(WASHINGTON, DC) On Thursday (10/31/2019) United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the spending package passed by the Senate is a step in the right direction toward funding important priorities for Tennessee ncluding funds for Great Smoky Mountains, farmers, and opioid crisis.
"The spending bill passed today includes important priorities for Tennesseans, such as supporting Tennessee farmers, providing funding to help our state tackle the opioid crisis and reducing the maintenance backlog in our 419 national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The next step is to conference our bills with the House of Representatives and send the bills to the president to become law," Alexander said. "Passing this funding package was a positive step in the right direction toward restoring a regular appropriations process. Boy Scouts shouldn't get a merit badge for telling the truth, and United States senators shouldn't get an award for passing appropriations bills. That is what we are supposed to do."
The fiscal year 2020 spending package passed today includes the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies funding bills.
On the FY2020 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Related Agencies funding bill, Alexander said:
"This bill is a win for Tennessee farmers because it funds the Farm Service Agency, Rural Development programs and agricultural research at Tennessee's universities," Alexander said. "This bill includes $64 million to help provide access to broadband for rural communities, which will help enhance educational opportunities and economic development in rural areas."
Alexander continued: "This bill also provides $3.15 billion for the FDA, which is responsible for implementing 21st Century Cures, working with Congress to bring safe and effective drugs to patients more quickly and for ensuring our nation's food supply is safe."
On the FY2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding bill, Alexander said:
"This bill provides $505 million for U.S. Department of Justice grants to help states including Tennessee tackle the opioid crisis. States could use these grants to help fund their drug courts, educational efforts, law enforcement programs, recovery programs, and treatment programs," Alexander said. "Our law enforcement officers witness almost daily the tragedy associated with the opioid crisis, which effects virtually every American community. This funding will help give them the support they need to keep our communities safe."
On the FY2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies funding bill, Alexander said:
"The funding bill approved today includes increased funding to reduce the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our nation's 419 national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park," Alexander said. "This funding will help restore the campgrounds, trails and roads in what Ken Burns calls 'America's best idea' - our national park system. This is a promising step in addressing the park maintenance backlog - and the next step is to pass the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation I introduced that would be the biggest help to our parks in a generation.
"This bill also includes over $25 million to fight invasive species, especially Asian carp, that are aggressively invading Tennessee waterways and threaten biodiversity, the economy and sporting from Memphis to Chattanooga."
On the FY2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies funding bill, Alexander said:
"Nearly half of the maintenance backlog in our national parks is in roads. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 80 percent of the park's maintenance backlog is roads. This bill takes an important step towards fixing some of those park roads by increasing funding for important road construction projects in our national parks," Alexander said. "This bill also provides critical funding for Tennessee projects and priorities - such as helping build roads and bridges, supporting housing needs and enhancing aviation safety at Jackson, Millington and Smyrna. Additionally, this bill includes funding for programs authorized in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act - legislation I sponsored and President Trump signed into law to help states and local communities fight the opioid crisis. This funding supports a pilot program for recovery housing that helps prevent relapse and sustain recovery for those with substance use disorders."