Obama’s visit reinforces need to expand health care
published June 30, 2015
Originally published in the Tennessean
The President of the United States will be in Tennessee today discussing ongoing efforts to make health care more affordable. We welcome him to Nashville, knowing that for all the Republican rhetoric, the facts show the Affordable Care Act is working for Tennessee. My GOP friends may not like this fact, but it is time to move beyond the campaign rhetoric and govern like adults.
The facts are these: there are 231,440 Tennesseans who today have access to health care coverage because of the ACA. These plans are comprehensive and affordable. 82 percent of enrollees get an average tax credit of $213 per month to buy a private health plan. As more people enroll, the Tennessee Marketplace is becoming more competitive and, therefore, more affordable for regular families. In 2015, Tennesseans had 23 new plans from which to choose for a total of 71 options on the exchange. This market-based competition means that more than 60 percent of Tennesseans can obtain coverage for less than $100 per month.
The ACA hasn’t just extended coverage to more Tennesseans; it has made sure all of us get the most from our health care plans. Young people can stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. People with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions can no longer be refused treatment because they reach a lifetime benefit cap. By the same token, insurance companies cannot refuse to provide a plan because of pre-existing conditions or raise premiums more than 10 percent without a waiver. In Tennessee alone these provisions mean that over two-million people go to bed at night knowing when they need their health insurance most, it will be available.
Our senior citizens are also benefiting from the ACA. The so-called Medicare ‘doughnut hole’ is being phased out. To date this has saved seniors over $300 million on prescription drugs. Other cost-saving measures meant the average beneficiary received over $800 in Medicare savings last year alone.
This is to say nothing of the positive economic impact we continue to see. Health care spending is increasing at its lowest rate since 1960. Inflation in the health sector is at levels not seen since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. Last year, thanks to the ACA’s 80/20 rule that keeps your hard earned money from being spent on corporate overhead, 336,000 Tennesseans received a rebate from their health insurance provider. This meant an additional $10 million dollars pumped into local economies across the state.
The facts show that despite apocalyptic predictions, the ACA is working for regular people—but we still have work to do in Tennessee.
For the last 547 days, some legislators refused to pass Republican Governor Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan. This has left 300,000 regular Tennesseans in the coverage gap with no access to quality, affordable health care. The damage being done to our economy is evident. Rural hospitals are shutting their doors and the Republican Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, Randy Boyd, speaks often about how these closures will make bringing jobs to Tennessee more difficult.
At St. Thomas Midtown earlier this week, Republicans like State Senator Richard Briggs joined Democrats, clergy and community leaders to ask this General Assembly to pass Insure Tennessee. I have called for a special session, but I realize we must first see action from House and Senate leadership. Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey are accomplished legislators who, I believe, can provide the votes necessary to pass Governor Haslam’s plan. It is my hope that both individuals will step forward to support the Governor with their votes and their influence.
I hope this presidential visit reminds us of the incredible progress we’ve made and spurs us to action for the 300,000 Tennesseans waiting on Insure Tennessee. Again, on behalf of our state, I welcome the President, as I will always welcome him when such an honor is bestowed on our state.
Press Release: Fitzhugh Statement on Huffman Departure
published November 14, 2014
Nashville, TN: House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) released the following statement on the impending departure of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman:
“In 2010 Democrats and Republicans passed Race to the Top. We had buy-in from teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders setting us on a path for real improvements in public education. While the hard work of our teachers has certainly produced some positive results, these outcomes would be much greater without the culture of hostility and mistrust created by the Department of Education.
Now we need to reset the conversation. Tennessee will never see real, lasting change until we stop blaming teachers and start addressing root problems. Our schools are underfunded, our teachers are underpaid and we aren’t talking about poverty and parental involvement–two key factors in student improvement. Our hope is that Governor Haslam’s new Commissioner of Education understands these issues and shares our commitment to addressing them going forward.
House Democrats stand ready to work with Governor Haslam, his new appointee and all those who value public education. Though we often disagreed, we thank Commissioner Huffman for his service and wish him the best as he returns to the private sector.”
Fitzhugh Veterans Day Remarks
published November 11, 2014
Remarks delivered by Rep. Craig Fitzhugh at the Brownsville Veterans Day Program 11/11/14 11:00am
I want to first thank Mayor Bill Rawls & VFW Post 4838, the Malcom C. Wright Post for putting on this event and inviting me here today.
Veteran’s Day is such a special time for our country. Originally in 1938 Congress designated November 11th “Armistice Day”: a time to remember the sacrifices of our brave men and women in World War One. Fifteen years later, while the world was still recovering from another World War, Congress changed the name to Veteran’s Day.
This day is not to be confused with Memorial Day. On that day we come together as a nation to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. On this day, Veteran’s Day, we honor all our brave men & women. Whether they died in battle, passed before us, are missing in action or still honor us with their presence here today—this is our time as a nation to express our great appreciation for their sacrifice made on our behalf.
Outside of my family, the thing I’m most proud of in life is being a veteran. Now unlike most of you, I’m one of the 132,000 Tennessee vets who served during peacetime. To be precise, I flew a desk for four years in the JAG Corp, before serving another eight years in the reserve. I entered as a Captain, I retired as a Major and even though I didn’t see combat like most of you, I’m proud to have worn my country’s uniform. Serving in the Air Force taught me valuable life lessons like respect for authority, the importance of preparation, the value of brotherhood and, most importantly, a deep & abiding love for my country.
Our state enjoys a special connection to veterans. In almost every war, throughout the history of this great country, Tennesseans have answered the call to service in record numbers. Even now we have some 506,000 veterans living in Tennessee: 166,000 from the Gulf War; 168,000 from Vietnam; 39,000 from Korea; 17,000—including my Father—from World War Two and the many men & women who have served and continue to serve in the Middle-East, whose numbers will only be known as the years pass. From the War of 1812 to the current conflicts in the Middle-East, we Tennesseans have earned our title as the ‘volunteer state.’
As encouraged as I am to see Tennesseans still volunteering to serve in record numbers, I’m equally disturbed by the statistics we see nationwide. After 13 long years of war, our brave men & women, many of them no older than my own children, bear the scars of battle. 684,000 veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that’s double the rate we saw in 2009. 12 percent of the chronically homeless population once wore their country’s uniform. While overall unemployment has dropped below 6 percent, veterans from the Gulf War, Iraq & Afghanistan have a rate of 7.2 percent.
The men & women coming home today have seen horror most of us could never imagine. IED’s, suicide bombers and urban combat have changed the landscape of battle. We no longer fight countries; we fight radical splinter groups with agendas as dangerous as Hitler’s and technology as advanced as Bill Gates. It’s a new world for today’s soldier and we as a country have not modernized our system of veteran’s care to meet the needs of today.
In Washington, as well as in Nashville, we hear talk about budget deficits, spending cuts and sequesters. What we don’t hear enough talk about is the responsibility government has to our veterans. Less than 1 percent of this country serves in the armed forces. This means that our veterans have volunteered, throughout history, to do what 99 percent of the population did not. As a nation, as a state we owe it to them to provide whatever they need to reintegrate into civilian life. For each veteran, that looks different. For some it’s about grants to go to college or technical school, for others it’s about low-interest home and business loans. For far too many, it’s about health care—especially mental health care. No one wants these men and women to be prisoners of their own experience; we want them to live happy, healthy productive lives and that requires investment.
Our veterans have invested in this country, not with money, but with their blood, sweat and tears. We as a nation would be morally comprised if we did not return that favor. I think it is my most solemn vow as a legislator to take care of those who have taken care of this country.
As I close today, I am uplifted. We know that Tennessee’s men & women are still volunteering in record numbers. We know that while our veterans face many issues, there is no group more organized, more respected or more effective at advocating change than those who served in uniform. The spirit of service I see here today and with veterans as I travel across Tennessee tells me that our best days are ahead of us. That despite the challenges we face, the same men & women who volunteered to serve will volunteer again to make things right for a new generation of soldiers. I want each of you to know that my office is always available to you. Whether you live in district 82 or not, you can call anytime and if we can’t help you, we’ll find someone who can.
Thank you for your service, whether you served yourself or are here to honor those you know who served in times past. Thank you & God bless our great country.
Fitzhugh Letter Supporting Pre-K for Memphis & Nashville
published October 22, 2014
Submitted on 22 October 2014
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave., SW., Room 3E344
Washington, DC 20202-6200
Dear Ms. Marek,
I want to take this opportunity to express my strong support for the City of Memphis and the City of Nashville’s application for early learning funds under President Obama’s Pre-School for All Initiative. While it was certainly my hope that these funds be made available to all school districts, I believe this application is a very important starting point for Tennessee and should be approved as soon as possible.
Each year our teachers face the harsh reality that, on average, students starting Kindergarten are a year to 18 months behind. This large of a gap can’t be closed in just a year, so some students remain behind widening the student success gap—many times along economic and racial lines. Fortunately, we now have the opportunity to address this gap in two of our most underserved communities.
Over four decades, 123 studies have shown that an investment in early learning can close the achievement gap by as much as one-third. The Perry Pre-School Project showed consistently higher GPAs for students who attended pre-school verses those who did not have the same opportunity. We know that this investment can mean lower juvenile crime rates, reduced teen pregnancy rates and improved high school graduation rates, all of which are so important to the Memphis and Nashville communities.
While I have expressed some public disappointment with the decision not to include other schools systems, I am unequivocally supportive of the states’ current application. These dollars will provide innumerable benefits to our largest school systems. I am certain that the positive results achieved with these dollars in Nashville and Memphis will serve as an impetus to expand early learning opportunities in all 95 counties. I strongly urge you to approve the State of Tennessee’s application as soon as possible.
House Democratic Leader
Crockett County Fish Fry & Campaign Rally
published October 12, 2014
Thursday, October 16th, 5:00pm-7:00pm
Alamo National Guard Armory
778 Hwy 54, Alamo
Please join us for free food, fun and fellowship. The Carl Perkins Center will be on hand to accept donations for their annual Ladies Night Out, which starts immediately following the fish fry.
Brownsville BBQ & Campaign Rally
published October 6, 2014
Tuesday, October 7th, 5:00pm-7:00pm
Woodmen of the World Building (Across from Walgreen’s)
1113 East Main St, Brownsville
Please join us for food, fun & fellowship as we prepare for the November election!
Op-Ed: Governor’s Letter Insulting to Teachers
published September 15, 2014
Originally published in the Tennessean on September 13, 2014
By Rep. Crai g Fitzhugh
A few weeks ago, Governor Bill Haslam sent a letter to Tennessee teachers lecturing them on the importance of new standards and laying the state of our work force at their feet.
Out of 66,000 teachers, 1,800 public schools and 137 districts, Governor Haslam met with just twelve small, tightly controlled groups of educators. From this very small sample, Governor Haslam had a major epiphany. He now believes that teachers aren’t really upset about new evaluations and other reforms, they simply don’t understand why they are necessary. Now, he seems to think it’s his job to explain it to them in a condescending, paternalistic letter.
Let me explain something very clearly to Governor Haslam: Tennessee’s teachers understand your reforms, they understand the what, how and why, but they don’t like what they see.
Tennessee teachers don’t need the Governor to explain to them that they are on the front lines dealing with poverty, broken homes, domestic violence and other social ills—they live it every day. Instead of explaining this to teachers, Governor Haslam should put forward a new evaluation system that takes these issues into account and evaluates educators fairly.
Tennessee teachers don’t need the Governor to explain to them that too many students are unprepared for a post-secondary education—they see it first-hand every morning. Instead of lecturing on the issue, Governor Haslam should give our teachers the tools they need to succeed, starting with the raise they were promised in 2014 and working to increase per pupil spending beyond our woeful $8,600 a child.
Tennessee teachers don’t need the Governor to explain to them that we need a better prepared workforce to compete for the jobs of tomorrow. These teachers don’t live in a vacuum; they see what’s happening in their communities as factories close and move overseas. They know better than most how important a quality education, both K-12 and post-secondary, is if our children are going to compete in a global market. Instead of blaming teachers, Governor Haslam should work with them to expand pre-kindergarten and other early learning opportunities.
Tennessee’s teachers are some of the brightest, best trained and most dedicated in the nation. They have managed to do more with less and perform remarkably in the face of unprecedented, mismanaged and misguided reforms. These men and women deserve better than a condescending letter from Governor Haslam explaining to them what they already know.
Instead of talking down to our teachers, instead of blaming them for the state of our workforce, we need a new conversation.
We need to talk about a new evaluation system that grades teachers on students they actually teach and rates their performance in a fair, objective manner. We need to talk about per pupil spending, teacher salaries and where our priorities are as a state. We need to talk about pre-kindergarten and the real effects of early learning.
And we need to talk to our teachers like the real, adult professionals they have proven themselves to be. They need more than a letter from the Governor, they need action now.
Craig Fitzhugh represents Crockett, Lauderadale & Haywood Counties in the House of Representatives. He is the House Minority Leader.
200 Days, $500,000,000: Still No Answers from Haslam
published July 22, 2014
200 Days, $500,000,000 lost and still no answer from Governor Haslam. We’ve heard enough excuses, #ExpandMedicaidNow.
Fitzhugh Endorses Jennifer Buck Wallace
published June 24, 2014
NASHVILLE – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) issued the following statement endorsing Jennifer Buck Wallace in the Democratic Primary for House District 51:
“It’s a great honor to endorse my friend, Jennifer Buck Wallace in the Democratic Primary for the 51st State House District.
As the House Democratic Leader, I’ve spent the last four years working with Jennifer to protect the men and women of the House Democratic Caucus.
On a personal level, I know Jennifer to be a person dedicated to the highest ideals of public service. She understands the need to focus on what’s really important: her district, jobs, education and people. That is the compass that will guide her and Nashville will be better for her service.
While she was Executive Director of the Tennessee Democratic Party, Jennifer and I were in constant contact coordinating a strong defense for House Democrats. Her efforts were especially fruitful in 2012, when all our incumbents were re-elected and Rep. Darren Jernigan won back an important Nashville seat. Jennifer was a huge organizing force for Democrats and these victories wouldn’t’ have been possible without her work.
We need more people like Jennifer in the State House.
While I have the utmost respect for the other Democratic Primary candidates in this race, I know Jennifer and I have seen her work to elect Democrats at all levels. We need her experience and her passion in the House of Representatives. I urge all Democrats in House District 51 to vote for and support Jennifer Buck Wallace for State Representative.”
Fitzhugh Endorses Odom in Democratic Primary
published June 20, 2014
NASHVILLE – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) issued the following statement endorsing State Representative Gary Odom in the Democratic Primary for House District 55:
“I’ve had the distinct honor to serve with Gary Odom since I came to the State House in 1994. He was and remains knowledgeable of every issue that comes before the General Assembly and is a passionate advocate for his district.
Gary and I also serve together on the powerful House Finance Ways & Means Committee–a coveted senior post that is an asset to the people of House District 55. From this position, I’ve seen Gary fight hard for Medicaid expansion, equal pay for women, universal pre-Kindergarten and local control of our public schools.
Outside of being a leader on many issues important to Democrats, Gary is dedicated to his district. He knows Nashville, he listens to his constituents and, most importantly, he fights and gets things done for his city. House District 55 needs Gary Odom in the State House now more than ever.
As the House Democratic Leader, I’m proud to support Gary Odom in the Democratic Primary for district 55. He’s a valuable friend and an asset to the General assembly. I urge all Democrats to vote for and support Gary Odom for State Representative.”