Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Democrat-controlled Senate blocking benefits to Veterans to protect Obamacare.

The Democrat-controlled Senate is so desperate to save Obamacare, it is willing to block benefits to  veterans. The House tried to pass a bill  to preserve veterans benefits, but Senate Democrats won't pass it.

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Marsha Blackburn's update on Shutdown: Fund our Veterans, Guard and Reserve.

From Marsha Blackburn

I wanted to point you to two great articles about the shutdown. The first is from TownHall and address the Constitutional obligation of the House of Representatives to decide whether or not they want to spend money on a particular government activity. The second is from Charles Krauthammer and addresses the myths spawned from the shutdown.  These are both fantastic reads and are great to explain why we’re here. 

While we’re working to get the government back up and running, my colleagues and I in the House passed legislation this week to fund national parks and museums, the National Institutes of Health, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. I hope Senator Reid will take those bills up in the Senate. 

Yesterday I received a note from General Max Haston informing me that due to the government shutdown, he had to furlough more than 1,400 members of the Tennessee National Guard. The House has acted to restore critical funding and ensure these heroes can get back to work. The Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act is awaiting Senator Reid as well. 

As well, I wanted to pass along some pretty startling numbers - $2.6 trillion. When the Affordable Care Act first came into the debate, it was to be a government-run insurance program costing no more than $863 billion over ten years.

Now it’s a government-funded behemoth that’s estimated to cost $2.6 trillion. It’s made $600 billion to cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and implemented a total of $819.3 billion in new taxes. The fight to go to conference over Obamacare is about much more than politics. It’s about solutions to long-term fiscal issues.
Have a good weekend-

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Why Stop with Gay Domestic Partner Benefits?

..... In other words, two elderly sisters who have been living together for some time and sharing expenses don’t qualify.  A single or widowed mother living with an adult child who, for whatever reason, is not able to live entirely on his or her own is out of luck.

So, these city policies provide benefits for only some relationships of commitment and continuity, not all of them.

However, by excluding these other relationships, the city is saying that they are not important.  As same-sex marriage advocates like to say of defenders of marriage, the city is stigmatizing those relationships and deeming them inferior to theirs.

But the question is why?  Why aren’t those other relationships just as important?  Why should they be excluded?  (Read more)
If the Metro Council is going to extend benefits to gay domestic partners, why not any two people who are in a relationship that involves living together and mingling of expenses. Why must they be assumed to be having same-sex sex to qualify?

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Our military veterans are too important - we can't allow political games to interfere with the benefits they deserve, which they earned with sweat and blood spilled defending this nation. With the so-called "government shut-down" our sick or wounded veterans in need of care and benefits are being threatened!

Lawmakers have the power to pass funding JUST FOR OUR VETS, as they have already done for active duty military, but some are unwilling!
Many of our veterans have been handicapped or their families have made the ultimate sacrifice defending America and rely on these benefits to live and support their families.

Our veterans need your IMMEDIATE support:

 1. Sign our Petition telling Congress to support our veterans and stop using them as political pawns.
  2. Forward this email to as many people as you know and ask them to sign - - our strength is in numbers!

Don't use our veterans and political pawns!

Veterans risked their lives to protect our country and many have paid dearly and sacrificed greatly.  Many have lost limbs and have been severely injured fighting our enemies and protecting our country. Unable to work many veterans rely on these checks to survive and support their families.  Many of our VA hospitals are housing veterans that are recovering from battlefield injuries and we can't kick them out on the streets.   

Today's politicians need to take a lesson from George Washington when he said "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."

Demand your elected official to take care of our Veterans.


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Council members, including Tim Garrett and Davette Blalock, seek study of same-sex benefits for Metro employees

The Tennessean, Oct.3 - Twenty-six of 40 council members, including 2015 mayoral candidate Megan Barry, signed a letter that was delivered to Dean’s office Wednesday afternoon. It asked the mayor to appoint a “study and formulating committee” to “consider the provision of domestic partner benefits for Metro employees and to make the appropriate recommendations to the Metropolitan Employee Benefit Board.” (read more)

To see who signed the letter follow this link. Some of the signatures are not decipherable, but among those who signed, who we may sometimes think of as conservative members of the council, are Democrat Tim Garrett and Republican Davette Blalock.

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Friday, October 04, 2013

Franklin Special School District makes substitute teachers "29'ers."

The below article reports that the Franklin Special School District has began limiting substitute teachers to working four days a week to avoid paying for health care for them.  If they did not make this move, paying health care for substitute teachers could add $1 million to District expenses. The article goes on to quote a teacher who says she has her insurance through her husband's plan and doesn't want the School District to provide her with insurance, she just wants to work full time. She says most of the substitute teachers are in the same boat, they have insurance yet they will be restricted to working less than 30 hours a week.

This is being called one of the "unintended" consequences of ObamaCare and perhaps it is, but it is not and "unexpected" consequence. Critics of ObamaCare have been warning that it would create many "29'ers" and "49'ers."  Twenty-niners are those who are not allowed to work thirty hours a week. It is predicted that many companies will change their work week to less than 30 hours a week to avoid the requirement that they offer their employees health care. This will hit hardest those people in low paying jobs already. With their hours cut, more people will be forced into poverty. "Job sharing" in the fast food industry may become the norm, where a person works 20 hours a week for say, a Taco Bell and another 20 hours for a McDonald's. The fast food industry may help facilitate the job sharing system. The forty-hour work week may no longer be the norm.

Forty-niners are those employers who will be sure they do not have more than 49 full time equivalent employees on the payroll to avoid coming under the provisions of providing health insurance or paying a penalty. Companies will be in a position of earning more profit being smaller. This will kill jobs.  Some small companies will cap their growth and number of employees. Other companies will terminate employees and have services that were performed by employees performed by contractors. A lot of employees in construction, sales, janitorial, and many other fields may become self-employed contract workers, doing the same job but getting a 1099 rather than a w-2.

Most likely this story about the Franklin School District will become so common it will soon no longer be news.

Health care law may cause TN substitute teachers to lose work hours

The Tennessean, by Maria Giordano, Oct. 3, 2013- With the launch of the Affordable Care Act nationwide, substitute teachers are among those apparently suffering “unintended consequences” of the law meant to extend health benefits to millions of people without any form of insurance.

Beginning Tuesday, the Franklin Special School District began limiting substitute teachers to working four days a week to avoid paying for health care that could strain the small district’s budget.

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Vote in BizJournal one question survey about the Amp.

The BizJournal has posted a one question survey about the Amp.  Please click on this link (below), chose an answer, and click the "Submit" button. It is quick and easy. Please forward to friends you know.

At the time I am posting this, 674 votes have been cast and 60%  are in favor.
Business Pulse - Polls and Surveys   On board with The Amp?  Do you support Mayor Karl Dean's plans for The Amp, a $174 million bus rapid-transit system? Explain your vote by sounding off in our comments section.  Select one answer: Yes / No / Undecided.

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

MLK Magnet issue is example of the "old school" way of thinking about Public Ed.

From Lipstick on a Pig, Posted: Oct. 1, 2013

If you've been following the Edu-news in Nashville over the past two weeks, MNPS proposed that they eliminate grades 7 & 8 of MLK, a 7-12 school, infuriating a number of Nashville parents.

MLK is a magnet school, top 100 high schools in the country, and is known as one of the top public schools in Nashville.  MLK routinely sees many more applications than available seats in a given year (read, parental demand is high).

The MNPS proposal of cutting off 7th & 8th grade would have eliminated roughly 400 high quality seats.

MLK is fed by Head and Rose Park as pathway schools, and a fewer number of students would be able to get in via the county wide lottery as more students qualify academically from these pathway schools, so the problem was explained.

(MNPS didn't ever seem to consider the shift to the PARCC assessment from TCAP coming soon, and how that would likely lower the number of students qualifying via the pathway route, but that's another matter).

Recently, MNPS announced they would reverse course, in part because of "parental pressure." The "new" plan (crafted over a few days time it appears) calls for the addition of 10 classrooms for $3 million in new capital expenditures.

I think the MLK example we've just seen is the perfect example of the "old school" way of thinking about public education.

The old school way of thinking prioritizes the inputs to schooling first, buildings, teacher/staff ratios, number of textbooks, etc. without thinking about the ideal outcomes FIRST (a high quality seat for every public school student), and then coming up with a way to get there.

School buildings exist to serve students; limiting the number of students who can receive a high quality education because of the size of a building is not the way to be thinking about and allocating scarce resources.

The MLK building was getting crowded, yes. But parents in Nashville clearly demand the high quality level of education at to me, the logical question should first be "how do we get more of these high quality seats for Nashville students?"

If I were superintendent, I'd push to create an MLK Middle School Campus at the Vaught building off White Bridge Road near Charlotte Pike, and eliminate the Big Picture high school program that's currently housed there.  Big Picture only enrolls 182 students, uses roughly half of the facility, and is a very high cost per pupil program.  Big Picture HS is not a very strong academic program.  In sum, it's a high cost, low return on public investment school.

If people want to complain that Big Picture offers high school students a different experience, my response would be that there are now plenty of high school Academy options for those 182 students.

Creating an MLK middle school campus would also help you avoid spending $3 million dollars based on some very quick planning for the current MLK campus, and also be faced with the lengthy time and process it takes to construct those 10 classrooms. The Vaught building is already in good shape, having been recently remodeled.

Net, this proposal gets more high quality seats for the district (more capacity with the MLK 7-12 program, just on two campuses),  and eliminates some low performing, high cost seats.

So why doesn't MNPS take a demand responsive approach to public education and maximizing seat quality? i.e. that they actually listened to "parental pressure" - all the time - and parental pressure that comes from low-income as well as middle income parents.

There's a clear parallel with this "old school" way of thinking in the district's moratorium efforts on public charter schools, who as a whole are serving Nashville public students, mainly low-income, quite well.  The charter governance type also gives the school board a cleaner way to eliminate low performing seats. If a charter isn't living up to it's agreement with the district, the district can, and should in the best interest of students, revoke the charter.

While charter models have their benefits, they certainly aren't the silver bullet and won't provide the scale needed to provide every student in Nashville a high quality seat.

At the end day, I don't care if it's a magnet seat, charter seat or district seat.  I'm a zealot for public education and making sure every student gets a great education. I think we ought to be maximizing a scarce set of resources to do that.

That means creating more high quality seats, and getting rid of our low quality seats.

Lipstick on a Pig is an insightful local blog focusing on education issues. I highly recommend this site. Rod

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Will you help plan Nashville's next 25 years?

Saturday, Oct. 12
9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

With the skyline and the Cumberland River as our backdrop, community members will create maps of Nashville's potential future using thousands of NashvilleNext comments as guidelines.
This event is open to the public, but space is limited, so we ask that you let us know you're coming and indicate a time you would like to participate. The exercise takes about 90 minutes and is our biggest step yet toward creating a plan that reflects Nashvillians’ vision for our future. Join us!
Questions? Email or call (615) 862-NEXT (6398).

Free food | Free parking

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Republicans must go on the offensive over the "Obama shutdown."

The Government has shut down and as of yet most people would hardly notice. If you work for the Government and are non-essential this is a disruption in your routine but more than likely what is really happening is you are getting a paid vacation. When the government does reopen, those who had to take time off will most likely be paid for it.

Someone near and dear to me is a seasonal government worker for the National Parks Service so she probably really will lose income, but in the overall scheme of things, there are few people in that situation. So unless you work for the federal government as a seasonal or temporary worker, about the only people who are impacted by this are those who had planned a vacation to a National Park or those who need a passport. Not many people are being inconvenienced. If it goes on for weeks however, more and more people will be inconvenienced.

 In my view this is clearly the "Obama shutdown." He refused to negotiate. Some compromise could have been reached that allowed both sides to claim victory and kept the government running. Republicans would have probably settled for a repeal of the medical devises tax and a three month delay. They would have settled for almost anything that let them save face. The reason I think the President and Democrats in Congress refused to negotiate is because they see the Republicans loosing support of the American people over this. They think Republicans will get the blame and lose at the polls in 2014. They may be right. While in full agreement with the objective of the House Republicans, I have doubted the wisdom of the strategy. It may have been a better strategy to not take this stand and concentrate instead on taking the Senate in 2014 and then working on repealing and replacing Obamacare. I never did see how this effort to defund Obamacare could work.

So, what to do now? Republicans need to go on the offensive and label the shutdown the "Obama Shutdown." Polls are showing Americans are blaming Republicans. The liberal media and entertainers will do the Democrats heavy lifting for them in labeling it the Republican shutdown. Republicans need to fight back. Polls and opinions can be changed. Republicans need to get on the same page. Some are calling it the "Obama shutdown," some calling it the "Harry Reid shutdown," and some, the "Democrat shutdown." Republicans need to agree on the name for it. I thing it should be the "Obama shutdown." Every time a Republican talks about the shutdown, he should call it the "Obama shutdown."

Republicans need to immediately start spending massive amounts of money on TV, radio, newspaper, and billboards, lamented the "Obama shutdown." The tea party, the think tanks, the Republican Party apparatus, and the conservative advocacy groups needs to launch a social media campaign to label this shut down the "Obama shutdown." Time's a wasting. The result of who gets the blame for the shutdown could determine who wins the 2014 election and the prospects for repeal and replace of Obamacare.

Below is how the left is hard at work to label this the "Republican shut down."

Dear MoveOn member,

For the first time in 17 years, our government is shut down. As a result, 800,000 federal employees are out of work, nearly 9 million mothers and children could soon be denied nutrition assistance, most workers helping rebuild Colorado after last months floods may be eliminated, and hundreds of national parks and monuments are closed to the public.1

The human cost of the government shutdown is why we're organizing protests across the country this Friday. We need to tell tea party Republicans: Tea Time is Over: End the #GOPShutdown. We'll gather at GOP offices to demand that they vote to reopen our government. We'll also be rallying at Democratic offices because we need them to stay strong in the face of Republican extremism. Can you host a "Tea Time is Over: End the #GOPShutdown" Protest on Friday, October 4?

Yes, I can plan a "Tea Time is Over: End the #GOPShutdown" Protest in Nashville! Leading an event like this is really easy to do—we'll gather together, share stories of how the shutdown is affecting each of us and our country, and protest tea party Republicans for their failure to serve the people. All you need to do is locate your representative's office, invite friends to join you for the protest, and tell the local media about it. We'll help you recruit other MoveOn members to attend and give you all the support and guidance you'll need.

Speaker John Boehner has the power to put and end to this shutdown. He can call for an up-or-down vote on the "clean" spending bill the Senate passed and give democracy a chance to work.2

Together, MoveOn members can hold the GOP accountable for sabotaging our economy and trying to subvert our democracy—and get Democrats to keep standing strong. This reckless Republican behavior puts the country in serious economic danger, and we won't stand for it anymore.

If we can continue to shine the light on the tea party's destructive behavior, then we can force the rest of the GOP to abandon partisan politics and work to end the shutdown. It's on us to let every Republican's constituents know their representative is putting a personal agenda ahead of the needs and wants of the people while hurting our economy and middle class families. Can you step up and lead a "Tea Time is Over: End the #GOPShutdown" Protest in Nashville?

Yes! Sign me up to lead a "Tea Time is Over: End the #GOPShutdown" Protest.

Thanks for all you do.

–Mark, Stefanie, Maria, Alejandro, and the rest of the team.

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What happened at the Metro Council Tuesday October 2nd.

Advertising to be allowed in Metro parks 

The Tennessean, by Michael Cass, Oct. 2, 2013 - Metro’s parks will be able to accept sponsorships from businesses and other organizations — and the advertisements those groups will want to erect — under legislation the Metro Council approved Tuesday.

With a 30-3 vote, the council gave final approval to a plan to let the parks board adopt rules and regulations allowing for sponsorships of parks and their programs, events, projects and facilities. Any agreements worth more than $25,000 would require separate council approval.(Read the rest of this to see how Bellevue Councilman Bo Mitchell tried to sabotage this common sense bill.)

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A summary of the Senate Education Commitee hearings on Common Core

On September 19 and September 20, the State Senate Education committee held two days of public hearings on Common Core. I did not have the time to set through ten hours of video of common core hearings and had no desire to do so, but I posted the links to the videos of the hearings and invited anyone who could watch it and notate where in the video the best parts where to do so, and I said I would post their work.

Thanks to Eric Holcombe who blogs at Blount County Public Record for doing a bang-up job of  doing two write-ups on the hearings and notifying me of his post.  He did one post on who the lead speakers are in opposition to common core and one post on the proponents of Common Core.  He tells you who each of the speakers are and their credentials and associations and he summarized their testimony. You still have to skim the hearing to find the proponents but with his summary you know who you are looking for. For the opponents he list the time stamp, making it real easy to go to that point in the video and watch that testimony.

Be aware that  Eric has a bias opposed to Common Core. Nevertheless, his post on these hearings are informative and he make the hearings much more accessible.

To watch the Senate Education Committee hearings, follow the following links:
The September 19th hearing is a review of the standards and gets quit boring.
The September 20th hearing is where all of the guest experts address the committee.

To view Eric Holcombe's post featuring the proponents, follow this link, "Common Core is bought and paid for."
To view Eric Holcombe's post featuring the opponents, follow this link, "The Common Core Opponents at the 'fact-finding' hearing."

Senator Gresham needs to be commended for setting the tone of the hearing by making it clear that she would not tolerate cheering or booing or emotional outburst. This hearings were dignified and informative and serious. If you watch these hearing you will have a balanced view of the primary arguments of  both sides. While some conspiracy theory nuts have jumped on the opposition band wagon, there are responsible people with legitimate concerns about Common Core. While I still think that Common Core is a positive step forward to improve education and think that the status quo in education is not acceptable, the opponents have legitimate concerns.  There are good people on both sides of the issue.

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The Government shut down last night.....

..the sun still came up this morning.

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The Council Budget and Finance Committee meetng of Monday Sept.30th

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Monday, September 30, 2013

A "Beat Lamar" insider's anonymous report on the disarray in the beat Lamar movement

Dear Rod,

I enjoy reading your blog regularly, and wanted to inform the public of what happened in the Coalition for a Constitutional Senate meeting last night. I apologize I have to keep my identity concealed, but as a faithful member of one of the tea parties and and as one who considers Joe a friend, I hope to do no harm to the movement, but am very worried this process is destroying both the movement and our ability to defeat Sen. Alexander.

At the beginning of the day, only 27 of the 63 groups in the coalition even showed up. Three groups left before the final voting commenced. Joe only received 59% of the vote on first ballot. Four other groups abstained (including Campaign for Liberty). And, of the 20 remaining groups sympathetic to Joe (out of 60+!) who participated in the final ballot, he could not even get a unanimous vote. Some groups are going home to our members to discuss formally withdrawing from the coalition.

The reason that the majority of the tea party groups did not show up, that seven left/abstained, and that several others are going back home to discuss withdrawing is because Beat Lamar is an absolute joke and has split the conservative movement much more than united and its leaders have tried to force Joe on everyone, including most who believe Joe is not our candidate. The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of us realize Joe cannot win. His latest embarrassment with the plagiarism can be forgiven by many, but to most of us, it shows he does not have what it takes to defeat the powerful lion of the Tennessee Republican machine. The bigger issue is Joe has not and will not win the support of national conservative groups (like Senate Conservatives Fund and Madison Project, who've said in recent newspaper reports that they will not support him), without whose money, network, and aid, we simply cannot win.

The fact of the matter is we are still looking for our candidate, with or without Beat Lamar. We believe we can still defeat Lamar, united, but that requires the right candidate and a fair process. It's not over, and Beat Lamar does not speak for us. We will start anew, and we will find our guy (or gal).

Thanks for your consideration,

A patriot in Tennessee

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bob Corker on the Continuing Resolution and the effort to stop Obamacare

From Senator Bob Corker:

I wanted to take the opportunity to share my position during what has been a confusing debate on the Senate floor over the last few days.  I am concerned about the negative effects the President’s health care reform law is having on our state, our country, and future generations. I have continued to oppose Obamacare at every turn, including efforts to repeal and defund it.

Today, I voted in support of advancing the House continuing resolution that would permanently defund Obamacare while funding the federal government. After the defunding provision in the bill was struck by an amendment that I opposed, I voted against passage of the amended bill. The bill, nonetheless, passed the Senate with only Democratic votes, and now moves back to the House. In the House, Republicans have the majority and can make other good policy changes that continue the fight against Obamacare. I hope the House can send something back to the Senate that will pass both chambers.

Some have suggested that it would be better to shut down the government rather than accept a bill that lacks the Obamacare defunding provision. But this would be self-defeating: a shutdown would not prevent Obamacare’s implementation because the funding for it is almost entirely mandatory, meaning that it occurs regardless of a shutdown. This tactic would only divert attention from the cascading reports of the very real consequences of the law for individuals, families and American businesses.

This doesn’t mean we say "game over." It means we work toward actual solutions that have a possibility of becoming a reality. I look forward to the Senate taking up the bill again after the House improves it.

Comment: Since the above, the House has passed an amendment to the CR that delays ObamaCare for one year. The Senate will take that up on Monday. Harry Reid says it is DOA and President Obama has said he will veto it if it passes. Obama has said he will not compromise. In my view, Republican Senators should hold firm anyway. If my understanding of what happens next is correct, should Democrats prevail in the Senate and refuse to pass the House version, the two versions would then go to conference committee. I would urge more compromise on the part of the House, should that occur, maybe a CR of only 6 months and a 6 month delay of Obamacare should be proposed.

If the Democrats and Obama will not accept any compromise, then reluctantly we should let them shut down the government. Republicans will likely get the blame. They should immediately start calling the shutdown the "Obama Shutdown," and engage in a massive PR and advertising campaign to label the shutdown as such. We should see TV ads and billboards lamenting the "Obama Shutdown." In every interview, Republicans should regret the "Obama Shutdown." We should spend millions to get out the message. We should make this backfire on the Democrats. Republicans should not let liberal elites and media control the labeling of the shutdown. Republicans should be prepared to do massive labeling and damage control.

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Update from Marsha Blackburn on Continuing Resolution to defund Obamacare

From Marsha Blackburn:

As many of you know, the House is in a rare Saturday session today to take up the Continuing Resolution the Senate sent yesterday. The Senate’s version stripped the Obamacare defunding clause and only funds the government for two months. The House will vote to add two amendments to the Senate-passed continuing resolution and funds the government through December 15. I’m headed to the floor to offer the first amendment- my legislation, HR 2809, to delay Obamacare for one year. The second repeals Obamacare’s job-killing medical device tax. From here, the CR will go back to the Senate.
I went to the Floor this morning to speak on the Obamacare delay as well as restoring fiscal responsibility. I’m against shutting down the government and I think President Obama and the Democratic-led Senate should negotiate reasonably and prudently on the Continuing Resolution, the delay of Obamacare, and the repeal of the medical device tax.
Screaming for compromise doesn’t work; you have to actually be willing to come to the table and negotiate. My colleagues and I have extended an offer to negotiate to President Obama and that offer has been refused. We are quickly working, it seems in a vacuum, to avoid a government shutdown. The House has done its job and will send a good bill to the Senate. It’s up to the Senate to pass it and avoid shutting down the government.
While in session today, we will pass the Drug Quality and Security Act. Many of you may remember when 16 lives were lost last year in Tennessee due to a meningitis outbreak. Those cases stemmed from contaminated compounded drugs and this bipartisan legislation would ensure necessary steps are taken to prevent a tragic outbreak from happening again.
Saturdays are busy times. I remember the Saturdays when my children were little! So please know how much I appreciate you taking the time to keep updated with your Congress. Follow Facebook and Twitter as I’ll be posting throughout the weekend.
My Best,
A programming note: I’ll be joining Face the Nation tomorrow morning at 9:30 Central on CBS. I hope you can tune in or set the DVR. Also, wanted to share with you last night’s segment on Hannity.

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