Spivey holds town hall meeting at Rec Center
By Karen Hall
Though the weather was bitterly cold, State Rep. Billy Spivey refused to cancel his town hall meeting at the Rec Center Tuesday night.
The legislative session starts next week, and Spivey was determined to talk with constituents, as well as introduce people to his new legislative assistant Scott Alan Buss.
"He works for all of you, just like I do," said Spivey. "He's a Marshall Countian with a wife and a new baby; he's a friend and a brother."
"I'm happy to help with anything," Buss assured the group. "I'm very thankful for the opportunity to go out of my way to help people."
Spivey began by talking about legislation he thinks will get the most attention from the media this year.
"Wine in grocery stores," he said. "That's one of the biggest topics on the news."
Spivey said he didn't have a problem with the sale of wine in grocery stores; what he did have a problem with was the effect such sales would have on the stores currently selling wine and liquor.
"It forces them to become competitive with the likes of Kroger and Walmart," he said, while the current law does not allow a liquor store to diversify into selling snacks, mixers, beer, or tobacco products.
"They've entered into obligations, like mortgage payments, based on a revenue stream from the sale of wine," Spivey said.
"Are you in favor of a phase-in system that would give them time to get into another business?" asked City Councilman Trigg Cathey.
"I did see one, but it didn't replace their revenue stream," answered Spivey.
"Are there any figures for comparison from other states?" asked City Manager Randall Dunn.
"It's hard to get a comparison," Spivey said. "Some were similar, but Tennessee has a very unique business model. There's been a lot of discussion."
There will also probably be a lot of discussion about Spivey's next topic: the expansion of Medicaid.
"I'm opposed," he said. "Tennessee would have to do it based on confidence that the federal government would do what they said they would do (pay their share of the additional cost). I'm reluctant to step out on that limb with the federal government holding the saw."
"Do you think everyone should have (health) insurance?" asked Lewisburg resident R.L. Williams.
"Yes, I do," Spivey said. "I don't know all the answers, but I can't commit to doing something I know is wrong. My obligation is to protect you and your tax dollars. There was a hybrid plan developed that may be more palatable."
Moving on to the next controversial topic, Spivey talked about the move to make pseudoephedrine a prescription medicine.
"You can't take it lightly -- giving up one of your freedoms," he said. "The value has to equal the sacrifice, and at this point it doesn't seem right to me. There have got to be some other alternatives.
"Tennessee already ranks high in prescription drug abuse," Spivey pointed out. "A prescription is not stopping the addiction to oxycodone. Law enforcement is exhausted messing with it."
Sheriff Norman Dalton noted that Franklin County and Winchester passed an ordinance to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, but said, "It's not working for them."
Moving on from health and medicine to education, Spivey said he and many other members of the House were looking to address the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
"I am not an advocate of Common Core," he said. "It's not the what (better education for all Tennessee children), it's the how."
Later Spivey cited the cost of administering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments, which is said to be nearly $20 per student, and the way one company has been entrusted with designing and supplying the assessments, thus also gaining the inside track on selling study materials to the schools.
On vouchers, he is more positive.
"I'm a voucher guy," Spivey said. "Conceptually I like it," though he admitted it doesn't have much impact in a rural district like this one.
"Expect two versions of a voucher bill," he warned listeners. "The governor's and the legislature's. I don't know how big a fight they're willing to pick this year."
Spivey went on to discuss the bills he intends to carry to the legislature this session -- for more about this look for an article in the Tribune on Wednesday, Jan. 15.