March 2, 2017
Haslam Transportation Bill Swerves Past First Hurdle: Substantial Changes Temporarily Dilute IMPROVE Act

NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam's transportation funding bill zigzagged past opponents in a key House panel Wednesday and emerged with an altered plan that cut some of the key provisions in the original IMPROVE language, but nonetheless survived its first major committee hurdle.  Transportation Subcommittee members approved the bill, but removed the Republican governor's proposed gas tax increase from the original legislation.  Instead, they borrowed an idea from a rival plan to fund highway and bridge improvements using a percentage of state sales tax revenue.  The proposal advanced on a 5-4 vote in the House Transportation Subcommittee on Wednesday with House Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson of Clarksville joining the panel to cast the tiebreaking vote.  Then, when the rival plan sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk (R- Greeneville) came up for a vote, it failed on a 3-5 line. Prior to the subcommittee vote, observers noted this maneuvering would need to happen in order to ensure the Haslam proposal cleared the subcommittee.

While the amendment may have been needed to advance the legislation in the short term, the omission of the Single Sales Factor from the currently amended version of the bill is drawing concern from the Tennessee Chamber and employers across the state.  Removing the most essential element for economic growth out of the bill is a risky gamble for policymakers to play with the livelihoods of over 330,000 Tennesseans employed in the manufacturing sector.  Although we anticipate future amendments are likely to re-insert the Single Sales Factor back into the proposal, yesterday's gamesmanship is a clear sign that the battle to modernize Tennessee's manufacturing taxes and keep our state competitive with our neighbors is only just beginning. Read more from the  Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Key Workforce Development Proposals Get Unanimous Approval in Education Committees

This week, the House and Senate Education Committees took encouraging action on a number of key education proposals that promise to help close skills gaps and bolster workforce readiness across the state.  The first, HB 22 by Chairman Harry Brooks (R- Knoxville), passed unanimously out of the House Education Instruction and Programs Committee with an amendment that seeks to expand Early Postsecondary Opportunities (EPSO's) for high school students.  As amended, Chairman Brooks's bill 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 measure now heads to the House Finance Subcommittee for further consideration next week.
In the Senate, that chamber's Education Committee also took unanimous and decisive action to advance another critical piece of legislation designed to directly address the technical skill needs of employers and equip thousands of students with an immediately marketable, career-minded education.  Dubbed the LEAP (Labor Education Alignment Program) bill, SB 1231 by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R- Collierville) would allow the Board of Regents and 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. Designed specifically to help meet the needs of Tennessee's high-skill, high-technology industries, the bill also extends much-needed civil lawsuit protections to participating employers that agree to host and train LEAP students in their worksites, helping clear the way for businesses to engage in the program and properly train the next generation of Tennessee workers to be ready for the academically advanced, globally competitive emerging job trends of the future.  The House companion bill, HB 445 by Rep. Ron Gant (R- Rossville), is scheduled to be heard next week in the House Education Instruction and Programs Subcommittee.
Both of these bills are deemed to be of vital importance in helping meet the ambitious goals of Governor Haslam's Drive to 55 initiative and in elevating the education and skills capacities of our state's workforce to meet the rapidly growing labor demands of advanced new industries.  We will continue working to drive these essential proposals while also preserving the integrity of existing, proven accountability and instructional quality mechanisms that set a successful academic foundation in K-12 for a fuller and richer participation in these programs in students' secondary and postsecondary pursuits.

Local Chambers are always a favorite in Nashville
We know our local chambers are always hard at work promoting their communities and serving as a hub for business. Our friends at the Fayetteville Lincoln Chamber of Commerce visited Capitol Hill this week hosting their annual Hamburger Day on the Hill. The 29 th of its kind, Hamburger Day is a long-awaited and much-anticipated yearly tradition by legislators, staff, and other capitol-dwellers looking for a taste of home and a welcome break from the chaotic bustle of Legislative Plaza.  Loaded down with hefty plates of locally-raised beef hamburgers, BBQ pork, and, of course, the famous sweet and tangy pool room slaw, Fayetteville-Lincoln County Chamber members could be seen on the packed floor of War Memorial Auditorium breaking bread and shaking hands with legislators and department officials from across the state.  Reps. Pat Marsh and Rick Tillis and Sen. Jim Tracy, serving as the hosting county's home delegation, gratefully took the opportunity to heap praise on their chamber and business community partners for putting on the event and connected their hometown visitors with their House and Senate colleagues.  As always, these "Day on the Hill" events by our local chambers always prove to be greatly valued opportunities to elevate the profile of local businesses and help raise the voice of our chamber partners.  The Tennessee Chamber is always willing to assist our local chamber partners with planning and promoting these events.
Hungry for a famous slawburger of your own?  You can get one at the 3rd Annual Slawburger Festival in Fayetteville on April 15 th.
Graceland unveils 'Elvis Presley's Memphis'
On Thursday morning, Graceland officials unveiled their new entertainment complex, "Elvis Presley's Memphis." It marks the start of a four-day grand opening celebration of the 200,000-square-foot, $45 million project, across from Presley's mansion in Whitehaven. The project includes the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum; Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum; Elvis Discovery Exhibits; Elvis' Custom Jets as well as added restaurants and retail shops. It represents the largest expansion at Graceland since it was first opened to the public in 1982.  Here's an early glimpse this morning of the state-of-the-art facility.

Lundberg Passes His First Senate bill, Enjoys Freshman Initiation
The State Senate was in a jovial spirit on Thursday, when freshman Senator John Lundberg had his first piece of legislation up for consideration.  Keeping with tradition during debate on his first bill in the Senate, Lundberg's fellow Senators asked a series of pointed questions and joined in on some good natured "ribbing" initiating him into the body.  Having previously served in the Tennessee House, Senator Lundberg artfully parried all of his colleagues' barbs and genuinely seemed to enjoy the whimsical sparring.  On Thursday, March 2nd Sen. Lundbuerg passed  SB 0607  renamed the state law governing  conservatorship arrangements as the "Travis and Debby Campbell/Falk Act".  We send our congratulations to the freshman Senator. 
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

Tennessee in the National Education Spotlight: How Students Are Getting the Education They Need to Fill America's Biggest Job Gaps
Sparked by a combination of mounting student debt and a high unemployment rate amongst the millennial generation, CTE (Career and Technical Education) is gaining renewed, bipartisan focus across the country.  96 percent of U.S. high school students now take at least one CTE course, including 237,425 students in Tennessee alone. 
In this revealing and timely story from The Atlantic, read more real-world examples about how local chambers in Tennessee, including Rutherford County's own chamber, are stepping in to help identify industry skills needs in their communities and partnering with community colleges and CTE administrators to fill educational gaps.

Tennessee Right to Repair Legislation Filed

Legislation filed by Sen. Ferrell Haile and Rep. Darren Jernigan would mandate open access to otherwise proprietary information and diagnostic tools related to machine repair, or access to embedded software code.  The legislation has been identified by a number of Chamber members in the technology, machinery and automotive sectors as potentially concerning to the security of their intellectual property.  As currently filed, the bill excludes a number of industries, but the sponsor of the House version has indicated his interest in expanding the sectors it impacts.  Businesses have noted that current market practices already ensure the proper operation and maintenance of equipment, ongoing regulatory compliance, and protection of intellectual property that are often applied under warranty or lease agreements. To view a copy of bill please click 
Washington Turns to Governors for Input on Health Care
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam could play a key role in determining what Republicans in Washington do next on health care. Haslam is part of a team of eight governors tapped to advise the Trump administration and Congress on how they'd replace the Affordable Care Act. The group was assembled by Republican Governors Association chairman Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Haslam says he met twice with new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price while he was in Washington last weekend, and he's been on the phone with other governors to discuss health care every few days. Haslam says the White House and lawmakers have been receptive to their ideas.

Manufacturing Jobs Grew 27% in Nashville Metro Area Between 2011 And 2016
The Dallas Business Journal (2/27, Subscription) reports that between 2011 and 2016, 107 of the nation's largest metro areas "saw a 4 percent increase in manufacturing hiring," which equated "to a net increase of roughly 280,000 jobs." At the top of that list was Louisville, Kentucky, where hiring increased by 27.2 percent. Further south "in the MSA of Greater Nashville, Tennessee, hiring spiked 27 percent while in the Daytona Beach area of Florida it increased 25.3 percent."
Other TN metro areas - Manufacturing Growth - Knoxville Area +5.6%, Chattanooga Area +3.9%, Memphis Area +3.0%

( Washington Post) Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order instructing the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review and reconsider the controversial "waters of the United States" (a.k.a. WOTUS) rule adopted by the Obama administration in 2015, defining the scope of the federal government's regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.  In 2001 and 2006, the Supreme Court rejected the EPA and Army Corps' overbroad assertions of jurisdiction under the CWA. Some states and landowner groups think that the 2015 WOTUS rule commits the same mistake. President Trump's new executive order, and accompanying remarks, suggests that the new administration shares this assessment.
Bottom line: POTUS can sink WOTUS, but it will take some time and significant effort to accomplish.
Senate Confirmed Four More Cabinet Secretaries This Week

The Senate approved Wilbur Ross to lead President Trump's Commerce Department on Monday evening. The final vote on Ross was 72-27. Ross was widely expected to be approved Monday night after he overcame a procedural hurdle earlier this month in a 66-31 vote that included the support of more than a dozen Democrats. The New York Times reported that Ross will be a "key leader for the Trump administration's plans to overhaul trade deals" such as NAFTA.
The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Rep. Ryan Zinke
(R-Mont.) to be President Trump's secretary of Interior. The final vote tally was 68-31, with 16 Democrats joining all Republicans to support Zinke.  The former Navy SEAL will now lead the 70,000-employee department with a wide range of responsibilities, from overseeing wide swaths of federal land to supervising offshore drilling and managing the government's relationships with American Indian tribes.
Early Thursday the Senate also confirmed Ben Carson as secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The final vote was 58-41. Carson needed a simple majority to be approved. Later the Senate confirmed Rick Perry to lead the Energy Department - an agency he once pledged to eliminate.   Perry, the former Texas governor and a two-time Republican presidential candidate, was confirmed on a 62-37 vote. The Senate confirmed Perry after only a few hours of debate on Thursday afternoon, moving unexpectedly quickly on the final cabinet-level member of President Trump's energy and environment team.

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