing the minimum wage. According to Moore, Senator Alexander opposed the proposal to raise the rate because he believes it is not the way to lift people out of poverty. She added that its passage would result in a loss of more than 500,000 jobs. Senator Alexander is the ranking member on the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and sits on the panel to interview President Obamas pick for the new Secretary of Health and Human services, Sylvia Matthews Burwell. Senator Alexander is pleased to be working on your behalf, said Moore. Constituents may contact the senators office in Blountville by calling 423-325-6240.
According to Jill Salyers, Field Director for Senator Bob Corker, the senator wants to make sure the country is fiscally responsible. He was the only Republican who voted to move the bill to increase the minimum wage forward despite disagreeing with the policy, but would have liked to have had a debate to talk the subject through. He is a ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee and spends much time traveling abroad while the Senate is in recess. We have a vested interest that a sovereign nation remains that way, Salyers said. The senators office encourages Tennesseans to call 423-753-2263 if their office can be of any assistance. To review the senators voting record, visit www.corker.senate.gov. Click the issues and legislation tab across the top banner.
Bill Snodgrass is the field representative for Congressman Phil Roe. According to Snodgrass, Roe is in favor of keeping a strong military. He expressed concern that Roe has shared regarding the Affordable Care Act. We have higher premiums and longer wait times, Snodgrass said. These are a direct result (of the Affordable Care Act). According to Snodgrass, Roe would like to appeal the Affordable Care Act and has introduced legislations to lower healthcare, as well as reducing the cost of government and eliminating much of the rules and regulations. Snodgrass added that Roe would like to see President Obama sign papers for the Keystone pipeline and believes the United States would be energy efficient in five years, as well becoming an exporter of natural gas. The government needs to get out of the way, he said, and get rid of impediments keeping America from working.
According to Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, the only action item the state legislation is actually required to do each year is pass the budget. This year it took some line items to be put on the chopping block to reduce the states expenses to balance the budget. The plan for Tennessee was to give their state employees and teachers a pay raise, but because of the economy, it wasnt feasible and cuts had to be made.
Were one of the best run states in the nation, Ramsey said. Tennessee owes less money per capita of any state in the country. We run this state well. Ramsey added when the revenue is down, the state makes necessary cuts. Governor Bill Haslam recently signed the Drive to 55 bill, giving every student who graduates high school the opportunity to attend a two-year or trade school with no tuition costs. A high school education isnt enough anymore, Ramsey said. This country is starving for trade and we need to get back to this.
State Representative Timothy Hill reviewed several bills that were presented to the State this past legislative year. He proposed legislation requiring mandatory sentencing that gives a clear and concise punishment associated with methamphetamines. He explained that Doe Mountain was able to fall under Tennessee States umbrella insurance policy, allowing Doe Mountain Recreation Authority the ability to restore hunting if they choose. We all know that Doe Mountain is going to be huge for Johnson County, Hill said. He is also pleased that the Drive to 55, Tennessees Promise, has eliminated the financial barriers for seniors who want to attend a two-year technical college such as Tennessee Career Academic or Northeast State Community College. Hill would like to see a full Northeast State or technical collage campus in Johnson County, as he believes it is a gateway to employment. He acknowledged that the cost associated with an endeavor of this size would be costly.
According to Johnson County Mayor, Larry Potter, Mountain Youth Academy is expanding and has hired 30 new employees and now has 140 on staff. N & N Ball and Roller have recently acquired a new CEO, employees 98 people and they are looking to expand their business. They are looking at almost doubling their work force, Potter said. He met with Dean Blevins of Tennessee Technology Campus in Elizabethton in hopes of utilizing the industrial building out in Doe near the Johnson County Landfill. According to Potter, the size of the building could potentially work as a campus close to home, and additionally bringing economic development to the county. There have been approximately 900 user passes sold for Doe Mountain, brining in a little over $35,000 in revenue since November 2013. Potter is hoping for job expansion as camping areas open up, along with new products brought in by Mountain City Cycle used for mountain terrain.
Mountain City Mayor Lawrence Keeble recognized the efforts of Timothy Hill for his work on repairs to the bridges in the city, specifically the bridge in the Pioneer Shopping Center. Thanks to Hills efforts, the cost the city would need to contribute has decreased from 20 percent of the project to two percent. Mountain City works on a tight budget of approximately $4.5 million per year. The city has had to be conservative in their spending, as there has been a loss of revenue as times have been difficult due to the economy. According to Keeble, their goal is to come out in the black and not over spend. He sits on the board of Doe Mountain and is hopeful there will be a shooting range on the mountain, as well as hoping to see hunting restored.
By Paula Walter