Southwest Tennessee Community College

For Immediate Release

Date: February 20, 2009

For More Information: Brenda Rayner, (901) 333-4247


Tennessee Legislative Delegation Leaders Respond to Questions from Local University, College, and Technical Center Students

Leading members of the Tennessee House of Representatives - House Speaker Kent Williams, Democratic Leader Gary Odom, House Democratic Caucus Leader Mike Turner, and Representative G. A. Hardaway of Memphis District 92 attended a breakfast forum at Southwest Tennessee Community College's Union Avenue Campus on February 20 to answer questions from local college and university students. Students representing the UT Health Science Center, The University of Memphis, Southwest Tennessee Community College, LeMoyne-Owen College and the Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis asked the legislators questions regarding the 12-hour cap on full-time college enrollment status, the economic stimulus package, and healthcare, particularly affordable insurance for graduate students.

Lawrence Brown, a doctoral candidate from UT asked, considering that "Tennessee has been leading the nation in prescription drug utilization per capita," what priority will state government place on healthcare. Speaker Williams indicated that individuals should help shoulder the responsibility for their own healthcare by making healthy choices and through health education. "Healthcare, to me, is addressed just like the problems we have in our society with drug abuse and crime. We solve them with education. We solve it through educating our children and teaching them to eat healthier," Williams said.

House Leader Odom responded to Brown's questions on healthcare in terms of public policy. After addressing the complexities of funding the Medicaid program and the difficulties associated with the TennCare program, Odom stated, "But I think there is one thing I concluded; we need a national healthcare strategy. Healthcare is not a local issue in my opinion. It is not a state issue.... We need a healthcare strategy on the national level and I think we are going to have that under President Obama's leadership."

Southwest SGA President Tujuana Perkins asked if any of the money in the economic stimulus package would be used to fund higher education. Caucus Chair Mike Turner responded, "Actually, we don't know what all is in this package. We lost a half of a billion dollars yesterday. It is a moving target right now." Odom continued, "We had breakfast with the governor on Wednesday and he said he is not sure. We know we are going to get a lot for K-12. We know we are going to get a lot for higher education and healthcare. That's going to be in the package. How it breaks down, we don't really know."

Asked if he would do things differently now that he's aware of what's on the minds of these students, Speaker Williams said, "The questions we heard today are the questions I've heard for my two years in the legislature. We will just keep striving to answer those questions and to fill in those gaps that we are missing."

He added, "The one thing that we have to be very careful with, and we didn't talk about it today is the lottery funds. You hear a lot about excess lottery funds and people are questioning why we won't spend the reserves. We got a little extra money and everybody wants to get their hands on it. That's something that I will be keeping a close eye on." Speaker Williams went on to explain that the reserves are used to fund existing programs and if the reserves were spent, no room would be left for growth. Meaning, no new students could obtain lottery scholarships until current recipients left the program.

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Cutline: Pictured is Tujuana Perkins, Southwest SGA president in the forefront on the far right.

Cutline: State Legislators address questions from local college students. From left to right are Leader Gary Odom, Rep. G. A. Hardaway, Speaker Kent Williams, and Caucus Leader Mike Turner.