Frist expresses employment concerns for Tennesseans

By Bob Robinson

Star Staff

   U.S. Sen. Bill Frist said yesterday employment in Tennessee was still a concern of his even though the economy is getting stronger.
   Employees are concerned about having a secure job. "They must have faith and trust they will be able to keep the job once they have them," Sen. Frist told Tennessee news media representatives participating in a telephone news conference.
   The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts the economy will grow at the rate of 1.7 percent this year, boosted by a 3rd and 4th quarter growth rate of 3.4 percent, and 2.4 percent next year, he said.
   President Bush's proposed budget reflects a deficit of $121 billion in 2003, $51 billion in 2004, and an annual surplus after that for six years, Sen. Frist said.
   "Tax cuts, over the long term, are good for the economy and will help it grow," he added.
   Sen. Frist said he is co-sponsoring legislation which prohibits insurance companies from using genetic tests, which predict whether or not a person will have a certain disease, to discriminate against future policyholders.
   "Genetic testing is a new frontier. It has a huge potential for improving health care in America," Sen. Frist said.
   On the war against terrorism, Sen. Frist predicted fighting would continue through the spring. "Our soldiers are facing the most intense fighting since the beginning of the war on terrorism.
   "I think the war against terrorism is going very well. The president is handling the situation as well as one possibly could facing the enemy of terrorism.
   "There is a huge challenge in explaining to the American people what the end point might be. It is difficult to set a benchmark," Sen. Frist said.
   Will the war against terrorism go beyond the borders of Afghanistan? "I don't know."
   Senator Frist said members of Congress are being briefed on possible military proposals and strategies.
   He said the concept of a Shadow Government in Washington was interesting, although he was not involved, directly, in it.
   "I am glad there are plans on the Executive side. We probably need better plans for Congress. It is within the realm of possibility that there could be an assault on our government. Most tangibly, it would be felt in Washington, D.C.," Sen. Frist said.
   On Human Cloning, Sen. Frist said he supports cloning for the purpose of producing stem cells. "I am a strong advocate of embryonic stem cell research. I do not support human cloning, however."
   The U. S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to prohibit human cloning. The legislation is expected to be on the floor of the U.S. Senate next month, he said.
   On Campaign Finance Reform, Sen. Frist said he predicted the president would sign the legislation after Congress adopts some "technical amendments and modifications within the next two months."
   One provision of the bill, he said he is concerned about, is the "muffling of free speech" 60 days prior to an election. "I believe it is unconstitutional."
   Sen. Frist, chairman of the Senate Republican Senatorial Committee, is overseeing 34 races in the U.S. Senate.
   On whether or not he supports a one cent sales tax increase being considered by the Tennessee legislature, Sen. Frist said he would leave that decision to state legislators who are focusing on the issue with Gov. Don Sundquist.
   He said he would be watching TennCare and hopes the Medicaid population in Tennessee would be funded.