April 6, 2017
State Senate Sets the Stage for Tax Cuts: IMPROVE Act is Gone, Changed to Tax Cut Act of 2017
Modified Measure Boasts More Tax Cuts
 
Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), and Senate Finance Chair Bo Watson (R-Hixon) were dubbed the T3M, "Triple Team Tax-Cutting Machines," by a Chamber member this week following the release of their most recent tax proposal.  The revised plan, engineered in the Senate, modifies and adds a number of tax-cutting measures proposed in Governor Haslam's IMPROVE Act.
 
The revisions help current businesses and Tennessee's economic competitiveness by maintaining transportation and infrastructure improvements, lowering the proposed diesel tax increase from 12 cents to 10 cents, and upholding the critical Single Sales Factor tax apportionment cut designed to boost the economic growth of Tennessee's manufacturing sector.
 
In addition, the proposal also reduces current tax burdens on veterans, the Hall income tax on investments, and the sales tax on groceries for Tennessee families.  When the new tax cuts are taken into account, the amended legislation now stands as one of, if not the largest, tax cuts ever proposed in Tennessee based on the Tennessee Chamber's research of tax policy.  While some discrepancies between the two chambers' versions of the legislation remain, particularly on veteran tax relief, Rep. Gerald McCormick this week successfully shepherded near-identical legislation through the House Finance Subcommittee on a voice vote.
 
Now is the time for businesses and local chambers to weigh in with legislators and urge them to vote "Yes" on the recent amendments to the Tax Cut Act of 2017! 
 Report: Is House Speaker Harwell Maneuvering to Block Tax Cut Plans?  
Uncertainty Emerges in the House

This week, the  Chattanooga Times Free Press  reported that House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) is working on an alternative transportation proposal that, if adopted, could potentially threaten to remove the much-needed tax relief and economic development provisions contained in Gov. Haslam's current proposal as amended by the Senate.  The news of another alternative transportation plan was later confirmed by Harwell's spokeswoman, who further asserted that the House Speaker may be formulating a plan that does not include a gas tax increase.  Although gas tax increases were specifically marked for exclusion, conspicuously absent from her statement was any mention of diesel tax increases, which would be disproportionately borne primarily by Tennessee businesses and industries.

For businesses, this plan could pose a potentially toxic combination of financial and economic threats that would substantially raise employers' already-heightened tax burden, single out diesel taxes for one-sided increases, exclude the Single Sales Factor tax apportionment cut for manufacturing, and fall far short of adequately addressing transportation and infrastructure funding needs.  Adding to the confusion, Speaker Harwell is renowned for her strong advocacy on behalf of the business community, leaving many of her supporters surprised and scratching their heads at this latest announcement.  Capitol Hill insiders speculate that the move could be strategic posturing in order to strengthen her political standing with hardline anti-tax activists ahead of the upcoming gubernatorial election.



 
TN Chamber Focuses on Critical Workforce Readiness Bills; Proposals Advance as Education Committees Wind Down for the Year
 
LEAP: This week, members of the House Education Instruction and Programs Committee unanimously approved legislation supported by the Tennessee Chamber and sponsored by Representative Ron Gant and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris designed to directly address the technical skill needs of employers and equip thousands of Tennessee students with a career-ready education.  The bill seeks to build upon the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) by authorizing the Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to develop curricula for work-based learning courses that combine practical, on-the-job skills and trainings with integrated classroom instruction for students pursuing an industry-related postsecondary credential.  As a result, Tennessee's technical schools and industry-oriented postsecondary institutions would be able to incorporate apprenticeships, co-ops, job shadowing opportunities, and the like with traditional classroom-based coursework as part of their credit-bearing offerings for students pursuing an industrial or technical education.  The Tennessee Chamber further plans to strengthen employer participation in LEAP by engaging with stakeholders and experts in both education and industry over the summer to develop a comprehensive and substantive work-based education liability protection proposal for the 2018 legislative session.
 
Mechatronics Pilot Program: An innovative bill sponsored by freshman Representative Sam Whitson and Sen. Jack Johnson advanced out of the House Education Instruction and Programs Committee this week seeking to establish an advanced manufacturing education program at Williamson County's Fairview High School.  The bill, which would allow Fairview High to partner with nearby Columbia State Community College to offer postsecondary credit-bearing courses and trainings in mechatronics and advanced manufacturing, promises to help boost the area's local manufacturing base by giving an opportunity for high school students to concurrently work toward a career-ready industry certification while also earning their diploma.  Programs such as this one not only help local manufacturing employers, like Nissan and GM in neighboring Smyrna and Spring Hill, find qualified applicants to meet their workforce needs, but also provide new and valuable opportunities to help our state move closer towards achieving the ambitious postsecondary attainment goals set forth in Gov. Haslam's Drive to 55 initiative.  While this program may still face hurdles in the House and Senate Finance Committees to secure adequate funding, the Tennessee Chamber will continue monitoring the progress of this legislation in the hopes that it can illuminate some new ideas and model practices in further expanding career and technical education offerings.
 
EPSO's: Legislation designed to expand early postsecondary opportunities (EPSO's) for Tennessee high school students passed unanimously this week out of the Senate Education Committee and now awaits further consideration by the Finance committees of both the House and Senate.  The bill, sponsored by House Education Administration and Planning Committee Chairman Harry Brooks and Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jim Tracy, would require local school districts to offer at least six EPSO college credit-bearing courses to their high school students, ranging from the local district's selection of any combination of Advanced Placement (AP), dual credit, dual enrollment, International Baccalaureate (IB), and industry certification courses.  If enacted, the law promises to increase high school graduates' participation in and completion of a continuing postsecondary education of some kind and build clear academic pathways in high school that translate readily into college or technical school, thereby helping to address chronic education gaps in filling high-skill job openings in Tennessee's growing STEM and technology-driven career fields.  The Tennessee Chamber has been a vocal supporter of expanding college and industry credit opportunities in high school and will continue to advocate for policies that help more students attain the workforce-ready skills they need both before and after graduating from high school.



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
 
Note: Some committees have closed, remaining committees may have new times on the calendar. 
House and Senate Committee Weekly Legislative Bill Updates:
 
This week, Chamber staff Bradley Jackson, Charles Schneider and Ted Boyatt worked in the halls of Legislative Plaza with legislators and staff on a number of proposals that impact the business community. Read the comments below on specific legislation to learn further details. 
 
SB 297 / HB 666 - Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) / Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough)
 
Workers' Compensation Revisions
As originally filed, this bill was  OPPOSED by the Tennessee Chamber and was stopped in committee.  Since then, the revised legislation has been reviewed by members of the Chamber's Workers' Compensation Committee and is  substantially modified from the original version, thereby putting the Chamber in a proposed  NEUTRAL position.  If you would like to see a copy of the modified language in the bill, please contact the Chamber staff.
 
SB 261 / HB 939 - Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) / Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah)
 
Workers Compensation Right of Appeal
This bill is  OPPOSED by the Tennessee Chamber and removes the guaranteed right of hearing by the Tennessee Supreme Court for workers' compensation cases.  Last year, the Supreme Court heard only eight of these WC cases, and the business community would prefer to maintain the guaranteed right of hearing as an effective check-and-balance for our current administrative system.  The legislation was approved by an 8-0 vote in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee despite objections by the business community.  Luckily , Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah), the bill sponsor, and  Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet ) and  Rep. Jimmy Eldridge (R-Jackson ), who lead the  House Consumer and Human Resources Committees , were sympathetic to the objections raised by the business community and moved the proposal to summer study for consideration at a later date.  
 
SB 1094 / HB 1309 - Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) / Rep. Johnnie Turner (D-Memphis) 
 
Employer Mandates
This legislation was taken off notice for the year and will not be considered.  The Tennessee Chamber and a number of other business groups  OPPOSED this legislation and worked against its passage, as it would have placed a costly mandate on the backs of businesses. Description: Bill changes from seven days to ten days the amount of notice that must be provided by an employer or employee specializing in food or beverage service of the rescinding of a previously approved 30-minute break waiver.
 
SB 1141 / HB 1184 - Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) / Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville)
 
Employer Mandates
This legislation was taken off notice for the year and will not be considered.  The Tennessee Chamber and other business groups
OPPOSED  this bill that created a number of additional legal actions targeted against businesses and worked against its passage. The U.S. Congress is considering similar legislation that may be preempted in this area. Description: Bill establishes expanded legal protections requiring that all employers give their employees six weeks of paid leave for adoption, pregnancy, childbirth, or nursing an infant or other considerations.
 
SB 1411 / HB 80 - Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) / Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis)
 
Employee Wages
Tennessee Chamber members prefer a uniform federal wage standard and  OPPOSED this legislation. The bill has since been removed from consideration. Details: Bill establishes a minimum wage of $15.00 as of July 1, 2017; provides a minimum wage for employees in the service industry who receive tips and employees that are compensated solely by gratuities; authorizes the department of labor and workforce development to promulgate rules in compliance with federal law - Amends TCA Title 50, Chapter 2


SB 1237 / HB 451 - Sen. Mark Norris (R-Memphis) / Rep. Jimmy Eldridge (R-Jackson)
 
Workers' Compensation Third Party Subrogation:
Who says the business community is always in agreement? This legislation was supported by the construction industry and sought to modify the apportion fault standard in subrogated claims. A number of individual businesses expressed concern this would limit damages that employers could recover in third party claims. The bill is still in negotiation amongst House and Senate members, who have modified the language of the proposed bill. For more details please contact Chamber staff.  Details: Bill allows a court to apportion fault to an employer who covered an employee under workers compensation when such employee brings an action against a third-party tortfeasor and reduces the employer's subrogation recovery to the extent such employer has allocated fault - Amends TCA Title 50, Title 56 and Title 62
 
SB 1313 / HB 1391 - Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) / Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory)
 
Labor Union Proposal for Apprenticeships
A number of Chamber members have expressed concern over this bill that, upon initial reading, sounded positive but is actually brought by labor unions to embed apprenticeship programs.  The Chamber and other business groups  OPPOSED  this bill since it would have used labor agreements for apprenticeship programs.  The bill was removed from consideration for the year. Details: Bill established the office of apprenticeship and work-study programs within the Department of Economic and Community Development, provides a tax credit to entities that participate in the programs and reinstates certain apprenticeship programs for certain professional boards and commissions - Amends TCA Title 4, Title 49, Title 62 and Title 67.
Save-the-Date: Washington D.C. Fly-In
May 15-17, 2017

The Tennessee Chamber is proud to announce our inaugural Washington D.C. fly-in.  We hope you can join us and make this event a great success.  Planned activities include meetings with Tennessee's U.S. Senate and House delegation and staff and policy briefings at the U.S. Chamber and National Association of Manufacturers.  Please consider sponsorship opportunities as well for your company to be recognized in our Nation's capital.  

Host/Recommended Hotel: Hotel George - 15 E St NW, Washington, DC 20001; Phone: (202)347-4200
*No room block, but we suggest staying here if possible (TN Chamber staff will be here)

Cost: $199/member

Deadline to book: April 10 (Limited spots are available) - Contact Carolyn Davis (
carolyn.davis@tnchamber.org ) if you will attend

Sponsorship Opportunities: *Presenting Sponsor - $5,000
*Premier Sponsors - $2,500

Monday, May 15, 2017       

5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Arrivals, Check-in and Networking in Lobby

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

7:30 - 10:00 am
"Tennessee Tuesday" with Senator Alexander & Senator Corker
10:00 - 10:30 am
Break
11:00 am -2:00 pm
Lunch
U.S. Chamber of Commerce - Issues Update
2:00 - 2:30 pm
Break - walk/commute to NAM
2:30 - 4:00 pm
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) - Issues Update
7:00 - 8:00 pm
Reception
8:00 - 10:00 pm
Dinner - U.S. Senate, U.S. House & Staff

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

7:30 - 11:00 am
House Office Team Meetings  

Bit by bit, Trump methodically undoing Obama policies
 
(AP) - The Associated Press reports that "President Donald Trump is "keeping his promises in methodically overturning regulations and policies adopted when Barack Obama was president."  Last month, the Trump White House "launched a review of the Clean Power Plan," which would have significantly hindered the use of traditional energy sources.  "The executive order covers a range of other Obama-era rules, including requirements to factor the 'social cost' of carbon emissions into all regulatory actions."  Other key actions taken by Trump include the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project; re-examination of automobile fuel efficiency standards; and delaying the "fiduciary rule."


 

Supreme Court Allows WOTUS Rule Challenge To Continue.

The  (4/5) reports the Supreme Court said Monday that it will allow litigation to continue a challenge to the WOTUS rule. The announcement comes after the Trump Administration had requested the Court place a hold on the case "until it had time to review the regulation on its own."   The Hill 's (4/3, Wheeler, Devaney) Devin Henry reports that the decision Monday "came from the court without any explanation." While the case - National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense - "does not concern the merits of the" regulation, industry groups opposed to the rule "want the high court to overturn the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit's opinion that it has the primary jurisdiction over the case."   Natural Gas Intelligence (4/3) reports the high court "decided to continue hearing" the challenge and "said it denied a motion to hold in abeyance the briefing schedule" to the rule. The article notes that the "National Association of Manufacturers had asked the high court to dismiss the petitions before the Sixth Circuit Court and have the case remanded back to local district courts."
Surviving Active Shooter Situations 
in the Workplace
A Mitigation Strategy for Workplace Violence

Date/Time : April 20, 8:00am - Noon CDT  (half-day workshop) 
Location:  
Hampton Inn & Suites
                   5001 Crossings Blvd., Mt. Juliet, TN 371222
Fee(s): $150 TN Chamber Members; $175 Non-members 
 
Are you responsible for delivering governmental or professional services, products, education, or health care?  If you are, the data shows that you also need to be concerned about violence in the workplace and its impact on your business and employees.

Study: STEM Job Openings Outnumber 

Available Workers

The Denver Post  (4/3) reports a study released Monday from the New American Economy "shows that many states, including Colorado, struggle with severe shortages of skilled workers." Looking "at the ratio of job openings posted online in science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations (STEM) versus the number of unemployed workers in those fields," the study found that "Colorado had 15.3 job openings for every unemployed worker in STEM last year, which is near the national ratio of 13 to 1, according to an analysis of 40,000 job boards conducted by Burning Glass Technologies." The Post adds, "That 13-to-1 ratio nationally translates into a shortfall of 3 million STEM workers, even after accounting for the nearly 500,000 workers brought in under the H-1B program."
 

ISM: Manufacturing Expands In March With Hiring At Highest Level Since 2011

CNBC (4/3, Thomas) reports the Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its manufacturing index came in at 57.2 in March - marking the sector's 94th consecutive month of expansion - compared to 57.7 the month before and the 57.0 economists had expected, according to a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate. CNBC said, "Of the 18 manufacturing industries included in the survey, 17 reported growth in March, such as electrical equipment, appliances and components, and printing and related support activities, the group said." New orders fell to 64.5 percent from 65.1 percent the month before. Characterizing the ISM report as showing a strengthening manufacturing sector, Bloomberg News (4/3, Golle) points to President Trump's Friday announcement touting "a National Association of Manufacturers survey showing optimism among members was at a 20-year high." 

For further information, please contact:

The Capitol Update is written by the Chamber's government affairs staff and is distributed statewide to all of our business, local chamber and economic development professionals.  The Tennessee Chamber Capitol Update is a powerful grassroots communication tool and we encourage you to share this publication with your team members to provide crucial updates and engage your local elected officials on important issues.