De­bate

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nesses to also use the E-Ver­ify sys­tem if it isn’t too bur­den­some on small busi­ness own­ers.

The two can­di­dates said they were in fa­vor of re­quir­ing that the Ten­nessee Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion in­ves­ti­gate all fa­tal po­lice shoot­ings.

Dean sup­ports, Lee un­cer­tain on med­i­cal mar­i­juana

While both can­di­dates said they were op­posed to the le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational mar­i­juana, Dean said he sup­ported med­i­cal cannabis be­ing made le­gal and would sign leg­is­la­tion that did so.

“If this will al­le­vi­ate pain, if this will help some­body re­lieve their suf­fer­ing, then the gov­ern­ment shouldn’t stand in the way of that,” Dean said.

Lee said he wasn’t con­vinced that le­gal­iz­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana is the right ap­proach.

“I think we’ve yet to fully search and fully uti­lize and fully re­search and ex­pand on the use of non­ad­dic­tive, low-THC CBD oils in this state as a treat­ment for those con­di­tions,” Lee said. “For me, the data is not sub­stan­tive enough to show that med­i­cal mar­i­juana is the right ap­proach right now. I would pur­sue other op­tions first.”

In ad­di­tion to sup­port­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana, Dean said he was in fa­vor of de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing sim­ple pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana, es­pe­cially for first-time of­fend­ers — ex­plain­ing that a con­vic­tion for even a small amount of mar­i­juana on the record of a young per­son can hurt their ca­reer prospects and abil­ity to find hous­ing.

He raised con­cerns with the way black of­fend­ers are dis­pro­por­tion­ately tar­geted with the charge.

“There’s a lot of racial dis­par­i­ties in the way mar­i­juana laws have been en­forced,” Dean said.

Lee said he was in fa­vor of us­ing drug courts for lowlevel of­fenses, but re­mains against de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion.

Lee against rais­ing gas tax, Dean says he’s will­ing

Asked about whether they would sup­port Ten­nessee rais­ing its gas tax again — as oc­curred last year un­der Haslam’s Im­prove Act, which re­stored the state’s de­pleted trans­porta­tion fund for road con­struc­tion — the can­di­dates dif­fered.

Prais­ing Haslam, as he did mul­ti­ple times through­out the night, Dean said he would “al­ways be will­ing to make those tough de­ci­sions, as Gov. Haslam did.”

The Im­prove Act raised the tax for the first time in 20 years.

De­scrib­ing a “rapidly chang­ing trans­porta­tion in­dus­try,” Lee said he be­lieved rais­ing the tax wasn’t the right longterm rev­enue so­lu­tion if fuel us­age is set to drop amid tech­nol­ogy im­prove­ments.

“Re­ly­ing on fuel tax to fund the trans­porta­tion of the fu­ture is not the di­rec­tion we will be go­ing,” Lee said. “I think we have to find fund­ing in other ways.”

Can­di­dates agree: No quick fix on TNReady

On how to im­me­di­ately ad­dress prob­lems with TNReady, the state’s stan­dard­ized test­ing pro­gram that has ex­pe­ri­enced a num­ber of tech­ni­cal com­pli­ca­tions in re­cent years, nei­ther can­di­date had spe­cific an­swers on how to en­sure the sys­tem is fixed.

Lee said he would do a “re­set” and ex­am­ine the sys­tem, while Dean sug­gested the state “lis­ten to the voices of teach­ers” in de­vel­op­ing a new stan­dard­ized test­ing sys­tem

Both called for the state to find a new ven­dor, but ac­knowl­edged that the im­prove­ment may not take place quickly, with Dean not­ing it may not oc­cur be­fore spring stan­dard­ized this school year.

“I think you just have to rec­og­nize that we might not be ready this time,” Dean said. “It might not hap­pen in April be­cause of the sched­ul­ing. We get to come into of­fice in Jan­uary, and hav­ing this thing up and run­ning in April, which hasn’t hap­pened in three years, seems to me to be very op­ti­mistic.”

Lee also noted he be­lieved there was no quick fix — and sug­gested the state may be is­su­ing too many tests as it is.

“This process is not go­ing to be solved all at once,” Lee said.

Dean re­ceives ap­plause on Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion an­swer

The can­di­dates were shown a clip of Mid­dle Ten­nessee res­i­dent Kelly Gre­gory — a breast can­cer pa­tient who could only qual­ify for Ten­nCare af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with the ter­mi­nal ill­ness — and asked what they would do se­cure cov­er­age for more Ten­nesseans.

Both can­di­dates stuck to their usual health care talk­ing points: Dean, who iden­ti­fied Gre­gory as a sup­porter of his in the race, touted ben­e­fits of Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion in Ten­nessee to se­cure cov­er­age for work­ing peo­ple who can’t af­ford in­sur­ance.

He noted the bil­lions of dol­lars in fed­eral fund­ing the state left on the table by de­clin­ing to ex­pand Med­i­caid, an ef­fort Haslam led un­suc­cess­fully.

“We turned down a pro­posal that Gov Bill Haslam worked hard on, that would have pro­tected our state, that would have been bet­ter than most states have got­ten, and the leg­is­la­ture said no,” Dean said. “But the most telling this that our leg­is­la­ture has no Plan B.”

When pressed by mod­er­a­tors on how he would ac­com­plish ex­pan­sion when state law­mak­ers have pre­vi­ously de­clined to ex­pand, Dean said he would meet with them to find a so­lu­tion, ex­pect­ing them to ac­knowl­edge that vot­ers will have spo­ken in fa­vor of ex­pan­sion by elect­ing him.

“This is self-serv­ing, but it’s the truth,” Dean said. “If you want Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion, you vote for Karl Dean for gov­er­nor.”

Some in the crowd erupted in ap­plause, prompt­ing a mod­er­a­tor to ask them to re­main quiet.

Lee re­it­er­ated his usual point on the is­sue: that he be­lieves the health care sys­tem is “fun­da­men­tally flawed” and is a “bro­ken sys­tem,” and that the state’s fo­cus should be on re­duc­ing the cost of care.

“You de­velop a sys­tem that has in­cen­tives to lower the cost,” said Lee, who has sug­gested co­or­di­nated care and telemedicine as ex­am­ples of how he plans to re­duce health care costs for res­i­dents.

Early vot­ing for the Nov. 6 elec­tion be­gins Oct. 17.

The can­di­dates found com­mon ground on is­sues like en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws, third-party in­ves­ti­ga­tions of fa­tal po­lice shoot­ings and more.

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