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Sessions visits Covington County

Alabama U.S. (R-Mobile) Senator Jeff Sessions was in Covington County Wednesday as part of his campaign tour across the state. Sessions, now finishing out his freshman terms as a senator, faces Democrat Susan Parker in the Nov. 5 general election.

The senator visited Opportunity House in Opp, as well as the Opp

Chamber of Commerce, before traveling to Andalusia, where he spoke at the Andalusia Regional Hospital.

In

an election year becoming infamous for negative campaign ads, Sessions made no references to his opponent, but addressed three major issues - education, health carte and agriculture.

"I've worked hard on a daily basis to affect American policy in the way I believe Alabamians want it shaped," said Sessions in an earlier interview.

At the hospital, Sessions stressed his work on legislation that would change the way Medicare currently pays hospitals, in which 75 percent of the reimbursement cost is based on a wage index. According to Sessions, the current system rates hospitals by what wages they pay and this causes a discrepancy.

"It's a huge disadvantage," he said. "It's creating two classes of health care."

Sessions said a hospital with a low wage index might be forced to lay off employees because of low Medicare reimbursements, and would then end up with an even lower wage index, creating a downward spiral.

"I think it is the most fundamental unfairness in the system," he said. "We pay the same Medicare taxes they do in Atlanta and New York."

Session's plan would include reducing the wage index determination from 75 percent to 68 percent, and narrowing the range between highest and lowest.

Sessions also visited the offices of The Star-News, where he commented on his determination to avoid negative campaigning.

"Our campaign has been focused on emphasizing what I have accomplished and what I can accomplish," he said.

Among those accomplishments, he listed his work on balancing the budget, on negotiating between Alabama aircraft manufacturers and the armed services they contract with, on his participation in recruiting Hyundai to the state, and on his contribution to the tax credit for families, giving each family a $500 (now $600) credit for each child.

"I fought real hard for the tax credit," he said. "Truthfully, we, over 40 years, allowed the family exemptions to erode in the face of inflation. This (tax credit) gets it back to where it reflects what it was when the income tax started."

Sessions also commented on legislation he is currently working on which would restructure special education, saying that it would eliminate a great deal of paperwork, roadblocks for frustrated teachers, and litigation, and that he has garnered bicameral support for the issue, including some from traditionally liberal senators.

Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, also stressed the importance of the military.

"I've been a strong proponent of a stronger military defense - even before September 11, he said. "Our goal is to help our soldiers be effective on the battlefield and that requires us to rethink how we fight today. We've got to utilize the technology available today. Our military is the most creative and innovative in history."

He reiterated his stand behind Bush's position on attacking Iraq and voiced praise for the President.

"Saddam is a danger to the world and an equal tragedy is the suffering of the people Iraq. It would be a blessing for the people to be rid of Saddam," he said. "I do not think of this as an attack on Iraq but the liberation of Iraq.

"I think the President has done well," he continued. "He's courageous."