January 18, 2018 | Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry
January 18, 2018
TN Chamber 2018: Work Based Learning Bill Provides Employer Tax Credits

Recent survey results from Tennessee Chamber members across the volunteer state reflect a persistent concern, difficulty finding employees that have the right technical and employability skills. The Tennessee Chamber is focused on working to find solutions to these concerns and note that in number of our surrounding states, work based learning programs (WBL) are catching strong interest from employers as a way to help develop a strong pipeline of future employees. It is important to note: Many employers associate the term “apprenticeships” with labor unions, “work based learning” programs are not in any way associated with labor unions. Instead WBL programs are partnerships with employers, local school districts and students who are focused on technical careers.

This week, legislation the Tennessee Chamber has been working to address WBL concerns  HB 1599 was filed by Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens), and includes Speaker Beth Harwell and Rep. Dennis Byrd as co-sponsors. In the Senate the bill is SB1649 sponsored by Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville). The legislation seeks to resolve a number of concerns identified in surveys of Tennessee Chamber members as to why have been hesitant to participate in work based learning programs. Governor Haslam has made work based learning a priority through the Tennessee Department of Education noting that in order for Tennessee to reach our Drive to 55 goals that greater participation must take place in this area.
Importantly, the proposed legislation, provides a $500 franchise and excise tax credit for a participating business to claim for each participating student. The total credit each business can claim is limited to $5,000 a year. Overall, the proposal is capped at $1 million expenditure, a good start in a budget year showing modest revenue growth and competing with a number of other needs. The bill also provides liability protection for employers and establishes that students who participate in WBL programs are covered by general liability policies in the school districts. We welcome any feedback or additional concerns that employers have. Most of all we encourage you to talk to your legislators about the importance of this legislation. It is a good next step to driving “hands on” interest in technical careers.
TN Legislature Meets Despite the Ice and Snow

While many parents and children in Middle Tennessee took to the hills to enjoy some sledding , the Speakers declared that the Legislature would be conducting business on Tuesday, regardless of the weather. Thankfully, most members had already traveled to Nashville on Monday evening, ahead of the weather. This is a reason that Government Affairs staff should always have a 4x4 pickup truck. You need to be ready for anything.

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The Knox News Sentinel reposted an old story about why the University of Tennessee rarely cancels classes even in a blizzard. It is a tragic tale. 
Bill Filings Show an Active Issue Year for Business

With Tennessee’s bill filing deadline looming, legislative bill filings are ramping up and despite early adjournment predictions there is no shortage of filed legislation impacting the business community. Each year the Tennessee Chamber reviews each bill filed in the Tennessee General Assembly. For those bills that directly impact industry, the Tennessee Chamber works through our committees to identify positions and then communicates to legislators about our positions to explain how these proposals impact business and industry and ultimately your bottom line . Stay tuned, following the bill filing deadline the Tennessee Chamber will share reports of all filed legislation impacting business. If you would like to receive these reports or participate on any of our committees please email us. 

The Week Ahead...
Legislators are getting settled and the budget hearings are beginning in earnest January 22 nd . Leaders are pushing members to get moving as the filing deadline looms. Next week will be the last of the calm before the storm. 


Tennessee General Assembly: Weekly Calendars
Senate’s weekly calendar click  HERE .
House of Representative’s weekly committee calendar click  HERE
House of Representative’s weekly subcommittee calendar click HERE
How Does Federal Tax Reform Impact State Taxes for Tennessee Businesses?
 
There is much discussion right now in state capitols across the country trying to determine the impact of federal tax reform on state tax collections. Most estimate the impact for states will be positive since federal tax reform overall expanded the taxable base which many states, including Tennessee conforms to in determining state franchise and excise tax liability. Tennessee Department of Revenue officials have played down the potential impacts and have noted it is too early to tell. Most importantly for the business community is to note that if increased revenue occurs to Tennessee from business taxpayers it should be limited to achieve the full benefit of federal tax reform. Here are a couple of things to monitor in Tennessee.

Repatriation . Federal tax reforms impose a one-time tax on repatriation of ~$2.6 trillion of overseas assets. The tax is “deemed” and is paid immediately, not when assets are repatriated as in an earlier repatriation holiday. States will receive a windfall from this process, although it will be uneven based on where international companies have state tax liability. Tennessee has a significant presence of foreign direct investment that may contribute to increased revenue collection for 2018.

Expensing . Federal tax reform makes significant changes to expensing for a number of years, reducing interest deductibility. Since Tennessee conforms to the federal tax base to determine state F&E liability there will be impacts in Tennessee.

Net Operating Losses (NOLs) . Federal tax reform impacts carryforwards and carrybacks. Choosing to conform will probably increase revenue overall, although NOLs can vary greatly year by year.

FastTrack Tax Incentives now included in State tax base . Federal tax law included a provision that moving forward requires incentives given to relocating or expanding companies be included in their federal tax base. This provision would subject these incentives to state taxation. The Federal legislation does note that if states include these incentives under a state master development plan, the impact of taxation can be neutralized. Tennessee would need to act to establish these provisions in a master development plan.  
Tennessee’s Tourism Vacation Guide Honors Dr. King

This year’s cover of Tennessee’s vacation guide features an illustration of Martin Luther King. Jr. in remembrance of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis (April 5). You can request a print copy or download a digital copy for your phone or tablet. 
We also recommend visiting the National Archives page, it is another credible source of original material. They have a wonderful collection of recordings, photos and scans of printed materials from the 1963 March on Washington and other events.

Of course, this week many gathered around the country to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King at thousands of prayer breakfasts, other gatherings and community projects.  In Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel had a full day of events. If you have not done so, this year would be a good time to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.  
Broadband Grants Will be Announced Soon

The Department of Economic and Community Development provided the House Finance committee an update on the steps the state has taken to implement last years’ Broadband Accessibility Act .  To summarize there were over 300 applications submitted and the first Round of grantees will be announced at the end of the month.

Take a look at the list of communities who have taken the steps to be designated as Broadband Ready Communities. Rural areas looking to take advantage of the momentum building for rural broadband have been encouraged by the President’s recent executive order and reports that additional federal legislation will be filed in the weeks ahead. We encourage all communities to work with ECD at the state level and go through the evaluation process to become Broadband Ready. 
Business and a Biscuit Legislative Series
A Fast Paced Preview of the Legislative Week Ahead

Monday, January 22, 2018
10:00am – 10:30am CST
Location: TN Chamber Office, 414 Union Street, Nashville, TN 37219

**Join in person or dial-in by phone**
RSVP email required: info@tnchamber.org
ECD Makes Presentation on West TN Megasite
Legislators are hopeful the next round of funding is in the Governor’s budget.
Numerous State House members from West Tennessee and House Speaker Beth Harwell joined the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday, to hear a Megasite presentation from ECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe. He stated the Memphis Regional Megasite will need another $80 million to be made "shovel ready" or brought up the point where construction could begin. 
The commissioner, who has been in the position for about 10 months, said the No. 1 problem the site has faced is the lack of a wastewater treatment plant. Secondly, he said the state still needs cooperation from local authorities on easements for underground pipes for the wastewater. He said additional improvements needed include $10 million for gas lines, $8 million for railroad work, $13.5 million for electrical, $18.5 million for water and $30 million for wastewater improvements.

This estimate comes after Toyota and Mazda picked Alabama over the Tennessee site for a proposed new plant, which would employ around 4,000 people. Commissioner Rolfe said Toyota and Mazda dropped out because our timeline was uncertain and other states were ready to go.

Lessons Learned:  How did Huntsville land the Toyota-Mazda plant? Alabama newsman Paul Gattis explains that Alabama learned from failing in the past
Nashville makes Amazon’s "short" list of cities it's considering for HQ2

The list isn’t exactly short, but Nashville made the final 20 . Amazon sent cities into a frenzy when it announced plans to build a second headquarters that would cost $5 billion to build and bring up to 50,000 jobs. Amazon (AMZN) said it received 238 proposals from across the continent.  Amazon’s main headquarters is based in Seattle. 
Amazon has made significant investments in warehousing and distribution in Tennessee, as well as other parts of the country. You have to be in the conversation in order to get a rose, so while many believe Nashville is a long shot, anything can happen. One thing is for certain, whoever lands this project will see their city change , in good and bad ways, depending on your perspective. For local views here is a link to the Tennessean story .

*Review the Lessons Learned in the Megasite article. Modern Economic Development is still about relationships and being the best fit. If your city applied, keep in touch with the development consultants. Get prepared, put your best foot forward and set yourself up for success by keeping the lines of communication open.  With a healthy economy you can bet there is another project around the corner. 

Remember the words of Dale Carnegie, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
At the Bus Stop: Transit Plans in Nashville

The Tennessean’s Joey Garrison reports that with the clock ticking until Mayor Megan Barry’s proposed May 1 referendum on a legacy-defining, $5.4 billion transit plan, she now has two fewer controversies to deal with. In the past week the Mayor’s office put off contentious fights involving Nashville General Hospital and the redevelopment project for Greer Stadium that could have muddied the path to win approval of the Transit Plan. Neither of the other proposals showed signs of being resolved anytime soon. Regardless of the reason, Mayor Barry can now focus all of her attention on Transit.  

This is excellent timing for Barry, as the fight is about to escalate. For the past months while the supporters at the Transit for Nashville Coalition have mounted a coordinated campaign and message. Meanwhile, the anticipated opposition had been vocal but not organized. That's now changed as a new political action committee called NoTax4Tracks, led by car dealer and libertarian activist Lee Beaman, was launched this week. The group has received early support by an old Barry rival — David Fox, Barry's runoff opponent from the 2015 election .  Time will reveal how this conversation progresses.

Need a quick refresher on Nashville priorities, Transit and the city’s recent interactions with state government - city lab has a great long form article .
Additional Resources:
Labor and Employment Law Update:
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The  Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry  and  Bass, Berry & Sim s PLC invite you to join us for a complimentary seminar focused on addressing, reducing and preventing sexual harassment claims in the workplace.

Harassment Law Refresher: A high-level review of harassment law.  Conducting Effective Internal Investigations: A discussion of best practices for conducting internal investigations into harassment claims.  The "Company Culture" Issue - How to Reduce Harassment in the Workplace:Strategies for reducing harassment in the workplace and developing a safe culture.

When ? Thursday, January 25
7:30 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. Registration and Breakfast 
8:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Program 

Where ? Bass, Berry & Sims PLC
The Pinnacle at Symphony Place
150 Third Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37201
Parking in the Pinnacle garage will be validated**

Please REGISTER ONLINE HERE by Friday, January 19
HRCI and Tennessee CLE credit (2.25 hours)
When Opioids are Abused, Fraud Soon Follows
Almost 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, outpaced all other accidental fatalities

(Washington, 01/17) Republicans and Democrats sparred over the conclusions of a new congressional report suggesting that Medicaid is helping drive the nation’s opioid crisis. The central tenant of the report states that it too easy for Medicaid enrollees to abuse and then resell the highly addictive painkillers.  According to the report by Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee , a t least 1,072 people have been convicted or charged nationwide since 2010 for improperly using Medicaid to obtain prescription opioids, some of which were then resold on the nation’s streets.  Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) stated that “an unfortunate consequence” of Medicaid expansion under the ACA.  Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) responded that the “idea that Medicaid expansion is fueling the rise in opioid deaths is total hogwash.”   Read the Michael Collins article in the Commercial Appeal for specifics on Tennessee cases.  

Regardless of this report’s conclusion, there are too many deaths linked opioid abuse in Tennessee.  As we shared last week House Speaker Beth Harwell’s Opioid Abuse Task Force released official recommendations , which are:
  • Adding 25 agents to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in the next year
  • More limits on the number of controlled drugs prescribed in emergency rooms and by healthcare professionals. Currently there is a 30-day pill limit.
  • Establishing a Tennessee Commission to Combat Drug Abuse.\
  • Urging the White House to renew funding to combat opioid addiction. Under the Obama Administration, Tennessee was awarded $13.8 million 
  • Encouraging the Department of Health, law enforcement and medical examiners to develop consistent approaches to determining overdose deaths.
More on Medicaid and Work Requirements

Sticking with healthcare, Sam Stockard of the Memphis Daily News reports House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally are standing firm against Medicaid expansion unless the feds send a block grant here and Tennessee can design its own program.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh set the tone for the Democrats, who he calls “his “Fighting 25”, with his remarks on the House Floors that Democrats are not giving up the fight on expanding healthcare to help the poor, working families and rural communities. Fitzhugh, running for Governor, has repeatedly noted that the lack of Medicaid expansion led to the closure of several rural hospitals. .

In related news, last week Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell announced her support of work requirements for able bodied adults to receive Medicaid and other social welfare benefits. Her legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) directs the State to seek and then implement a federal waiver to implement "reasonable work requirements" on able-bodied working-age adult enrollees who are caretakers for children over the age of 5. Speaker Harwell is also running for Governor.

Harwell’s announcement follows the Trump administration's recently announced policy to let states pursue work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid enrollees without young children.
Tired of Springing Forward and Falling Back?
How would this work, since Tennessee has two time zones?

St. Rep. Rick Tillis (R- Lewisburg) introduced a bill to keep Tennessee on daylight savings time year round.   Mr. Tillis says it is time for Tennesseans to stop rolling clocks back to standard time in the fall. The result would an extra hour of sunlight in the winter evenings. We think they are quite a few people in Middle TN who would see the appeal and agree.  On the other hand we bet that Northeast TN, especially Bristol, straddling Tennessee and Virginia might have some concerns that this would impact their workday.  

Daylight savings time was adopted in 1966, with the idea of saving energy on lighting by making better use of daylight. According to the Department of Transportation , Standard Time is November to March, and the rest of the year is Daylight Saving.

WBIR first reported this story , last week.  They note that there is an error in the original bill that St. Rep Tillis is working to get corrected.  For our part we need someone to make a chart or diagram to help explain the impact this proposal. Better yet, anyone have a time machine?


That little extra:
Andy Sher’s had a great article on Monday on how the Legislature’s new home in the Cordell Hull buildings may change lobbying practices Note: so far we have not seen any elbows thrown. 
Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry | www.tnchamber.org
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