By Aja Wilson // Contributing Writer
The MTSU College Republicans hosted their inaugural “Ask Your Representatives” forum Wednesday evening in the BAS.
Students were able to ask our state legislators questions about education, health care, college students and their involvement in politics, the Tennessee legislation, as well as other subjects.
The senators and representatives who attended the forum were Senator Brian Kelsey of District 31, Senator Jim Tracy of District 41, Representative Mike Sparks of District 49 and Representative Bryan Terry of District 48. Murfreesboro attorney, Scott Kimberly, moderated the event. Live questions weren’t answered at the forum but instead were submitted on a public link created by the MTSU Republicans Club on Facebook. This gave students the ability to ask the senators and representatives their questions.
The forum opened with the subject of health care. One of the concerns that had been brought to the forefront was health care for veterans and the steps Tennessee should take in order to improve that care. Senator Tracy answered first by talking about the numerous veteran homes across the state of Tennessee, including a home in Murfreesboro. He believes there should be access to all forms of medical care for veterans.
Representative Terry said he thinks it would be beneficial for doctors to provide medical services to veterans in the community. Terry also discussed the admissions of the Tennessee Veteran’s Act he passed last year. This act involves health care providers traveling around the world to give care to military members who are on missions. It additionally allows Tennessee to provide health care to any uninsured veteran at Tennessee armories.
The forum then transitioned into a brief discussion on education, with its main focus on education reform in Tennessee. Senator Tracy shared his views on how state and local communities should control the education systems and work on the standards at the state level. Since schools have such low academic standards, their students are able to meet those but are not meeting the larger ones that are actually expected of them.
Tracy talked about getting more parents involved in their children’s education and having more students graduate and receive their high school diplomas.
Senator Kelsey spoke about the common sense principle with K-12 education. He said that if people were able to attend the schools they were interested in then there would be an improvement in those schools, as well.
“What if you all were forced to go here because you all lived in Rutherford County? What if you all were prohibited from going to MTSU because you didn’t grow up in Rutherford County? That would make this university a worse and less diverse place to study,” Kelsey said.
The forum went on to discuss college students’ issues, Tennessee politics and why students should care about state and local politics. The forum replied that there is more accessibility in state politics since the senators and representatives are local. This makes it easier for students to get involved in and be impacted by local issues in Tennessee.
The discussion turned to Tennessee politics, which led to the talk of drug use and the growth of our prison system. Both of these topics have become a serious issue in Tennessee.
“Our prison budget increased by $46 million three years ago. DUI arrests went up ninety-two percent,” Representative Sparks said. According to Sparks, it costs $25 million to house one inmate. He would like to see these inmates attend college and receive training for jobs.
The constitutional carrying issue was briefly discussed. This states that if law-abiding citizens can legally own a firearm then it is legal for them to carry one. It’s already a law in six states and has passed in three other legislatures. If and when it comes up for a vote in Tennessee, both representatives and Senator Tracy agreed they would vote for it.
The forum ended with the senators and representatives giving advice to students on becoming more involved in their government. They discussed their personal goals for legislation in Tennessee, which involved standing up for liberties and values, the second amendment and the new generation of children. They said they want to make the government as effective and efficient as possible. With the change in technology, Internet and communication are very important.
“Research for yourself. Don’t believe what you read on the Internet,” Senator Tracy said. “It is important that citizens stay involved and active in their government since they have the ability and power to do so.”
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