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June 4, 2012

Making Medicines Safer for Our Children

Weekly Column by Lamar Alexander

The U.S. Senate recently passed the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act -an important piece of legislation that affects nearly every American family.

We often take our medicines for granted. But a child born in 1900 could only expect to live an average of 47 years-infectious diseases took many children before they reached their teens.

And for most of human history, diabetes meant death, but insulin was introduced in 1923 commercially, and within a few years enough was being produced to meet the needs of diabetes patients around the world.

It was not until the time of World War II that we saw the introduction of widespread and effective antimicrobial therapies with the development and mass production of penicillin.

Since then, the sky has seemed to be the limit. Half of Americans take at least one prescription drug every day. It's a real miracle what has happened in terms of our lives with the introduction of medicines, and we rely upon the Food and Drug Administration to keep those medicines safe and effective, which is what this legislation does.

It will help safe and effective drugs and medical devices get to the market and, more importantly, get them to the market more quickly so people who need help can use these medicines and devices.

It includes the Better Pharmaceuticals for Children Act, which I cosponsored. This provides and an incentive and a requirement that pharmaceutical companies, when developing certain new drugs for adults, figure out the effect those drugs will have on children.

It takes a big step forward in making it clear what drugs will do when offered or provided to children. Currently, just under half of the drugs prescribed to children have been studied and labeled for children, but prior to the passage of these laws that we are reauthorizing, 80 percent of drugs used for children were used off-label-that is, we did not really know how they affected children.

Children are not just little adults. Children's bodies react very differently to medicines. There are examples of overdosing or previously unknown side effects. In one case in Tennessee in 1999, seven babies were prescribed an antibiotic to treat whooping cough. They became so seriously ill, they needed stomach surgery. The Centers for Disease Control later linked their illness to the antibiotic, which had never been tested in young children.

According to the Institute of Medicine, as of October 2010, the FDA has approved 425 labeling changes as a result of studies or analyses done under these laws.

Children also differ widely in sizes and growth rates, so for medical devices doctors often must either jerry-rig devices or be forced to use a more invasive treatment. This bill encourages manufacturers to bring more pediatric devices to the market and strengthens FDA post-market surveillance of devices used in children.

Additionally, the bill will help address problems with the medical device approval process by improving the regulatory process. In Tennessee we have many medical device makers, especially in Memphis. Many believe the FDA is over-regulating medical devices, which negatively affects the industry's ability to raise capital and create jobs, without making those devices any safer.

It also addresses the growing problem with antibiotic resistance by providing incentives and reducing regulatory burden to help drug development keep up with the pace of resistance.

It will give the FDA additional tools to help prevent drug shortages and require FDA to look internally at regulations to see if the FDA is making the problem worse. I worked on a review of federal initiatives to combat prescription drug abuse and to issue a report on those. Tennessee ranks second in the nation for prescription drug use. Gov. Haslam and our legislature took action this year to deal with abuse of these drugs. We intend to help them.

The legislation takes one more step in our dramatic journey from a country with almost no medicines to a country in which almost everyone takes some medicine-where the lifetime of the average American has increased from 47 years in 1900 to 78 years today.

 

 May 4 

CONGRESSMAN MARSHA BLACKBURN
Honored To Serve the 7th District of Tennessee

Blackburn, Bono Mack Want More Leadership From DOJ, HHS To Stop Illegal Diversion of Prescription Drugs

WASHINGTON - Representatives Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) and Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) today sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking them to take a lead role in addressing the growing problem of prescription drug diversion. Representative Bono Mack serves as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. Blackburn is Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee.

"I look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Bono Mack, Secretary Sebelius and Attorney General Holder on this issue," Blackburn said. "It has become evident through our hearings that more needs to be done to effectively curb prescription drug diversion. It's my hope that Secretary Sebelius, Attorney General Holder and DEA Administrator Leonhart will work proactively with health care stakeholders and law enforcement to develop a comprehensive strategy in which everyone fully understands the rules of the road and are on the same page working as a team to end this national epidemic."

 

March 8, 2012

CONGRESSMAN MARSHA BLACKBURN
Honored To Serve the 7th District of Tennessee
Blackburn Statement in Support of the JOBS Act

WASHINGTON - Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) issued the following statement in support of H.R. 3606, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act), which was approved by the House today. This bipartisan legislation will remove government barriers to job creation and economic activity, and help entrepreneurs gain access to capital needed to expand, hire, and invest.

“Republicans continue to offer solutions that will undo the damage that has been done by the Obama economy. Americans know that the best recipe to create more jobs and innovation is less regulation, less taxation, and less litigation. The JOBS Act removes burdensome government barriers and will create an environment that promotes job creation and allows our small businesses to grow. I applaud Congressman Fincher for his work in crafting this legislation that will jumpstart our economy and restore opportunities for America’s primary job creators – our small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs.”

February 24, 2012

CONGRESSMAN MARSHA BLACKBURN
Honored To Serve the 7th District of Tennessee Blackburn Responds to White House Privacy Report

WASHINGTON - Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) today issued the following statement in response to the White House's new report, “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World.”

“The private sector needs to take the lead in protecting the Virtual You by continuing to foster market regulation before big government rushes in to fill its perceived regulatory vacuum. Consumers want lawmakers to be cautious to avoid unintended consequences that will end up costing America jobs. Government should lead by example instead of dictating European models of regulation that could stall US-based growth and innovation in our thriving tech sector. We need to look more closely at respecting the original Bill of Rights before we start mandating new rules or writing more legislation.”

Congressman Blackburn has been a leader in the fight to keep the internet free from government control. She has held roundtable discussions on the issue of online privacy in New York, Washington, DC, California, and Tennessee. She has worked closely with industry leaders, academics, former regulators, and tech policymakers to encourage the private sector to take the lead in protecting consumer information. Congressman Blackburn, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and vice chair of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, pledged to conduct a national series of tech industry roundtables in a speech to the Telecommunications Industry Association in Texas last spring. Congressman Blackburn also recently wrote an op-ed titled “The FTC’s Internet Kill Switch” that addresses why any proposed privacy regulation must consider the costs of diminished competition and innovation.

February 17, 2012

CONGRESSMAN MARSHA BLACKBURN
Honored To Serve the 7th District of Tennessee

Blackburn: The American People Are Tired of Broken Promises

WASHINGTON - Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) today issued the following statement regarding her vote in opposition to the Conference Report on H.R. 3630, extending the payroll tax holiday.

“On this third anniversary of President Obama’s failed stimulus bill, we are reminded how the Obama economy is killing the ability of American job creators and the hard-working tax payers to achieve their hopes and dreams. We also should remember why the American people sent us here. 

“While I support the spirit of this legislation to provide hard-working taxpayers with the relief they deserve, my vote today is about more than that.  At some point you have to say stop the madness. 

“This would have been a great opportunity to draw a line in the sand when it comes to protecting the solvency of Social Security, and we missed it. More importantly, it’s about broken promises. When the American people gave Republicans the opportunity to lead, we made a pledge to be open and transparent – a promise that no bill would receive a vote without first being publicly available for 72 hours.  The American people are tired of broken promises. They expect us to keep our word.”

“A Race to the Top Headed Toward Washington”

Weekly Column by Senator Lamar Alexander

President Obama has recently been talking about efforts to help students afford to go to college—something we are all in favor of.  The President's proposals include what he calls a “Race to the Top for college affordability.”  It has a familiar sounding formula, but in this case it will impose new rules and mandates and price controls on colleges and universities in states.  Unfortunately, this race is headed in the wrong direction. 

The President should turn around his higher education Race to the Top and head it in the direction of Washington, DC, to help the federal government compete for ways to stop adding mandates and costs on states that are soaking up higher education dollars and driving college tuition through the roof. 

Let me be specific and offer three examples of how Washington, DC, could actually help students and lower tuition:

First, Washington should stop overcharging students on their student loans.

We have approximately 16 million students who have federal loans that allow them to spend that money at one of 6,000 colleges and universities of their choice. The Department of Education is borrowing money from the Department of Treasury at 2.8 percent, loaning it to these students at 6.8 percent, and using the profit to help pay for the new health care law and other government programs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, over the next 10 years, here is where the profit goes:  $8.7 billion goes to pay for the new health care law; $10.3 billion goes to pay down the federal debt; and $36 billion goes to support other Pell grants.  So if we really want to help students pay for tuition, why would we not use this profit to reduce the interest rate on student loans?  The CBO says we could have reduced the rate to 5.3 percent and let the students, rather than the government, have the savings—an average of $2,200 per student over 10 years.  That is a lot of money when the average student borrower has approximately $25,000 in debt.

I have proposed putting a "truth in lending" label on every student loan, saying this:  “Beware: Your government is overcharging you on your student loan to help pay for the health care law and other government programs.”

Second, Washington should help students with lower tuition by repealing the new Medicaid mandates on states taking effect in 2014 that will further reduce state funding for higher education and raise tuition at public colleges and universities, which is where approximately 75 percent of students go to college. 

The new health care law requires states to expand and help pay for Medicaid coverage.  According to the Congressional Budget Office and the CMS Chief Actuary, this new expansion of Medicaid will cost states an additional $20 billion over 10 years and add between 16 and 25 million more people to Medicaid programs.  This in turn will require Governors to take money for higher education out of state budgets and spend it instead on Medicaid. We know this is going to happen because it has already happened.

In California, for example, the state enrolls 8.3 million Medicaid beneficiaries and are expected to gain 2 million more when the new health care law is implemented in 2014.  Just over the last year, there has been a 13.5-percent decrease in State support for higher education, a 21-percent increase in tuition at State universities, and a 37 percent increase in tuition at community colleges. 

Third, Washington should stop prohibiting states from reducing spending on Medicaid at a time when state revenues and expenditures are going down. 

The 2009 stimulus bill and the new healthcare law prohibit states from changing eligibility standards as a condition of receiving federal Medicaid payments through 2014.  So throughout this recession, while state revenues have gone down, the federal government in its wisdom has been imposing billions of new dollars in Medicaid mandates on states while forbidding them from tightening their eligibility requirements. That forces states to spend money on health care that otherwise would be available for higher education.

The administration and Congress have left Governors with little choice but to cut in other areas, and that usually turns out to be public higher education.

Yes, colleges and universities also need to do their part to cut costs.  For example, I have suggested that well-prepared students ought to be offered three-year degrees instead of four and that colleges should maximize their resources by remaining open during the summer.  But the biggest reason tuition rates are going up is us – Congress, the President, and mandates from Washington DC.  Instead of pointing the finger at states and colleges, we ought to look in the mirror.

For Immediate Release: February 2, 2012        

Alexander: "The Checks and Balances in Our Constitution Are Being Eroded" Under This Administration

Says 47 Republican senators will file amicus briefs in appropriate courts against Cordray, National Labor Relations Board appointments; insists on full debate over president's January appointments, saying, "We will take this issue to most important court in the land-the court of the American people on Election Day"

"If the President's actions were to stand as a precedent, the Senate may very well find that, when it takes a break for lunch and comes back, the country has a new Supreme Court Justice."

- Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON - In a speech today on the floor of the United States Senate, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that 47 Republican senators would insist on a full debate and would file amicus briefs challenging President Obama's appointments in January, saying, "If the President's actions were to stand as a precedent, the Senate may very well find that, when it takes a break for lunch and comes back, the country has a new Supreme Court Justice."

"The President has shown disregard for possibly the best-known and most important role of the Senate - its power of advice and consent of executive and judicial nominations as outlined in Article 2, Section 2, of the Constitution. These actions-four appointments during a period of time the Senate was in session-fly in the face of the principle of separation of powers, the concepts of checks and balances against an imperial president."

Alexander contrasted the actions of President Obama's administration with those of President George Washington, saying: "Our revolution was a revolution against a king. George Washington as commander in chief of the Continental Army led a fight for independence from a king whom the signers of the Declaration of Independence stated had a ‘history of repeated injuries and usurpations all having direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over the states.' Those were our revolutionary Founders talking. As president of the Philadelphia Convention, George Washington presided over the writing of the United States Constitution, which emphasizes, if it emphasizes any one word, the idea of ‘liberty' in creating the system of government that we enjoy today. Then there was another aspect to George Washington, of which we were reminded,  which would be good for us to think about today - and that was his modesty and restraint."

"Mr. President, last week we Republican Senators had an extraordinary experience that millions of Americans have had and will have in the future:  We spent a day at Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, which is not more than about 40 minutes from the Nation's Capital.

"Even in the middle of winter, it is a beautiful, historic setting. It is hard to imagine why George Washington and Martha Washington would ever want to leave the place.

"Touring the rooms, we could imagine what life must have been like then.  There are many things that impress any of us when we visit there.

"One thing that especially impressed me was the fact that, despite the beauty of the place and Washington's love for farming, he was gone from Mount Vernon for 8 1/2 years during the Revolutionary War.  He never went home; he was always in the war.  Even when he was President of the United States for 8 years, he was only at Mount Vernon 10 times during those 8 years; and after the Presidency, of course, he soon died.  So he gave up quite a bit to be President of the United States.

"There were other things that impressed me about our visit to Mount Vernon.  One was the reminder that our Revolution was a revolution against a King.  George Washington, as commander in chief of the Continental Army, led a fight for independence from a King whom the signers of the Declaration of Independence stated, had a "History of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States."

"Those were our Revolutionary Founders talking.  As President of the Philadelphia Convention, George Washington presided over the writing of the U.S. Constitution which emphasizes, if it emphasizes any one word, the idea of "liberty" in creating the system of government we enjoy today.

"Then there was another aspect to George Washington of which we were reminded which would be good for us to think about today and that was his modesty and restraint.

"George Washington must have had remarkable presence.  He never had to say very much, apparently, to command the attention and respect of his countrymen.  He likely could have been General of the Army as long as he wished and President of the United States as long as he wished, but he chose not to do that.

"It was he who first asked to be called simply Mr. President, rather than some grand title.  It was Washington who gave up his commission when the war was over, and it was Washington who stepped down after two terms and went home to Mount Vernon.  In fact, that aspect of his character was imprinted upon the American character, that modesty and restraint on the part of the executive branch and a recognition that our system depends absolutely on checks and balances.

"I am struck by that attitude and the different attitude I see in the administration of President Obama, which has shown disregard for those checks and balances and the limits on Presidential power that our Founders and George Washington felt were so important.

"This administration, over three years, has been arrogating more power to the executive branch of government and upsetting the delicate balance, which the Founders created for the purpose of -- what?  For the purpose of guaranteeing to each of us as individuals the maximum amount of liberty.

"I remember Senator Byrd saying time and time again that the purpose of the Senate, more than anything else, was a restraint upon the tyranny of the executive branch of government.  That is our purpose as a Senate.

"This President's Executive excesses were first illustrated by the creation of more czars than the Romanovs had.

 "We have always had some so-called czars in the White House -- the drug czar, for example.  But now we have approximately three dozen of them.  These czars duplicate and dilute the responsibilities of Cabinet members; they make it harder for the Congress, us, to have a supervisory role over exactly what they are doing.  It is not only antidemocratic, it is a poor way to manage the government.

"Equally disturbing to me has been this administration's use of regulation and litigation to bypass the Congress and the will of the people when the Congress has a different point of view.

"For example, this was the case with the National Labor Relations Board and their decision in the Boeing case; which has now been apparently resolved but which was an enormous -- an enormous abuse of power, in my opinion.

"Then the President is taking to blaming almost everyone for the problems we see in our lives today:  First, it was President Bush, then it was the banks, then it was business, then it was the insurance companies, then it was Wall Street, then it was 1 percent of us, and now it is the Congress, which of course is in a government that is primarily run by the President's own political party.

"The President has taken to saying in his campaign speeches and his State of the Union Address the other day, "If Congress won't act, I will," and he has begun to show that is no idle threat.

Because now, on top of these other abuses, with his recent appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to head a new and unaccountable agency, the president has undermined the checks and balances that were placed in our Constitution and that George Washington so respected.

"This Senate has always been the place -- whether it was a Democratic Senate arguing about the appropriateness of President Bush using war powers, this Senate has always been the place that has insisted upon checks and balances and the liberty of the people as guaranteed by those checks and balances.

"The President's recent actions have shown disregard for possibly the best known and possibly most important role of the Senate and that is its power of advice and consent of executive and judicial nominations as outlined in article II, section 2 of the Constitution.

"These actions, four appointments during a period of time when the Senate, in my opinion, was in session, fly in the face of the principle of separation of powers and the concepts of checks and balances against an imperial President.

"Let's look for a moment at the history and precedents of recess appointments.  The exact length required for a recess is not defined in the Constitution, but according to the Congressional Research Service "it appears that no President, at least in the modern era, has made an intra-session recess appointment during a recess of less than 10 days."

"Both parties have relied upon the adjournment clause in article I of the Constitution to argue that the absolute minimum recess period would conceivably be 3 days.

"We can also look at the number of recess appointments made by recent presidents. As of January 23 of this year, President Obama had made 32 recess appointments, all to full-time positions.  At the same point in time in his first term, President Clinton had made nine recess appointments to full-time positions.  President Bush, at about the same time, had made 35.

"So they all made recess appointments -- appointments while the Senate was in recess.  That is provided for specifically in the Constitution as something the President could do.  But President Clinton never did it when Congress was in session for less than 10 days.  President Bush never did it when Congress was in recess for shorter than 11 days.

Now, unfortunately, President Obama has broken that precedent and made

4 appointments when we were in a period of less than 3 days.

"Why is that important?  In 2007, the current majority leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, decided the Senate did not want President Bush making recess appointments; that is, making appointments while the Senate wasn't in session.  So the Senate refused at that time to enter into prolonged recesses.  They invented the idea of pro forma recesses every 3 days.  President Bush strenuously objected to that, but he respected that.  He respected the constitutional authority of the Senate under article I, section 5 to determine when the Senate is in session.

"On November 16, 2007, Senator Reid said:  ‘With the Thanksgiving break looming, the administration has informed me that they would make several recess appointments.'

"Senator Reid didn't like the idea of recess appointments any more than we do.  So he said:  ‘As a result, I am keeping the Senate in pro forma to prevent recess appointments until we get back on track."

"On November 16, 2007, Senator Reid said: ‘As a result, I am keeping the Senate in pro forma to prevent recess appointments until we get this process back on track.'

"And on July, 28, 2008 he said: "We don't need a vote to recess.  We will just be in pro forma session.  We will tell the House to do the same thing."

"The President is restricted, as Senator Reid indicated, by article I section 5 of the Constitution, which states that ‘neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.'

"Last December when the House and Senate agreed to adjourn, the Speaker -- a Republican -- and the majority leader here -- a Democrat-- agreed the two Chambers would hold pro forma sessions for the express purpose of not going into recess.  Yet the President went ahead and made his appointments. This is a dangerous trend.  It is a dangerous trend.

"The major issue before our country is the Obama economy.  That is what we will be talking about more than anything else in an election year.  But liberty is the defining aspect of the American character.  If the President's current actions were to stand as a precedent, the Senate may very well find that when it takes a break for lunch, when it comes back, the country has a new Supreme Court Justice.

"Because we believe in the importance of that constitutional system, all of us on the Republican side insist on a full and complete debate on this issue.  We intend to take this issue to the American people.

"We will file amicus curiae briefs in all of the appropriate courts and we will take this issue to the most important court in the land and that is the court of the American people on election day.

"I do not suggest that the President will find, or even should find, his relationship with Congress to be easy or simple.  George Washington did not.  President Washington once came up here to discuss a treaty with Senators and became so angry that he said, and this Washington's word: I'll be ‘damned' if I go there again.

"The separation of powers does not mean an easy distribution of powers but it is essential to the American character.  We should remember that.  A short trip to Mount Vernon would remind us of that.  The President's recess appointments not only show disregard for the Constitution, they show disregard for every individual American who chooses liberty over tyranny, President over King."

February 1, 2012
CONGRESSMAN MARSHA BLACKBURN
Honored To Serve the 7th District of Tennessee

 Blackburn Votes To Repeal CLASS Act

WASHINGTON - Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) today voted to repeal the CLASS Act, which Democrats originally touted as a way to save $80 billion over ten years for program operations and deficit reduction in President Obama's health care plan. The program has since been proven to be fiscally unsustainable and last October Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius even admitted there was no path forward. Congressman Blackburn issued the following statement:

"Almost two years ago, against the will of the American people, Congress approved the Presidents job-killing health care bill. Since it's passage Republicans have made it one of our top priorities to repeal Obamacare. It has become obvious that the President's plan costs too much money and has no hope of working. We must continue to work to tear it down brick by brick. 

"Repealing the CLASS Act is just another step toward getting Obamacare off the books. While Democrats wanted people to believe that the CLASS Act would save money, Republicans knew better. Hardworking taxpayers are sick and tired of budget gimmicks like the CLASS Act. We need to eliminate these kind of failed programs so Congress can consider real long-term care reform proposals that work for the American people and the Federal budget."


 

For Immediate Release: December 22, 2011        

Alexander Praises Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Approval of AP1000 Design Certification

Says U.S. invented nuclear power but has "fallen behind in embracing new reactor technology and hasn't built a new reactor in 30 years"

"Nuclear power produces 70 percent of our country's pollution-free electricity and has the best safety record of any form of energy production. This new design will make it easier to produce the huge amount of clean energy our economy needs to create good private-sector jobs." -Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today praised the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's progress on approving design certifications for the AP1000, a pressurized water reactor with passive safety features, meaning it does not require operator action to shut down safely during an emergency.

"The United States invented nuclear power but we have fallen behind other countries in embracing new reactor technology and haven't built a new reactor in 30 years. Nuclear power produces 70 percent of our country's pollution-free electricity and has the best safety record of any form of energy production. This new design will make it easier to produce the huge amount of clean energy our economy needs to create good private-sector jobs."

In August, at a Senate Energy and Water Committee hearing, Alexander had urged NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko "to complete without delay the design certifications for the AP1000."

Alexander said then: "We have an aging nuclear fleet. We haven't built a new reactor in 30 years. Twenty-five or 30 years from now, this commission will have to decide whether to extend the life of a lot of the older reactors. I've advocated building 100 new nuclear reactors over the next 20 years, and even if we did that, we'd still barely replace the reactors that we have. The Energy Information Administration estimates that the increased need for electricity will be up by 31 percent by 2035. So we're going to need a lot of clean, reliable electricity in this country. And we can't afford, if we want to have a high standard of living and good jobs, to lose 20 percent or 10 percent of our electricity. If we don't have nuclear power, we'll have to rely on coal-that's dirtier-on gas-that's dirtier-and who knows what the price of gas will be? And the idea of relying on windmills to provide the energy America needs is the equivalent of going to war in sailboats. So we're going to need lots of nuclear power."

Dec. 13, 2011 

CONGRESSMAN MARSHA BLACKBURN
Honored To Serve the 7th District of Tennessee

Blackburn Statement on the Passage of the Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act

WASHINGTON - Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) issued the following statement on the passage of the Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act.

"The American people have said again and again that it's time to take away the president's credit card and the Job Creation Act does just that. It does not raise taxes, it reduces debt, it extends payroll tax cuts, and it protects the promises we've made to seniors by cutting spending not through job-destroying tax increases. Everything in the Job Creation Act is offset by spending cuts and that's the way things need to be done around here. This isn't our money, it belongs to the American people, and I'm thankful the Job Creation Act allows taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money. I'm proud this legislation accelerates a decision on the bipartisan Keystone XL energy pipeline. I hope President Obama reconsiders his veto threat of this 100,000 high-paying, domestic-job-creating project." 


"Helping States Reward Outstanding Teaching"

Weekly Column by Sen. Lamar Alexander

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has this week been meeting to improve a bill that would reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law. I voted to move the bill out of the committee so that the full Senate could debate, amend and improve it, because it is an encouraging step forward although right now it's not legislation I could support sending to the president to sign into law. I believe the best place to fix it is before the full Senate, and I will offer several amendments that would do just that.

One aspect of this bill is of particular importance to me-its provisions dealing with teacher evaluations. I know something about this.  In 1983 and 1984, when I was governor of Tennessee, we became the first state in the country to create a statewide system for rewarding outstanding teaching and paying those teachers based upon that. At that time, not one teacher in the nation made one penny more for being a good teacher. 

So, at my suggestion, and that of others, the bill to fix No Child Left Behind does not include an order from Washington that all 15,000 school districts have a teacher and principal evaluation system.  It does not include a definition of what it should be, and it doesn't include the opportunity for the education secretary, whoever it may be, to then issue a number of regulations defining what a teacher and principal evaluation system would be in Maryville or Nashville or Denver. 

What it does include is the following: for the first time it would allow a state to spend its Title II money-that is the $2.5 billion of federal funds that go to states-on designing and implementing its own principal-teacher evaluation system that is related to student achievement.

In my view, that is the holy grail of public education. If we could ever figure out how to relate teacher and principal pay to student achievement, I think it would do more than any other single thing to help our children learn what they need to know and be able to do.

In Tennessee, for example, that would mean there would be about $41 million this year that could be spent coming up with a way to pay teachers better for teaching well. There are about 63,000 teachers in Tennessee, so that is about $660 per teacher, per year of federal funds, that could be used to design and implement a teacher and principal evaluation system related to student achievement. This would be the first time that has been allowed.

Secondly, the bill includes a provision for the Teacher Incentive Fund.  We know this program in Tennessee because of the work in Memphis.  This program recognizes the difficulty of figuring out how to reward and evaluate teachers in a fair way, especially if you are going to base compensation on that, and says that if you want to do it, we will give you some money to help you try to do it. 

The third thing that is available for helping develop teacher evaluation systems is a program called Race to the Top.  Last year, the state of Tennessee won that competition and received $500 million to spend on developing and implementing an evaluation program for all the teachers in Tennessee. 

Tennessee is now in the process of doing just that.  But their work is still front page news with headlines such as,  "Evaluation of Teachers Contentious," and they are having a tough time in Maryville and Nashville  implementing their own proposal. State officials are traveling across the state to meet with stakeholders.

Now, do we really want our Tennessee officials to have to come to Washington after they get through with that and say:  ‘You tell us what to do.  And may we please have your permission to do things this way instead of that way?'  I think not.  That would be the kiss of death for any movement for teacher-principal evaluation.

September 26, 2011

A Better Way to Fix No Child Left Behind

By LAMAR ALEXANDER

EVERYONE knows that today every American's job is on the line, and that better schools mean better jobs. Schools and jobs are alike in this sense: Washington can't create good jobs, and Washington can't create good schools. What Washington can do, though, is shape an environment in which businesses and entrepreneurs can create jobs. It can do the same thing in education, by creating an environment in which teachers, parents and communities can build better schools. Last week President Obama, citing a failure by Congress to act, announced a procedure for handing out waivers for the federal mandates under the No Child Left Behind law. Unfortunately, these waivers come with a series of new federal rules, this time without congressional approval, and would make the secretary of education the equivalent of a national school board.

However, there is another way. Earlier this month, several senators and I introduced a set of five bills that would fix the problems with this important federal law.

No Child Left Behind, created through a bipartisan effort in 2001, set a goal that all 50 million students in our nearly 100,000 public schools would be proficient in reading and math by 2014. There would be state standards and tests, and requirements that our 3.2 million teachers be "highly qualified." Schools failing to meet "adequate yearly progress" standards would receive federal sanctions. For parents, there would be more school choice, including new charter schools.

Almost a decade later, however, it is likely that nearly 80 percent of American schools will soon fail to meet the adequate yearly progress standards.

My colleagues and I agree with the Obama administration that after a decade of federal rules, more responsibility needs to go back to the states. No Child Left Behind has made one thing clear: when it comes to education reform, the states are both highly capable and highly motivated. Since 2002, 44 states and territories have adopted common core academic standards, two groups of states are developing common tests for those standards and 44 states are collaborating on common principles for holding schools accountable for student achievement.

Many states and school districts are also finding ways to reward outstanding teaching and to include student performance as a part of that evaluation. That may seem like common sense, but until Tennessee created its master-teacher program in 1984, not one state paid one teacher one penny more for teaching well.

Our legislation would scuttle entirely the Washington-imposed adequate-yearly-progress requirements set by No Child Left Behind, and would instead require states to set their own high standards to promote college- and career-readiness for all students. We agree that all states should aim to make their graduates capable of entering higher education or the workforce. But we also believe there are many ways to get there, and states should have the flexibility to find the ones that works best for them.

Our bill would change not only the way students are evaluated, but the way teachers are as well. The "highly qualified" requirement is usually met through graduate or professional training. But training doesn't always translate into improved performance in the classroom. Instead, we would encourage states to develop teacher- and principal-evaluation systems related to student achievement.

At the same time, we would continue to require the reporting of student progress - not so Washington could decide whether to sanction a school, but so that parents, teachers and communities can know whether their students are succeeding. The data would also help with future reforms: thanks to No Child Left Behind, we have several years of school-by-school information about student progress in each school. We can see now what works, and where work needs to be done.

We would also make it easier for state governments and local school districts to expand the number of charter schools, which have been shown to improve student achievement in under-performing districts.

Finally, we would cut through the bureaucratic thicket of federal education assistance by consolidating programs and making it easier for the states to receive needed resources. And we would make sure that some of that money went specifically to help states turn around the bottom 5 percent of their schools.

While all the sponsors of this legislation are Republican senators, many of the ideas were either first advanced or have been worked on in concert with Mr. Obama; his excellent education secretary, Arne Duncan; and Democratic colleagues in both the House and the Senate.

We want to continue to work with our colleagues across the aisle and in the House. Our purpose in offering our ideas is to spur progress so we can enact a bill by the end of the year.

Mr. Duncan has warned us that under existing law, most schools will be labeled as failing schools within a few years, and he is proposing to use his waiver authority to avoid that. The best way for us to relieve Mr. Duncan of the need to consider waivers and to help American children learn what they need to know, and what they need to be able to do, is to fix No Child Left Behind.

Lamar Alexander, a Republican senator from Tennessee, was the United States secretary of education from 1991 to 1993.

Senate Passes Resolution Honoring Sick Nuclear Workers with a National Day of Remembrance

Resolution Designates October 30 as Day of Remembrance for Hundreds of Thousands Who Have Served As Nuclear Weapons Program Workers

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho),  Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today announced Senate passage of S. Res. 275, a Senate resolution designating October 30, 2011, as a national day of remembrance for nuclear weapons program workers. The Day of Remembrance honors the thousands of men and women who supported the nation's nuclear efforts during the Cold War.

BINGAMAN: "Since World War II, hundreds of thousands of men and women, including uranium miners, millers, and haulers, have served the United States by building our nuclear defense weapons. I'm glad we're setting aside time to remember our fellow Americans who have paid a high price for their service to develop the nuclear weapons program for United States."

ALEXANDER: "There are thousands of Americans who defended our nation during the Cold War, who didn't serve in the heat of battle but in the laboratory, where they worked with hazardous materials that were little understood at that time. Many of those Americans are sick-more in Tennessee than in any other state-and we should take the time to recognize their quiet sacrifice for our safety and freedom."

REID: "Nevada's Cold War veterans and their families served their country at the Nevada National Security Site, where over one thousand nuclear weapons detonations took place over four decades of nuclear testing.  This work helped America win the Cold War, but it also left thousands of workers with debilitating illness that far too often led to their premature deaths.  It is appropriate for us to dedicate October 30th as a day to remember the tremendous contribution, service, and sacrifice of Nevada's Cold War veterans, and nuclear weapons workers across the country.  Given their immeasurable contributions to our nation's safety during the Cold War and the great personal sacrifices that they and their families have made, there is no doubt that they deserve this recognition."

CANTWELL: "This resolution honors Washington state's Hanford workers and nuclear weapons workers across the country for their service and sacrifice made building America's nuclear defense. Many of these workers had inadequate information on the long-term health risks posed by their work, risks that in many cases shortened their lives. I will continue fighting for the benefits and health care access our nuclear workers have earned and deserve. Hanford tells an important chapter in our nation's history, and I am fighting to pay tribute to those who labored at Hanford by preserving the historic B Reactor as part of a new National Historic Park."

CORKER: "Civilian workers and their families have made extraordinary sacrifices to keep our nation safe, particularly during the Cold War. A day of remembrance will allow all Americans to give thanks for the dedication of these patriotic citizens, whose quiet, often unheralded work helped preserve freedom at home and abroad."

UDALL (CO): "After World War II, hundreds of thousands of Americans went to work to build our nation's nuclear arsenal and help us win the Cold War, and many were exposed to dangerous substances on the job, often without their knowledge.  Among them were thousands of Coloradans who worked at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site.  I'll continue fighting to get them the compensation they deserve, and I'm proud to recognize and thank them for their sacrifices."

CRAPO: "Individuals who have been adversely affected by our nation's nuclear weapons programs must be justly honored and remembered for their dedicated work and service to our country. Designating a national day of remembrance in their honor is just one way we can show our support and recognition for their sacrifice."

UDALL (NM): "Our nation's Cold War veterans and their families made tremendous sacrifices in the name of security, and for that we will always owe them a debt of gratitude. We often hear about the scientists behind the Manhattan Project in New Mexico, but many others, like maintenance workers, miners, millers and janitors unknowingly compromised their health to develop our nuclear deterrent. It's important that we continue to recognize their contributions." 

GILLIBRAND: "It is important that we always remember the efforts of our former nuclear workers from New York and across the country. These unsung heroes unknowingly sacrificed their health and well-being to advance our Cold War efforts during a critical time in our nation's history. We owe out Cold War heroes a lifetime of support."

The bipartisan resolution unanimously passed the Senate last night.

The text of the resolution is below:

RESOLUTION

Designating October 30, 2011, as a national day of remembrance for nuclear weapons program workers.

Whereas, since World War II, hundreds of thousands of men and women, including uranium miners, millers, and haulers, have served the United States by building the nuclear defense weapons of the United States;

Whereas these dedicated workers paid a high price for their service to develop a nuclear weapons program for the benefit of the United States, including having developed disabling or fatal illnesses;

Whereas the Senate recognized the contribution, service, and sacrifice these patriotic men and women made for the defense of the United States in Senate Resolution 151, 111th Congress, agreed to May 20, 2009, and Senate Resolution 653, 111th Congress, agreed to September 28, 2010;

Whereas a national day of remembrance time capsule has been crossing the United States, collecting artifacts and the stories of the nuclear workers relating to the nuclear defense era of the United States;

Whereas these stories and artifacts reinforce the importance of recognizing these nuclear workers; and

Whereas these patriotic men and women deserve to be recognized for the contribution, service, and sacrifice they have made for the defense of the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate-

(1) designates October 30, 2011, as a national day of remembrance for nuclear weapons program workers, including uranium miners, millers, and haulers, of the United States; and

(2) encourages the people of the United States to support and participate in appropriate ceremonies, programs, and other activities to commemorate October 30, 2011, as a national day of remembrance for past and present workers in the nuclear weapons program of the United States.

 

For Immediate Release: September 19, 2011         

Alexander Offers Amendment to Eliminate $14.75 Million in Funding for Election Assistance Commission That "Doesn't Have Anything Left to Do"

Says 9-Year-Old Commission Has Already Fulfilled Its Functions;

Its Authorization Expired in 2005

"At a time when we're scratching for pennies, the idea of spending $14.75 million on the Election Assistance Commission, which has nothing left to do, and whose beneficiaries have asked us to abolish it, I would respectfully suggest deserves another look." - Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) offered an amendment at the Senate Appropriations Committee markup Thursday on the fiscal year 2012 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that would eliminate the $14.75 million appropriated for the Election Assistance Commission, saying the continued funding of the 9-year-old, no-longer authorized commission "could be the first episode of an only-in-Washington television reality show."

"We should go ahead and do what we ought to do, which is to say: ‘Thank you very much for your good work, now let's move on to something else,' and take that $14.75 million and use it to reduce the debt or spend it on some other priority," Alexander said.

CONGRESSMAN MARSHA BLACKBURN
Honored To Serve the 7th District of Tennessee
BLACKBURN: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S RESPONSE PROVIDES NO ANSWERS ON GIBSON RAID
Congressman Gets Assurances that Musicians Will Not Be Targeted

WASHINGTON - Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) today demanded more answers from the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Interior (DOI) regarding the raid conducted last month on Gibson Guitar.

In response to a letter sent by Blackburn and other leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee two weeks ago requesting to be briefed on the details as to why the decision was made to raid on the iconic Tennessee company, DOJ and DOI delivered a letter to Committee officials late last night.  While their letter provides some of the requested information, Blackburn found the response to be far from satisfactory.

"I am frustrated by the Administration's refusal to brief me and our committee with real answers," Blackburn said.  "Specifically, why did they send armed agents into Gibson's facilities?  It is beyond me why not once, but twice, the administration felt the need to act like a bunch of cowboys, when I am sure a letter like this or a simple phone call stating their concerns to Gibson's leaders would have prompted a very cooperative response."

Blackburn did say she was pleased that the Administration did state in the letter that  people who "unknowingly" possess instruments that might contain illegally taken wood "do not have criminal exposure."  But with that, she said the Administration is ignoring Gibson's "incredible" efforts to ensure the wood they import is legal.

"I am glad to see administration officials stating on the record that they won't treat unsuspecting musicians as criminals," Blackburn said.  "I had hoped to get some clarification on this matter, and I am sure it is comforting to these entertainers to know that they won't be hauled away in handcuffs one day as they travel the world entertaining millions of fans.  But, that the Administration only applies "unknowingly" to individuals, and not to Gibson begs even more questions, and I will continue to hold the Obama Administration's feet to the fire until we receive more adequate answers."

This site  The Web 

Stopping Washington From Spending Money It Doesn't Have

By Sen. Lamar Alexander

Finally, with the debt-reduction agreement Congress made with the President in early August, Washington is starting to take some responsibility for years of spending money we don't have.

At a time when the federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, this agreement represents a welcome change in behavior that I was glad to support.

Make no mistake. This was a change in behavior-from spend, spend, spend to cut, cut, cut.

Let me give you one example: On Christmas Eve, 2010, Congress raised the debt ceiling and attached to it a trillion new dollars in spending over ten years through the new health care law.       

This time, for every dollar we are raising the debt ceiling, we are reducing spending by a dollar-not adding to it.

Here is another example: According to Sen. Portman, who used to be the nation's budget director, the Congressional Budget Office would say that if Congress did this kind of dollar-for-dollar reduction in spending every time a president asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling, we'd balance the budget in ten years.

And one more: The Wall Street Journal reported that because of these spending cuts, the discretionary part of the budget, which is 39 percent of the entire budget, will grow over the next ten years at a little less than the rate of inflation. If we could control the rest of the budget so that it would grow at anything close to the rate of inflation, we'd balance the budget in no time.

And balancing the budget is exactly what our goal should be. That's what I did every year as governor of Tennessee. Families in America do it every day.

It is time to balance the government's books and live within our means.

These spending reductions are an important step-but they are just one step-and no one should underestimate how difficult the next steps will be. Our work on reducing this nation's alarming debt has only begun.

These spending cuts do almost nothing to restructure Medicare and Social Security so that seniors can count on them and taxpayers can afford them. The President's budget projections still double and triple the federal debt. Under the President's budgets, according to the Congressional Budget Office, in ten years we'll be spending more in interest on the debt than we now spend on national defense. And, in January, 2013, the first thing the next president will have to do is to ask Congress to increase the debt ceiling.

This problem wasn't created overnight, and it won't be solved overnight. But if I were sitting at Union Station trying to catch a train to New York City and someone offered me a ticket to Baltimore or Philadelphia, I'd take it, and then find a way to get to New York from there.

This agreement was an opportunity to take an important step in the right direction-toward stopping Washington from spending money it doesn't have.

Congress should now get ready to find ways to take the next step and the next step and the next. The American people have a right to expect Congress to work across party lines to reduce the federal debt by at least $4 trillion over the next ten years.

alexanderandcorker.jpg

July 19, 2011: U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., meet Sherry Rout of Cordova, Tenn., with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, during Tennessee Tuesday, a weekly constituent breakfast in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Senate Photographic Services)

Alexander Applauds Senate Passage of Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Reauthorization Act

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) issued the following statement regarding Senate passage on Friday, December 10, of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Reauthorization Act (S. 3817), legislation cosponsored by Alexander that reauthorizes the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the Family Violence Services Prevention Act, and the Adoption Opportunities Act:

“Each year, roughly 800,000 children in this country are abused or neglected—including nearly 11,000 children in Tennessee alone,” said Senator Alexander. “This legislation will help states and local communities begin to reduce that number and more quickly respond to the needs of abused children. One way it does that is by giving case workers more flexibility to respond to the unique circumstances of each child abuse case.”

One of the bills being reauthorized by this legislation – the Family Violence Services Prevention Act – provides $88 million a year to domestic violence shelters and provides direct services to victims of domestic violence and their children.

“The 2,000 emergency shelters nationwide are often the only relief for abused spouses who have nowhere else to turn,” Senator Alexander said.  “By updating and improving the Family Violence Services Prevention Act, we are enhancing the services these shelters can offer.” 

 

# # #

A Summary of the S. 2817, the CAPTA Reauthorization Act

The CAPTA Reauthorization Act reauthorizes the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, the Adoptions Opportunity Act and the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act.  It is an important piece of legislation designed to help states and communities improve services prevent and support victims of child abuse and neglect as well as family and domestic violence.

Since the 2003 reauthorization the nation has not seen enough progress in reducing the rate of child abuse or neglect.  Each year an estimated 794,000 children are victims of child abuse or neglect. In its Child Maltreatment 2008 Report on Child Abuse and Neglect, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that, each year, 141,700 children are seriously injured, 18,000 are severely disabled, and 1,760 children die as a result of abuse or neglect. Children younger than 6 years of age accounted for 76 percent of child fatalities and children younger than one year of age accounted for 42 percent of child fatalities.

The CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010 is bipartisan legislation intended to strengthen and support families with children; to protect children from abuse, neglect and maltreatment; improve services for victims of domestic violence and children exposed to domestic violence; and improve adoption assistance.

Specifically the CAPTA Reauthorization Act builds on current law by ensuring that all states have the capacity to provide services and improve their child protective services systems, including:

·         Enhancing the general child protective system by including the use of differential response systems which allow greater flexibility in investigating cases of child abuse or neglect and encourage an emphasis on prevention;

·         Improving training protocols for mandatory reporters of suspected cases of abuse or neglect by developing and facilitating the use of research-based strategies;

·         Supporting collaboration and enhancing interagency communication among public health agencies, agencies in the child protective service system, and agencies carrying out private community-based programs,

·         Improving procedures for collaboration in investigations, interventions, the delivery of services and treatment provided to children and families,

·         Providing services that assist children exposed to domestic violence, including addressing mental health issues, and reducing substance abuse,

·         Including parental involvement by the non-abusing parent in decision making about best options for abused or neglected children,

·         Strengthening state data collection and analysis to improve program operation, service delivery and effectiveness by:

o   Improving state coordination through data systems to help track and monitor services provided to families both within a state and between states;

o   Collecting data on training, education, and caseloads to ensure CPS workers are qualified and examine caseload burden;

o   Improving data collection to better align IDEA Part C services with child protective service systems in states; and 

o   Requiring a study of the effectiveness of the citizen review panels, and

·         Improving training for individuals working with children to ensure they are consistent with the best practices in the field of early childhood and adolescent development.

FVPSA is the primary federal funding stream for domestic violence shelters and direct services to victims of domestic violence and their children. Over 2,000 shelters and programs receive grant funding under FVPSA.  Specifically the FVPSA reauthorization improves the law by:

·         Modernizing the structure of the Act to improve understanding of, and compliance with, the provisions of the Act. (As Joe would say: that’s a BFD)

·         Expanding access to services for victims of dating violence

·         Addressing the diverse needs of local communities by increasing the emphasis on victims in underserved populations under the Act; and by supporting national special issue resource centers to provide information, training, and technical assistance to State and local domestic violence service providers to better serve racial and ethnic minorities as well as Indian tribes and other native populations.

·         Improving inter-agency collaboration by adding research coordination for reporting data from all Federal entities that support domestic violence.

·         Strengthen the law to better address the needs of children exposed to domestic violence

·         Allowing for the creation of a National Indian Resource Center to better coordinate and support service providers to native populations. 

·         Strengthening provisions relating to confidentiality to protect victims from repeated abuse.

The Abandoned Infants Assistance Act provides assistance to infants with AIDS who are abandoned at hospitals and churches and training for and the provision of foster families for abandoned infants.  No substantive changes are made to this program.

The Adoption Opportunities program is designed to promote adoption, eliminate barriers to adoption, and provide permanent, loving homes for children, especially children with special needs. Adoption promotion and post-adoption support are both critical components in successfully achieving the goals of the program. Major changes include:

·         Strengthening the focus on improving the adoption of minority (specifically African American) and older children to address the disproportionate representation of these populations in foster care.

·         Improving placement rates of (all or minority, older, disabled? children) by reducing barriers to adoption, increasing post-placement support and encouraging positive practices.

·         Reserving 30% of funds for services and activities designed to support the adoption of older and minority children.



   




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