Local State House candidates respond to Chamber survey


The Chamber of Commerce Johnson City, Jonesborough, Washington County Board, with input from their Governmental Relations Council, is pleased to present the results of their recent survey from candidates for the Tennessee House of Representatives. Candidates for District 6 are: Brad Batt, Tim Hicks, and Micah Van Huss. Candidates for District 7 are: Rebecca Keefauver Alexander and Matthew Hill.

Early voting runs July 17th through August 1st, with Election Day on August 6th.  Candidates were asked to limit their answers to 50 words or less.  

If you are an incumbent seeking re-election, please list your three proudest accomplishments in office?
Alexander:  N/A
Batt:  N/A 
Hicks:  N/A 
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey” 
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey” 

Rebecca Keefauver Alexander

If you seek to replace the incumbent, please state your three main objectives for your first term.
Alexander:  We’ve got to rebuild our brand in Nashville, and that starts with our representation.   My three main issues areas are education, agriculture, and small business.  We need to pay our teachers better, expand agricultural education, and get government off the backs of small farmers and small businesses.
Batt:  Expand Medicaid, providing the state $1 Billion / year in much needed revenue. Ensure that we fully fund public schools, including giving teachers an actual raise.  Prioritize economic policy that helps families in Washington County, as almost half today cannot afford to pay their routine monthly bills.
Hicks:  First, I would gain respect and build relationships.  Second, get on good committees and get to know the Commissioners from Labor and Workforce Development and ECD.  Third, work to pair faith-based addiction recovery with pacesetting programs in vocational, agricultural, and technical education so Tennessee can lead nationally in workforce quality.
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”

Brad Batt

How will you collaborate with the Governor’s Office and his cabinet to ensure Washington County/Johnson City/Jonesborough receive their fair share of resources; infrastructure and economic development investments; dollars, technical assistance, etc.?
Alexander:  Ultimately it’s about building and maintaining relationships with key decision-makers based on credibility and respect.  “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.”  There are no shortcuts to listening, learning, researching, and preparing our case for projects like public water and rural broadband access that are worthy of Tennessee’s investment.
Batt:  I’d advocate for an economy that works for all Tennesseans—not just our major metropolitan areas. We need sound and strategic investments in education, health care, and our economy across the state. It’s time to put our “rainy day fund” to work. 
Hicks:  I would first prove that we need resources for the project.  Then I would show the economic impact it will have for our area.  Then I would go to work encouraging leadership that the hardworking people of Washington County/Johnson City deserve the project.  It’s all about relationships and respect. 
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey” 
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey” 

Tim Hicks

How do you address regionalism efforts while respecting district-specific needs?
Alexander:  Regionalism doesn’t mean that we wash out the distinctions of our individual districts.  This will require broad and active engagement from our county, city, and state officials as well as large and small businesses, farmers, and even educators.  Perhaps vocational, agricultural, and technical education efforts can be a focal point.
Batt:  Being a good neighbor is essential to regionalism efforts. We can prioritize district and county needs while still ensuring that our neighboring communities are thriving as well.
Hicks:  All of our communities have their strengths and weaknesses, and I will build relationships around the region with other legislators, but also local government officials, and most importantly, the business community.  Regionalism must be a bottom-up, inclusive effort.  It simply cannot succeed if it is imposed from the top-down.
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”

Matthew Hill

Do you support TennCare expansion use of telehealth services?
Alexander:  Yes.  The coronavirus crisis exposed many government regulations and restrictions that don’t make much sense.  Tele-health probably saved lives during the lockdowns by maintaining medical care while limiting exposure to the contagion.  It also lowers cost for both patients and providers, improves flexibility, and expands access, especially for rural patients.
Batt:  Absolutely. Telehealth will become more and more commonplace, allowing patients to receive critical medical assistance from their homes. This helps everyone, including our poorest households, to overcome travel logistics and costs.
Hicks:  Of course, yes, without a doubt.  Telemedicine lowers the risk of infection and rehospitalization and saves time and money, resulting in improved population health.  According to NCBI, “At least 38 percent of in-person visits, including 27 percent of emergency department visits, could be remotely delivered by qualified professionals through telemedicine.”
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”

Micah Van Huss

As the State looks at budget shortfalls, should the state use rainy day funds, federal stimulus grants, major budget cuts and/or some other funding streams to account for these shortfalls?
Alexander:  Reserve funds and budget cuts are exactly what most small businesses and families are having to do.  As we struggle to restart our economy, now is certainly no time for tax increases. There are no shortcuts to successful financial management and economic growth.
Batt:  We absolutely must put some of our approximately $1 Billion in “rainy day funds” to work for us. We need to make strategic investments today that will pay off down the road with increased household incomes, more tax revenue, and a higher qualify of life for all Tennesseans.
Hicks:  Tennessee has a bipartisan tradition of the state government doing some belt-tightening when families and businesses are having to do the same thing.  Governor Lee’s planned budget reductions and use of reserve funds is a responsible approach that will help Tennessee stay on the right track.
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”

What strategies do you propose or support to improve rural access to broadband and other communication modalities?
Alexander:  Coronavirus has highlighted the “digital divide” that leaves rural residents behind.  We have seen many programs targeting this, but we need a representative who will work with providers and regional partners and all levels of government to extend broadband by expanding existing efforts to close the gap. 
Batt:  We must treat the internet as the essential utility that it is. We need to ensure that our rural areas are prioritized and that everyone in our region has access to high-speed broadband internet. This helps our economy, public education, and health care. 
Hicks:  This will be a priority for me.  I understand this needs to be a collaborative involving county, city, state, and federal dollars.  I would not stop until we have broadband over the entire county.  Getting everybody connected could be a major first step toward regionalism. 
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to survey” 
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey” 

What vulnerabilities has the Covid-19 pandemic exposed and how should state government address them?
Alexander:  The coronavirus crisis endangered our food supply chains.  Even the smallest farmers often have to ship their livestock hundreds of miles to a federal facility just to sell it just a mile away.  Tennessee should oppose this unconstitutional federal overreach and let local farmers and grocers do commerce.
Batt:  COVID19 exacerbated an already-fragile economy with 40% of those making under $40,000 losing their jobs and others facing reductions in hours and pay. We should have immediately invested some of our “rainy day fund” to keep people and our economy afloat. The state’s response has been lacking and insufficient.
Hicks:  Our region’s health care system responded excellently and proactively addressed many vulnerabilities. The coronavirus crisis proves to me why government should be more local.  When something like this hits, it’s not one-size-fits-all.  Areas like ours could have kept the economy going better than bigger cities.
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”

What opportunities do you envision for improvement of access to healthcare in rural communities?
Alexander:  We can start by making Tele-health and scope-of-practice deregulation permanent.  They have saved time, money, and lives during the pandemic.  Also, I fully support reforming and minimizing the Certificate of Need process to allow greater competition to make healthcare services more accessible and more affordable.
Batt:  Rural hospitals are shutting down across Tennessee. Locally, we have a single, monopolistic provider. Neither of these benefits Tennesseans. We need to make investments in basic health care for all Tennesseans, including the straight-forward step of expanding Medicaid, bringing in $1BN/year in much needed health care revenue.
Hicks:  I would like to see cost-saving incentives from insurance companies for those that practice good health, and we need to overhaul the antiquated certificate of need system.  The Mercatus Center estimates Tennessee would have 25 more rural hospitals without CON laws.  Let’s get real on health care costs.
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”

How would you address our severe substance abuse problem?
Alexander:  Addiction is a medical, psychological, and spiritual issue, and government programs have failed to fix it.  As Governor Lee says, “We cannot incarcerate someone out of addiction.”  The state should focus on mental health and empowering churches and communities to give non-violent addicts a path back into the workforce.
Batt:  We must address substance abuse as the medical condition that it is, rather than as a criminal act. Instead of wasting money incarcerating addicts, we should make investments into programs that promote recovery and rehabilitation. We’ll not only save money, we’ll be saving lives.
Hicks:  Let’s start by getting government out of the addiction recovery system.  We the people can fix our greatest problems.  Faith-based recovery programs with job and life skills training and a path to a good job give folks in recovery real hope and a reason to keep going. 
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey” 
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey” 

Why are you seeking this office?
Alexander:  Growing up on a dairy farm, teaching in public schools, representing a Fortune 500 company in negotiations overseas, and helping run a small business have prepared me to provide real leadership that puts public service ahead of politics so Washington County’s star can shine even brighter.
Batt:  I think Tennessee deserves better. We deserve an economy that allows everyone to get ahead, access to health care, and educational opportunities for all.  I’ve run a small business for 20+ years. I’ve made a payroll. I understand how to listen to people and then get the job done.
Hicks:  After years running Hicks Construction, I’m running to give Washington County a Fresh Start in our representation.  That starts with a different attitude and approach to public service that’s based on hard work and common sense, not political grandstanding.
Hill:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”

How will you work with the Chamber on matters of importance to business and the community?
Alexander:  I will continue to be a member of the Chamber and will make myself available to anyone who wants to talk about any issue.  Every phone call will be returned.
Batt:  Locally, I’ve already been involved with organizations such as Startup Tri-Cities (now Founders Forge) hosting events such as pitch competitions and small business festivals. I’d enthusiastically work with the Chamber, as well as in Nashville, on any programs that helped businesses and workers in our region.
Hicks:  First I will be a member, and my door will always be open, but more importantly, I will actively seek to listen to our business community in Washington County and regionally.
Hill: “Did Not Respond to Survey”
Van Huss:  “Did Not Respond to Survey”


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