Blackburn, Fleischmann Land Important Positions on U.S. House Committees

Representative Blackburn PhotoRepresentative Fleischmann Photo

This week, two members of the Tennessee Congressional Delegation were appointed to positions on key committees of interest to the University of Tennessee and the State of Tennessee.

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) was appointed to serve as Vice Chair of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.  This committee is especially important to the University and the state given its authority and oversight of key energy programs, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and overall U.S. Energy policy.  Blackburn has served on this committee and some of its critical subcommittees for several years.  She is currently the Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, and serves on the Subcommittee on Oversight, Subcommittee on Health and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Appointed to the House Appropriations Committee was Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga).  Fleischmann’s appointment to this committee will well position Tennessee’s interests before national policymakers.  The committee is widely known as one of the House’s most powerful.  Fleischmann is an alumnus of the UT College of Law.

“The appointment of Blackburn and Fleischmann to these committees will reap great benefits for the people of Tennessee.  The importance of these two committees to the areas of research, economic development, and quality of life issues cannot be overstated.  We are very happy with the appointments of both members and look forward to working with them in their new capacity in the next legislative session,” said Anthony Haynes, UT Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy.

The 113th Congress convenes in January, where Blackburn and Fleischmann will assume these new leadership positions.

2012 General Election Wrap Up

The 2012 General Election was historic on a number of levels, the most notable being that the nation’s first African-American President was re-elected. Tennessee moved opposite of the nation’s popular vote and elected a super majority to both the state house and senate. Tennesseans did mirror the national trend of rural areas and counties supporting the Republican nominee for President, and urban areas supporting the Democratic nominee.

In Tennessee, the outcome of Republican-led redistricting combined with the low popularity of President Obama enabled Republicans to increase their numbers in the state house from 65 to 70 (of 99) and in the state senate from 20 to 26 (of 32). This super majority will render Democrats powerless in procedurally stopping or advancing any measures against the will of the Republicans.

Tennessee’s Congressional delegation remained unchanged. Senator Bob Corker (R) easily won re-election as did Representatives Roe, Duncan, Fleischmann, Cooper, Black, Blackburn, Fincher and Cohen. Representative DesJarlais won a challenge from State Senator Eric Stewart after a hard fought and often negative campaign.

There are several expectations regarding how the election’s outcome may affect various University interests and activities. Our federal research priorities and focus areas of interest should remain largely unchanged. What will likely change is the funding levels for any number of these areas. As budget discussions move forward during both the Lame Duck Session and into the new Congress next year, various program funding levels are expected to decline as a result of budget negotiations. The Obama Administration will likely continue to advance a national energy policy and agenda with major emphasis on research and production of various forms of alternative energy. This focus should help minimize adverse impacts to UT’s ongoing research interest in these areas, but funding reductions should be expected. Other areas such as agricultural and forestry research, weather services and modeling, and health and medical research are but a few programs that may be targeted for reductions.

At the state level, there will be 22 first-time House members and 6 first-time Senators. This presents both a challenge and opportunity to the higher education community. It will be critical to educate these new members on a host of issues and funding matters facing the University. Active advocacy by alumni, students, faculty, and staff will become increasingly important. In the Senate, Committees will likely reduce the representation of Democrats from 3 to 2 members. In the House, Speaker Harwell will be considering a new Chair and Vice Chair for the House Education Committee given the primary defeat of Richard Montgomery and election of Joey Hensley to the Senate.

Click here to view a profile of newly elected legislators. If you are not registered on our advocacy network, click here to sign up and stay informed.

Early Voting Ends Tomorrow, Election Day November 6

In-person early voting ends tomorrow, November 1, in Tennessee.  To date, the overall early voting turnout amounts to over 1.2 million Tennesseans.  This figure represents the second-highest early voting turnout in Tennessee history, having surpassed November 2004, the last election involving an incumbent president, reports Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

Voters with questions regarding the locations and hours of early voting are encouraged to contact their local election commission offices.

Election day is November 6.  Check back with UT Advocacy for information regarding election results on November 7.

Higher Education and the National Party Platforms

The excitement surrounding national political party conventions has been buzzing across the nation for months.  Recently approved at these conventions are national party platforms that address policy issues in a variety of areas.  These platforms, both lengthy documents, each mention higher education and some potential policy options.  For your information, excerpts relative to higher education from each platform have been provided below.  It is important to note that a party platform is not necessarily reflective or indicative of what a particular candidate will or will not do if elected.  In other words, the party’s platform may not entirely align with the candidate’s platform.  To read the party platforms in their entirety, follow the links below.

Democratic Party National Platform
Republican Party National Platform

 Higher Education Excerpts from the Democratic Party National Platform:
“To help keep college within reach for every student,
 Democrats took on banks to reform our student loan
 program, saving more than $60 billion by removing the 
banks acting as middlemen so we can better and more directly invest in students. To make college affordable for
 students of all backgrounds and confront the loan burden
 our students shoulder, we doubled our investment in Pell
 Grant scholarships and created the American Opportunity
 Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college,
 and we’re creating avenues for students to manage their 
federal student loans so that their payments can be only 10
 percent of what they make each month. President Obama 
has pledged to encourage colleges to keep their costs
 down by reducing federal aid for those that do not,
 investing in colleges that keep tuition affordable and
 provide good value, doubling the number of work-study 
jobs available to students, and continuing to ensure that students have access to federal loans with reasonable interest rates. We invested more than $2.5 billion in savings from reforming our student loan system to strengthen our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Alaska, Hawaiian Native Institutions, Asian American and Pacific Islander Institutions, and other Minority Serving Institutions. These schools play an important role in creating a diverse workforce, educating new teachers, and producing the next generation of STEM workers.

We Democrats also recognize the economic opportunities created by our nation’s community colleges. That is why the President has invested in community colleges and called for additional partnerships between businesses and community colleges to train two million workers with the skills they need for good jobs waiting to be filled, and to support business-labor apprenticeship programs that provide skills and opportunity to thousands of Americans. The President also proposed to double key investments in science to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers, encourage private sector innovation, and prepare at least 100,000 math and science teachers over the next decade. And to make this country a destination for global talent and ingenuity, we won’t deport deserving young people who are Americans in every way but on paper, and we will work to make it possible for foreign students earning advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to stay and help create jobs here at home.

Mitt Romney has a radically different vision. He says we need fewer teachers, cops, and firefighters – good middle class jobs – even after losing hundreds of thousands of such jobs during the recession and at a time when state, local, and territorial governments are still shedding these jobs. He supports dramatic cuts to Head Start and the Pell Grant program.

Tuition at public colleges has soared over the last decade and students are graduating with more and more debt; but Mitt Romney thinks students should “shop around” for the “best education they can afford.” And he supports the radical House Republican budget that would cut financial aid for more than one million students while giving tax cuts to the rich. We Democrats have focused on making sure that taxpayer dollars support high-quality education programs, but Mitt Romney is a staunch supporter of expensive, for-profit schools – schools that often leave students buried in debt and without the skills for quality jobs and that prey on our servicemembers and veterans.”

Higher Education Excerpts from the Republican Party National Platform:
“Parents are responsible for the education of their children. We do not believe in a one size fits all approach to education and support providing broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level. Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education, with high standards, in which all students can reach their potential. Today’s education reform movement calls for accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of State and local control of our schools, and it wisely sees consumer rights in education—choice— as the most important driving force for renewing our schools…

The Republican Party is the party of fresh and innovative ideas in education. We support options for learning, including home schooling and local innovations like single-sex classes, full-day school hours, and year-round schools. School choice—whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits—is important for all children, especially for families with children trapped in failing schools. Getting those youngsters into decent learning environments and helping them to realize their full potential is the greatest civil rights challenge of our time. We support the promotion of local career and technical educational programs and entrepreneurial programs that have been supported by leaders in industry and will retrain and retool the American workforce, which is the best in the world. A young person’s ability to achieve in school must be based on his or her God-given talent and motivation, not an address, zip code, or economic status…

Higher education faces its own challenges, many of which stem from the poor preparation of students before they reach college. One consequence has been the multiplying number of remedial courses for freshmen. Even so, our universities, large and small, public or private, form the world’s greatest assemblage of learning. They drive much of the research that keeps America competitive and, by admitting large numbers of foreign students, convey our values and culture to the world.

Ideological bias is deeply entrenched within the current university system. Whatever the solution in private institutions may be, in State institutions the trustees have a responsibility to the public to ensure that their enormous investment is not abused for political indoctrination. We call on State officials to ensure that our public colleges and universities be places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerance favoring the Left.

College costs, however, are on an unsustainable trajectory, rising year by year far ahead of overall inflation. Nationwide, student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt, roughly $23,300 for each of the 35,000,000 debtors, taking years to pay off. Over 50 percent of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed, working at jobs for which their expensive educations gave them no training. It is time to get back to basics and to higher education programs directly related to job opportunities.

The first step is to acknowledge the need for change when the status quo is not working. New systems of learning are needed to compete with traditional four-year colleges: expanded community colleges and technical institutions, private training schools, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector. New models for acquiring advanced skills will be ever more important in the rapidly changing economy of the twenty-first century, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math. Public policy should advance the affordability, innovation, and transparency needed to address all these challenges and to make accessible to everyone the emerging alternatives, with their lower cost degrees, to traditional college attendance.

Federal student aid is on an unsustainable path, and efforts should be taken to provide families with greater transparency and the information they need to make prudent choices about a student’s future: completion rates, repayment rates, future earnings, and other factors that may affect their decisions. The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans; however, it should serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector as they offer loans to students. Private sector participation in student financing should be welcomed. Any regulation that drives tuition costs higher must be reevaluated to balance its worth against its negative impact on students and their parents.”

48 Days

There are 48 days until early voting begins.  Are you registered to vote?  Do you know where your candidates stand on the issues?  The clock is ticking, but there is still time for you to register to vote and to learn about the candidates.

In Tennessee, you must submit an application for voter registration at least 30 days prior to an election.  If you’re not registered to vote, please take a moment to fill out this mail-in application for voter registration.  Once you submit a valid application, a voter registration card will be mailed to the address you’ve provided.  This card will tell you where to vote.

With ample time before early voting, UT Advocacy will post the results of our general election survey.  This information will help you learn more about the candidates and their views on higher education issues, and will prove valuable as you head to the polls.

Let the voices of the Vols, Skyhawks, and Mocs be heard this year on election day. Mark your calendars now: Early voting runs from October 17th until November 1st.  Election Day is November 6th. 

To learn more about elections in the State of Tennessee, visit the TN Secretary of State’s website.