I want to advocate for and provide access to healthcare for over 600,000 working Tennesseans by Expanding Medicaid.
HEALTHCARE is one of the most important issues to sustain a family, a community, a city, a state.
One in ten Tennesseans is without healthcare. That means they might not seek medical help when they get sick. At the time when illness and disease could be easily and most cost effectively managed, patients wait until they have no choice. The emergency room becomes the doctor’s visit. The tax payer pays that bill. These are your neighbors, your co-workers, small business owners, friends that work in the service industry, that sit next to you in church, and walk their dogs and babies in the park. Anyone is vulnerable. Without our health, we cannot fully participate in our lives, and when those in our community are not able to seek care, all are directly impacted. When we are sick and cannot work, it impacts our economy. When our children are sick, it impacts our economy. Our state legislators have not opened the door to Medicaid Expansion, but if they had over 675,000 more individuals would currently have access to much needed, insured healthcare. With the pandemic, people did not know if they could even get tested when they had symptoms or IF they would have financial support if they needed to go to a hospital for care. Tennessee leads the nation with the highest rates of medical bankruptcy in the United States. No one should have to choose between life-saving medications and food in the fridge, between cancer treatment and losing their home. Access to quality food is an intrinsic part of our health and wellness. Children need to have good nutritional support to grow their bodies and minds. According to Feeding America’s 2019 “Map the Meal Gap”, 13.1% of all Northeast Tennesseans (66,140 individuals) do not know where their next meal is coming from. Over 1 in 5 of our children are food insecure (20,680). Study after study has shown that food insecurity has a direct impact on a child’s ability to maintain normal cognitive, emotional and physical development. Tennessee ranked #43 in Healthcare in the nation according to the US News Report.
Fully fund public schools, not ESA/Voucher programs, to allow for proper distance learning now and when kids return to schools. This includes expanding access to broadband internet services to help rural Tennesseans, which has shown to be a critical need for students during the COVID-19.
“EDUCATION is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.”, Edward Everett, US Senator, US Representative, pastor, and the 15th Governor of Massachusetts.
As our legislators were solidifying the budget this year, $41 million of your tax-payers dollars were taken out of the public schools and allocated for private voucher schools. In the ESA/Voucher program, students leaving the public system and going into the private voucher schools take funds with them. Also of note, teachers in Tennessee earn less in inflation adjusted dollars than they did in the midst of the 2009 recession. The teachers had a proposed salary increase of 4% this year, which fell to 2% in the mad dash to get out a budget under the impending pandemic from the Corona virus, yet, the private-school voucher system remained intact. We MUST be able to attract good teachers to public schools to provide quality education to our children. We MUST fund our public schools well. We MUST not de-fund public schools to benefit private schools. That is not the appropriate use of our tax dollars. Tennessee ranks well below the national average in education. In 2018, according to the US News World Report, TN ranked #38 in Pre-K-12 education, based on 3 factors: 1) how our 8th graders compare nationally in math and reading; 2) rates of graduation from high school, and; 3) readiness for college. As many students are facing the rest of the school year in online classes, we are reminded again, that access to affordable quality internet services is not an option for many in the more rural areas. Broadband is something we need to start to seriously investigate to serve those areas. Education is not the place to cut the budget in Tennessee. We must do better.
Keeping minimum wage unchanged since 2009 has not served our economy. I will work with local leaders to provide world class education and training to support a sustainable living wage and safe working environment for all Tennesseans.
Keeping minimum wage unchanged since 2009 has not served our economy. It has created a greater dependency on government. University of Tennessee economist Matthew Murray explains that many of the working poor have no choice but to depend on government benefits to support themselves and their families even while working sometimes two or three minimum wage jobs. “We are paying for the cost of this in other ways”, Murray says, alluding to the reality that the tax payer is picking up this bill instead of the employers. Tennessee is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to minimum wage increases. Only Kentucky is further behind. As the cost of living has increased by 18% since 2009 (the last time the minimum wage was increased), the ability for individuals and families to simply maintain their lifestyles has become impossible. Forget about the American Dream for those just entering the workforce. The economy in Tennessee has steadily grown over then last 10 years and that increase has been seen mostly in the service sectors. However, employment is down in information, manufacturing and construction sectors. These are all industries that lead to growth. In 2020, large companies are looking to build and invest in communities that meet a criteria that we could follow to advance attracting more and better paying jobs. They want to know what percentage of our utilities are from “green sources”, how is our public transportation system and how well do our schools perform. I want to see Knoxville become a leader in designing models that can be emulated by other cities in our state. We need not wait for things to happen on a national level. We have great minds here and a will of the people to create a forward thinking economy that includes these public services as intrinsic parts of our infrastructure.
Protecting the environment and our access to clean air and water is a critical fight we must win! There is little doubt that decisions made in our Senate are NOT necessarily made for the health and well being of our environment. With my background as a biologist , I have a deep understanding of how important environmental issues affect our everyday lives. Our future DEPENDS on good policy.
Did you know that we have chemicals in our drinking water that are at levels IN VIOLATION of the EPA? curious why? One contributing factor is that "medium sized livestock farms" do not have to acquire a permit to deal with liquid and solid waste. 10 million tons per farm can be produced without having to line their manure lagoons or put up barriers to stop waste overflow. We have to use chemicals to neutralize that waste in our water. Why should the lack of regulation on waste management come out of your pocket? Tennessee is a rare state in that we have public utilities and those utilities favor big business over consumers when it comes to the way you are charged for your electricity and water. THAT NEEDS TO STOP! I believe that solar power could be a real game changer here in Tennessee! We have resources. Lets use them to the advantage of all Tennesseans.
The bill that passed in the Tennessee legislature on June 5, 2020 is disgraceful. It is not up to the government to make medical decisions for any patient! It violates privacy. The law is clear. Women, whether pro-life or pro-choice HAVE THE LEGAL RIGHT TO MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS...period.
Cannabis is a valuable asset to any state economy. It can serve multiple purposes such as an agricultural crop leading to increased revenue to the state. It minimizes damage to the environment compared to agribusiness livestock farms. It reduces the financial load on the public for penalizing and housing individuals involved in the currently "illegal" sale of cannabis. At the very minimum, it should be made available to patients who suffer from conditions that can be easily treated by a cannabis recommendation from a physician or psychologist.
Systemic racism and the devaluing of anyone in our society must change. Although I do have policing policy reform (see below), I also believe that issues of food deserts, education funding, lack of access to healthcare, and business building within communities through banking/financial support and home ownership must also be addressed for those who have been marginalized for far to long.
I fully expect police reform to be a process resulting in more community based advocacy for issues that SHOULD NOT BE DEALT with by police officers. Mental health, lack of shelter access, and addiction are not police issues. There are models that demonstrate the value of integrating professionals such as EMTs, Nurses, Addiction Psychologists, and Mental health experts all of whom play a role in supporting communities. Police ARE NOT TRAINED to manage these situations.
IN terms of specific police reform, we need to make becoming an officer a profession requiring a two year degree. We offer free AA degrees in our community colleges. I would also legislate for body cameras, regular mental health checks, regular sensitivity training, addiction counseling at jails/prisons and serious investigations of any deaths which occur while in the control of a police officer. Ultimately, I would like to see officers connecting to residents in the communities they are policing and a feed back system for those communities to be heard.
Antidiscrimination laws are there to protect ALL Tennesseans regardless of sexual orientation. Adoption laws and consumer protection are two legislative issues that the current Senate has gotten wrong. Lets fight to change that!