NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As governor-elect Bill Lee prepares to take the state's highest office, he talked candidly about issues facing our state and changes he would like to make moving forward in his term.
According to Lee, two of his major concerns involve education and healthcare. Lee said he is a supporter of parents having choices for their children's education. That includes the support for education vouchers for parents to send their students to private schools.
"I am a believer that when parents have choices, that the outcomes for their children are not only improved, but it improves their whole system," he said. "Charters are a choice option for parents. I think we need to strengthen the charter system that we have and we need to look at choices overall for schools."
The governor-elect also said the state should stay on the same path with Tennessee Promise, a program that offers free secondary, vocational or technical schooling to students who've just graduated high school.
"Their results have been promising," said Lee. "Still new, and we need to improve the number of folks that stay in, that enter through the Tennessee Promise program."
Lee acknowledged that TN Promise hasn't had the graduation rate he had hoped, but believes as the people in the state continue to get used the program, the graduation rate will increase.
Lee said the situation concerning rural hospitals closing is also a problem in the state, though one he believes has solutions.
"We change the model. Rural hospitals are closing because the old model of the hospital is failing. It doesn't meet the needs of those communities," said Lee.
He believes those solutions could be reached through opening specialty hubs for rural communities and having stand alone emergency rooms in smaller towns.
"That's a model that's working in some communities and I think we need to expand it in Tennessee," he said.
The soon-to-be governor also stayed consistent with statements he's made on medical cannabis. Despite broad support through the state, he's hoping other treatments will replace the demand for the drug.
"You know, I would have to look at specific bills and what happens. I do, I am generally opposed to moving towards medical cannabis prior to exploring options like low THC CBD oils that have shown to be very effective as a treatment and that we don't fully utilize in this state," he said.
Lee's inauguration was initially set to be held outside of Legislative Plaza at 11 a.m. on Saturday, but due to weather concerns, it was moved to War Memorial Auditorium at the same time.
“While the weather doesn’t seem to be cooperating, we are looking forward to a fantastic inaugural weekend,” said Lee in a press release. “I encourage Tennesseans to be safe, but still also feel welcome to attend this historic event. We are making every effort to accommodate overflow space for those wishing to attend because I want to ensure no Tennessean is turned away who wants to join us for the festivities.”
Event details can be found here.