Sunday, April 29, 2012

The 20th Senatorial District candidates forum: Hall, Dickerson and Mortesen

Republican candidates for the Tennessee 20th Senatorial District took turns answering question put to them by the forum moderator Ben Cunningham at a candidate's forum this morning that took place at Swett's Cafeteria in Green Hills. The room was filled to capacity. Ben Cunningham, the moderator, is founder of the Tennessee Tax Revolt and a TEA party activist. The forum was sponsored by the Green Hills Breakfast Summit, a Republican breakfast group that regularly meets the forth Saturday of the month.

Ben Cunningham moderates
The forum began with opening statements from each of the candidates, then the candidates in turn answered questions put to them by the moderator. The questions were both questions originating with the moderator and questions submitted on cards from the audience. Following the questions, each candidate made a closing statements. The event lasted about an hour.

The candidates were Steve Dickerson, a physician who has previously ran for office running as the Republican candidate challenging Senator Douglas Henry in Senatorial District 21 in 2010; David Hall, a home improvement contractor who has previously ran against Joe Haynes seeking this same office and who last year ran as the Republican challenger against Jim Cooper in the 5th Congressional District; and Rob Mortesen, a Green Hills business executive who is seeking elective office for the first time.

As one would expected there was very little philosophical difference between the candidates. They all support lower taxes, favor less intrusive government, and say their religious faith would influence their actions as a legislator. Any one of the three would make a fine state senator. There were several minor differences, however and judging them on who is best qualified and who has a better grasp of the issues, I think Steve Dickerson was the most impressive of the three.

In their opening remarks, David Hall spoke in very general terms about why he wanted to serve. Rob Mortensen spoke about his philosophy of an elected official being both a servant and a leader. Dickerson laid out a specific list of legislative objectives.

On education, Dickerson said he supports school choice and would work for an extension of vouchers, charter schools and more accountability. On taxes he said he would support the elimination of the death tax and the gift tax, which the State Legislature began the process of phasing out this year. And, he said he would support the ending of the Hall income tax.

Steve Dickerson
On regulations, he said we have one hundred and eleven professions in Tennessee that require a licensing permit. This is much too much he said. We could scale that back by 20, 30, or 40% and still protect the public and provide clean air and clean water. Dickerson said, "Let us now turn to health care," at which time, the time keeper said, "30 seconds." Dickerson said he would have to skip health care for now. He said as a legislator he would not take per diem and said no one who can eat their dinner at home and sleep in their own bed should take the per diem provided law makers.

On Guns in cars in parking lots
On the question of the "guns in trunks" legislation, both Dickerson and Mortensen said the law as proposed this year was imperfect and they think it was proper that the proposed bill be deferred and a solution be found that would allow guns to be kept secured in a car and respect the property rights of employers.

Mortensen, I think, got too specific when he said that maybe gun owners could take their gun to work with them and then have a place where they could check there guns. I am sure business owners would not want the responsibility of maintaining a work place armory. However, this was an off the cuff remark offered as just one possible compromise.
David Hall

David Hall differed from the other two candidates in saying that while he recognized the conflict between 2nd Amendment rights and property rights, he nevertheless would have supported the bill that was before the legislator this year.

On drug testing of welfare recipients 
Both Dickerson and Mortensen said they support testing those who are suspected of being abusers but not a blanket testing of all welfare recipients. Dickerson said blanket testing does not work, catching few drug users and is costly, costing more than it saves and has 4th amendment problems. Dickerson drew laughs when he said he would support drug testing of State Legislators.

Hall took a much more hard line approach and said he supported testing of all applicants for welfare and then random testing thereafter.

On the election of judge
Both Dickerson and Mortensen said they support a constitutional change along the lines of what is proposed that would have judges appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the legislature and then stand for retention elections. Hall said he supports the election of judges.

On Agenda 21 and use of eminent domain
None of the three sounded like a John Birch Society paranoid nuts, and they spoke in general terms about protecting property rights and curtailing abuse of eminent domain. I was relieved they handled that question the way they did.

On TnCare reform
Rob Mortensen
Mortesen advocated improved efficiency but was short on specifics. David Hall said that we should not have a program such as TnCare at all, which resembles an insurance plan, but that we need a system like he recalls they used to have in Oklahoma. He says that when someone needs medical care, they should fill out an application and the state fund the assistance for that procedure or hospital stay but that the person does not have an ongoing health care plan. The next time they need health care they again apply for assistance.

Dr. Dickerson said he disagreed with David Hall. He said the indigent need a health care plan but that one of the major problems with TnCare is that recipients of TnCare have no cost associated with their consumption of health care so there is no decision making or reluctance to consume. He proposed a system of giving each TnCare recipients an allowance of $2000 a year for health care and if they did not use it all they got to keep what was left over. He said that while this may seem like a costly proposal that it would in fact save money.

He also said, one of the most costly aspects of TnCare is natal care cost due to infants who were born without adequate prenatal care. He said this cost could greatly be reduced if TnCare recipients would get prenatal care. He said he could support a program to pay women for getting prenatal care, perhaps paying them every time they kept a prenatal care appointment. Dr. Dickerson sounded like he was just getting started with more cost saving proposals when time was called.

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