March 16, 2017
Senate Puts Transportation Bill in Motion, Single Sales Factor Back in IMPROVE Act: House Keeps It Parked for Another Week
Monday, the Senate Transportation Committee approved a  revised version of Governor Haslam's transportation funding legislation.  The new language calls for a smaller increase in fuel taxes, six cents per gallon for gasoline and ten cents per gallon for diesel, to be gradually phased-in over the next three years.  Additionally, senators also expanded the revenue-offsetting tax cuts to include revisions to a property tax relief program for service-connected disabled veterans and a further decrease in the sales tax on food.  While the user fee increases will be phased in, the tax cuts outlined in the proposal will have immediate effect.  In addition the Single Sales Factor was included in the Senate version of the bill.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally praised the committee's approach, calling it strong and fiscally responsible in a year of large budget surpluses. "The bill as amended is now beyond revenue-neutral. It is a clear and undisputed tax cut for Tennesseans. It has my unequivocal support," he said.  The Senate has referred the bill to the State & Local Government Committee, where it should be heard this week. 
The House Transportation committee, on the other hand, did not take up the Governor's legislation this week.  The proposal is expected to resurface there again next week for continued discussion and consideration. 
Denise Rice Joins Tennessee Chamber of Commerce as Director of Tennessee Manufacturers Association
25-Year Industry Executive and Workforce Expert to Oversee NAM Affiliate for State Chamber
On Tuesday, Chamber President and CEO Bradley Jackson named longtime manufacturing veteran and Hamilton County resident Denise Rice as the incoming Director of the Tennessee Manufacturers Association. 
A former manufacturing plant manager and operations director for Cormetech's manufacturing facility in Cleveland, Tennessee, Rice is the founder and President of Peak Performance, Inc, a workforce training and industry consulting agency specializing in the instruction of lean manufacturing techniques and strategic business planning designed to optimize operational efficiency.  She brings over 25 years of combined career experience in various manufacturing specialties across Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New York and has served on the board of the Tennessee Chamber and the Chattanooga-based Tennessee Association of Manufacturers. 
Rice is also a renowned advocate for engaging young students in industrial education and STEM learning, working with Cleveland State Community College's OneSource Workforce Readiness Center and serving as an industry advisor to Cleveland High and Walker Valley High School's engineering programs.  In her new role, she will be responsible for planning and directing organizational and programmatic activities for the Tennessee Manufacturers Association under the operational umbrella of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
You can read more about Denise Rice and her addition to the Chamber's team in this article from the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
President Holds Rally in Nashville, Lays Wreath on Andrew Jackson's Grave

Channeling Old Hickory, Trump Brings People's Message Back to Tennessee
Yesterday during his visit to Tennessee, President Donald Trump laid a wreath at the tomb of Andrew Jackson on the 250th anniversary of the former President's birth.  The current President also toured Jackson's Nashville home, the Hermitage , and made brief remarks to a small private audience in attendance, including many Tennessee lawmakers, before holding a public rally at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium.
Recently, Jackson's historical legacy has enjoyed a moment of public resurgence thanks to President Trump. During the campaign, some of Trump's aides took to comparing him to the former President, describing him as a fellow populist outsider who took on members of the Washington establishment and ran a campaign by railing against corrupt elites.
Despite cold weather, thousands waited in line for hours to attend the rally held by the President on his first post-election visit to the city.  Trump spoke for roughly 40 minutes and addressed a host of issues and policy topics, including immigration, jobs, and healthcare. He received a warm reception inside the auditorium and even politely delayed the start of his speaking time to allow attendees to make it through security and fill the nearly 9,700 seats in the auditorium. Outside, more than 2,500 demonstrators also gathered to protest the President.  In covering protesters' reaction to his visit, the most widely-reported incident revolved around some protestors shouting " bless your heart" at one Trump supporter.  Overall, all sides experienced a largely peaceful day of public assembly, preserving the Music City's reputation for southern hospitality and welcoming friendliness.
Fun Fact: Donald Trump is the 14th President to visit Andrew Jackson's home. 

Should Environmental Permits be Subject to Local Approval?
Tennessee Chamber Opposes Legislation to Authorize Referendums
Throughout the years, The Tennessee Chamber has opposed legislation that would require local voter referenda to approve the various state permitting activities on manufacturers and businesses.  Whether in the air, water or solid waste area, permit activity must be handled professionally using scientific data through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.   HB1021/SB1336 by Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Cookeville) is up for consideration in both the Senate and House Environment and Agriculture committees.  Even though the legislation, as introduced, applies only to wind farms, the Chamber is concerned that it would establish a precedent for governmental obstruction at the local level of many business permit activities.  Environmental groups are also supporting the legislation, allowing them to substitute emotional challenges in place of scientific data when considering industrial activities at the local level.
Tennessee Lawmakers File a Number of Bills Costly to Business
With business taxes taking center stage in the legislature this year, we cannot afford to overlook other bills that, if enacted, would harm Tennessee's business climate.  A number of these proposals are up for consideration next week.
SB1029 / HB834 - Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) / Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville)
This bill would add a series of state-level requirements on top of existing federal regulations for employers to make additional accommodations for any pregnant employee upon request.  In reviewing the legislation, Chamber members observe that the bill is overly friendly to the interests of trial attorneys and should instead be called the "Plaintiffs' Attorneys Employment Act." The bill contains broad requirements for employers to provide basically any accommodation and gives employees significant grounds for legal redress.  Many  Tennessee Chamber member companies note that they have voluntarily adopted pregnancy accommodations that often surpass federal requirements, negating the need for additional state laws in this area.
                SB 1317 / HB 866 - Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) / Rep. John Holsclaw, Jr. (R-Elizabethton)
This bill would expand protections for volunteer firefighters to miss work due to emergencies.  Tennessee law already provides for protections for volunteer firefighters, but this legislation would expand those protections to include any broadly-defined "emergency" without limitations on the type of emergency or the length of an employee's absence.  The  Tennessee Chamber and other business groups have expressed concern over the proposed bill and are working with the sponsors to clarify how, as presently drafted, it could harm businesses with employees operating on shifts or forced schedules.
SB 1421 / HB 1329 - Sen. Lee Harris (D-Memphis) / Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville)
This bill would expand litigation allowing employees to sue for "wage theft." The  Tennessee Chamber  is opposed to this bill as it would expand litigation for employees to bring additional wage and hour claims against employers. Already, employers must frequently defend themselves from this type of litigation, and this bill threatens to give even more generous legal grounds for civil action.
Tennessee Chamber Questions Study Asserting Costs of Tennessee Business Incentives
Mark Twain once said, "figures don't lie, but liars do figure."  This quote could be applicable to a recent study claiming Tennessee doubles the national average when it comes to spending on business incentives for new and existing companies. The study, conducted by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, asserts that Tennessee state and local governments provide more than $2.5 billion in business incentives annually, according to author Timothy Bartik.  For many professionals who work in the field of economic development, their first question was, "how can this figure be accurate for a state that prohibits direct incentives to companies?"
In examining some of the underlying data, there appear to be some important facts the author of the report failed to mention. Overall, the study shows that when compared as a percent of value added, Tennessee ranks below average in most categories according to the chart below.
Valued Added
National Average
TN Rank
Job Creation Tax Credit
Property Tax Abatement
Investment Tax Credit
R&D Tax Credit
Customized Job Training
Unfortunately, the report's conclusion is driven by property tax abatements derived solely from one the Memphis area, and it applies the narrow data set to draw a conclusion about the entire state. Several Chamber members have noted that research should typically compare a number of broad data sources in order to draw accurate conclusions. Moreover, the conclusion of the report does not weigh or reflect Tennessee's state tax incentive programs, which is relatively conservatively applied in the study (see chart above).  

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.

Manufacturers Depend On Solid Infrastructure
Highlighting "five key observations and ramifications of the infrastructure deficit" for manufacturers, Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt writes in a column for Inc. Magazine (3/9) that "an American manufacturing renaissance depends on solid infrastructure." Greenblatt cites a recent NAM survey showing that "97.8 percent agreed that an efficient infrastructure system reduces transportation bottlenecks and costs to get products to market as well as congestion that can disrupt a supply chain and shut down a manufacturing shop floor." Editor's Note: Drew Greenblatt is chair of NAM's Small and Medium Manufacturers Group.

Columbia State, Fairview High School Showcase Successes of High School-Postsecondary CTE Partnerships
The  Columbia Daily Herald reports  on a joint open house hosted recently by Fairview High School in Williamson County and Columbia State Community College that showcased the success of their technical education partnership in mechatronics-based dual-credit courses.  Through the program, students have the opportunity to earn their high school diploma, a technical certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree in advanced integrated industrial technology at the same time.  "This program means that students will get a large chunk of their two-year associate degree done by the time they walk across the stage at high school graduation," said Kevin Sizemore, Fairview CTE department chair and mechatronics teacher.

Moore Tech and Memphis Car Dealers Plan Auto Tech School
In a story from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Greater Memphis Automobile Dealers Association is planning to team up with the William R. Moore College of Technology to launch their own tailor-made industry classes for aspiring automotive technicians. According to the plan laid out in the article, Moore Tech, a privately owned two-year vocational school, would teach the classes, and the automobile dealers would help find and secure financing for a separate facility to house the classes. "We polled the 54 dealerships in our association.  Not a one of them wouldn't hire a technician or a person who wants to be trained as a technician," said Kent Ritchey, president of the local association. "There just aren't enough of these technicians anywhere in the country."  A newly certified car tech can start at $35,000 and reach $65,000 in three years.

US House Advances Tort Reform Measures

The  Washington Post  (3/9, Kindy) reports in a front-page article that a series of bills being advanced by House Republicans would implement tort reforms "long sought by doctors and U.S. corporations, including a cap on some medical malpractice awards and new roadblocks for classes of people seeking to sue jointly to address harm." The House on Thursday "narrowly passed two of the four measures among party lines" - the Innocent Party Protection Act which "would shift some claims to the federal system from state courts, which tend to be more sympathetic to plaintiffs," and the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act which "would permit class-action lawsuits to proceed in federal court only if every person in the class had 'an injury of the same type and scope.'" The House is expected to take up the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act on Friday. That measure "would require federal judges to sanction attorneys whose claims are later found frivolous."

Bloomberg Government  (3/9) reports, "Hours before the final debate, the National Association of Manufacturers informed House members that H.R. 985 would be a 'key vote' in determining which members receive the group's coveted endorsement." The National Association of Manufacturers says that when courts fail to ensure class members share a common injury of the same type or of comparable scope, the result "greatly increas[es] the costs of litigation."


Portman Bill "Key Vehicle" For Regulatory Reform

Politico  (3/10, Grunwald) says that while there's a "flurry" of regulatory reform on Capitol Hill, Ohio Senator Rob Portman's Regulatory Accountability Act will be "the key Republican vehicle to rein in rulemaking." Politico characterizes the piece of legislation as "significantly less radical than several aggressive bills recently passed by the House of Representatives," but says industry groups "have pinned their hopes on this one attracting support from enough moderate Democrats to overcome a Senate filibuster and make it to Trump's desk." In addition, Politico quotes NAM Vice President Rosario Palmieri saying, "Historically, regulatory reform has always been a bipartisan proposition."

39.1%: CBO Says U.S. Has Highest Corporate Tax Rate in G20
( CNS News) -- reports that "the United States has the highest top statutory corporate tax rate -- 39.1% -- of any nation in the G20."  That's according to a study released last week by the Congressional Budget Office.  The United States also ranked near the top of the G20 in the average corporate tax rate, as well as the effective corporate tax rate, the story notes.  In the ranking of average corporate tax rates, the U.S. rate of 29.0% was third highest; in the ranking of effective corporate tax rates, the U.S. rate of 18.6%was fourth highest.  "The U.S. top statutory corporate tax rate of 39.1% results from the high federal corporate tax rate combined with the fact that most states tax corporations also."  (Note: In Nebraska, the top combined corporate rate is nearly 43%, as Nebraska has the 16th highest corporate tax rate.)

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