By EMILY R. WEST
Democratic candidate Holly McCall, who has experience at the Metro Transit Authority, said she understands the complex problems Tennessee faces with traffic.
The Tennessean editorial board will continue to ask several of those running for Congress and the Tennessee General Assembly questions over Facebook Live. McCall is running against Republican challenger Sam Whitson, who beat embattled Republican Jeremy Durham in the August primary. District 65 serves voters in Franklin, Fairview, Spring Hill and portions of unincorporated Williamson County.
The county faces a host of issues when it comes to road funding. It currently has seven projects in the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s backlogged list and also has 16 new projects to be completed.
If elected into the legislature, McCall said she would like to focus her attention on traffic, hopefully landing a spot on the Transportation Committee. And with her previous job experience at MTA, she felt it was a place where she could make the biggest difference.
“I never thought I would say this, but I became a transit and infrastructure nerd,” she said. “To say it’s a passion might be a little bit strong. But as I was doing communications with MTA, you can’t effectively communicate unless you really delve into the issues.”
When it comes to funding for transportation, she listed off suggestions other than the gas tax, which currently funds Tennessee’s road projects. McCall suggested opportunities for naming rights, user fees and tax increment financing to generate more revenue to solve gridlock.
During last year’s legislative session, Franklin was one of many cities that requested the legislature find sustainable funding sources.
“I think at this point … we can’t not fund our roads,” she said. “But again, I think we need to keep ourselves open to other funding solutions for transit. We can’t count on federal dollars. They are shrinking. But I think we can also work with the municipalities to help them find solutions.”
As another one of her top priorities, McCall said she wants to figure how to better secure health care options for those stuck in the state. And on a personal level, she said she understands Tennesseans who were battling to try to find an insurance provider.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee recently made it more complicated for those in the Williamson market to find insurance plans on the state exchange. United Health Care will also leave a void. With the two of them pulling out in 2017, that only leaves Cigna and Humana as options.
When she started her own business a year and half ago, McCall said she found herself on the exchange. In going through the process herself, she said she felt qualified to talk about the flaws and the gaps.
“I hear legislators talk a lot about the flaws of the ACA,” she said. “I thought it was great before I got on it. I am on it now, and I am grateful to have the insurance. But it has by no means been a panacea.”
She said while Speaker Beth Harwell’s plan is a start. The speaker is trying to roll out a health care initiative that would better serve veterans and those who suffer from behavioral or mental issues.
Harwell’s plan would also aim to help those who battle addiction. As it stands, Tennessee is in the middle of an opioid crisis, with many residents facing problems with addiction.
“I do think that’s an important part of the Tri-Star plan,” McCall said. “I like that a lot. It’s important to treat it as an illness and not a crime. We’ve got to decriminalize the use of that.”
But she said Tennessee missed a better opportunity to address needs. And if she had to pick, she would rather see a plan resembling Insure Tennessee resurface in the legislature.
Created by Gov. Bill Haslam, Insure Tennessee would have helped more than 280,000 residents who currently find themselves stuck in the insurance gap between Medicaid and the private sector to find health care.
“Even if you don’t think it’s the right thing do, I think it’s the right thing to do by people,” she said. “Our legislature in large part has forgotten how to do the right thing.”