With the United States Senate not in session, Sen. Lamar Alexander visited constituents in West Tennessee on Friday, including a stop in Jackson at the Aeneas Building.

“Lunch with Lamar” was sponsored by the Jackson Downtown Development Corp. and Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris.

During the meeting, Alexander, a Republican, discussed issues that included the growing automobile industry in the state and education.

Alexander, who served as governor of Tennessee, the U.S. secretary of education and the president of the University of Tennessee, unfolded an application that students have to fill out when applying for aid.

The application — a conservative 6-feet long — consists of 100 questions.

“We spend $33 billion in grants every year, and we have 100 questions on this form to fill out for a college grant,” Alexander said. “This application could be very intimidating.?

Alexander’s solution is to eliminate 98 percent of the questionnaire.

“If we asked just two questions,” Alexander said. “What is the size of your family and what was your family income two years ago? Cut this (form) down to a postcard … this is just government growing, and nobody is weeding the garden.”

He also touched on the issue of Common Core education standards.

“Let’s don’t talk about Common Core,” Alexander said. “Let’s talk about standards. Education is not just a problem in West Tennessee. It’s a problem in Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee.

“I’d like to see a discussion about standards with no national school board.”

Tennessee, which is one of 45 states along with the District of Columbia to sign on to Common Core, promised to implement Common Core as part of its winning application for Race to the Top funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The federal government agreed in 2010 to give the state $501 million, most of which already has been delivered.

After the meeting, Alexander was asked about the state not expanding Medicaid.

“You have a very good reason to be skeptical about the decision not to fund,” Alexander said. “I understand why the governor is cautious. When I was governor, 8 percent of the state’s budget went to Medicaid, and now it’s 30 percent.”

Jackson businessman Ed Jackson, a Republican who is running for the state Senate in district 27 — Madison, Crockett, Dyer, Lauderdale and Lake counties — said he could relate to Alexander.

“When I travel, the topics are education and jobs,” Jackson said. “When I talk to the city and county mayors in the counties I’m campaigning in … those are the topics. We’ve got to get the job force educated for the future.”