Friday, October 22, 2004
- by Sen. Lamar Alexander
As the 108th Congress comes to an end, I wanted you to see what I’ve been up to during my first two years as a United States Senator.
When I announced that I was running for office in March 2002, I said, “I’m running for the Senate with conservative principles and an independent attitude,” and I believe my time in office has reflected that. I also said that I wanted to be an ambassador from Tennessee to Washington and not the other way around. I am pleased that I was able to get back to Tennessee for more than 130 visits.
As chairman of Senate Subcommittees on Energy, Children and Families and African Affairs as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority Congressional Caucus, I held 21 hearings, some of which were in Tennessee.
I am also proud to report that 13 pieces of legislation I introduced have passed the Senate:
American History and Civics - creates summer residential academies for outstanding teachers and students of American history and civics.
High-performance computing - authorizes $165 million so the Oak Ridge National Laboratory can help the U.S. recapture the international lead in high-performance computing.
Alcoa Land Swap - renews Alcoa, Inc.’s hydroelectric licenses, protecting 2,000 Alcoa, Inc.’s jobs, makes 6,000 acres available to Great Smoky Mountain National Park and another 4,000 acres for outdoor recreation. President Bush signed this bill into law last week.
Internet Tax compromise - extends moratorium on state and local taxation of Internet access while preserving state and local governments’ long term ability to make budgeting decisions.
Head Start for military families - makes sure that extra combat pay does not make military families ineligible for Head Start and other federal benefits.
Children with disabilities (IDEA) - would allow parents of infants and toddlers more choices of how their children receive special education services.
Special Education teachers - gives states more flexibility and time to insure that special education teachers are qualified under No Child Left Behind legislation.
Community Services Block Grant/LIHEAP - helps 100,000 Tennesseans with job training, income management and emergency services and pays home heating and cooling bills for another 72,000 Tennesseans.
Preserves Oath of Allegiance - stops agencies from rewriting Oath of Allegiance for new citizens unless Congress approves.
Clean Air - provides tax credits for pollution control equipment for large industries.
Natural Gas Prices - requires Secretary of Energy to Report to Congress on natural gas supply and demand.
Congo Basin Forest Partnership - authorizes U.S. participation in a partnership to help preserve the central African rainforest across six countries in central Africa. It has been signed into law.
Homeland Security – allows private security companies to work with the FBI to conduct background checks of potential employees at no cost to taxpayers.
As we look toward the future, there are five pieces of major legislation that I have proposed which are helping shape debate and will be considered in the next Congress:
Pell Grants for Kids - gives K-8 students a $500 scholarship that follows them to the school or other accredited academic program of their parents’ choice.
Americans Outdoors - uses revenues from off shore oil and gas drilling on federal lands for wildlife conservation, city parks and Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Clean Air - moves farther, faster than President’s proposal to limit power plant emissions of sulfur, nitrogen, mercury and carbon, with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE).
American History - provides state-by-state comparisons of what 8th and 12th graders are learning about U.S. history through National Assessment of Education Progress tests.
Head Start - creates Centers of Excellence for Early Childhood Education and continues paying Head Start money directly to community groups rather than first to states.
There are also several bills that I have supported and helped to enact, including:
State sales tax deduction – allows 600,000 Tennesseans who itemize their federal income taxes can now deduct their state and local sales taxes. This will save each taxpayer an average of $470 each year;
Tobacco buyout - gets the federal government completely out of the tobacco business at no cost to the taxpayer. The government will buy out tobacco allotments from 70,000 Tennesseans, paying them $760 million over the next 10 years;
Sick Workers - to move claims processing from Department of Energy to Department of Labor to help Oak Ridge’s “Cold War Veterans.”
Military families - allows soldiers to fly directly home instead of to a U.S. city often far from their hometown, which speeds up the soldier’s homecoming and makes possible more time with family.
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act - provides grants to states to improve child protection systems and community-based family resource services.
Child Care and Development Block Grant Program – improves early learning opportunities and school preparedness.
Sudan Assistance – authorizes $300 million for humanitarian assistance to Sudan.
Other significant legislation I have supported includes:
TVA management - creates part-time board and a full time Chief Executive Officer to run TVA.
Funding for physical sciences – increases the Department of Energy's Office of Science funding from the current $3.3 billion to more than $6 billion per year within the next 5 years to sustain our nation's technical and scientific leadership.
Hydrogen Initiative – authorizes $1.3 billion for the President’s hydrogen initiative that will fund research and development of hydrogen engines, systems, automotive materials and fuels to make our air cleaner and our country less dependent on foreign oil.
Child Care funding – to increase child care funding $6 billion over five years as part of welfare reform reauthorization.
And I want to share with you some of the honors of which I am especially proud to have received during the past two years:
“Legislator of the Year” by the National Association of Counties.
Distinguished Congressional Award by the National League of Cities.
Kreible Freedom and Democracy Award from the Free Congress Foundation.
“Hero of the Taxpayer” by Americans for Tax Reform (twice).
“Best and Brightest” by American Conservative Union.
“Industry Champion Award” from Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (for efforts to help persuade President to end steel tariff).
Toast of the Town Award from the American Lung Association of Tennessee (for work on clean air).
“Friend of the Farm Bureau” by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“A Rating” from the National Rifle Association.
Guardian of Small Business Award from the National Federation of Independent Business.
Legislative Honor Roll for Economic Development from National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business.
True Blue Award from the Family Research Council.
2004 Small Business Advocate from Small Business Survival Committee.
Golden Gavel Award - first in his freshman class to receive the award from his Senate colleagues for presiding over the Senate for 100 hours.
I’ve enjoyed my work, and I hope I’ve made a contribution. Thank you for giving me the privilege of serving as your United States Senator.