SB0473 / HB0979
Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) / Rep. Kent Calfee (R-Kingston) Freedom to Prosper Act
Known as the "Freedom to Prosper Act", this legislation would prevent cities and counties from layering on additional licensing restrictions and fees for occupations and professions. The sponsors mentioned that several jurisdictions around the country have added additional requirements forcing licensed occupations to register and pay a fee before conducting business in their county.
Tennessee Chamber is Supportive
of consistency for occupational licensing and reducing redundancy. The State of Tennessee already requires a license or certification on over 200 job classifications and additional regulations should be determined by the General Assembly to ensure consistency. This bill will not impact the current status of governments in the largest counties to administer the licensing authorities currently provided by the State.
: This bill failed to get enough votes in the Senate on Tuesday (3/28) and was held in committee until next year. On Thursday, the Sen. Roberts had gathered enough signatures from committee members to reconsider their actions. It will be heard again this coming Tuesday (4/4). The House version has passed one committee and will be heard next week in Finance.
HB 1382 / SB 0888 - Rep Jernigan (D-Old Hickory) / Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) Right to Repair
As drafted the Right to Repair Act would force the manufacturers of agricultural equipment to provide all diagnostic, repair, software and software repair tools to any repair provider or owner upon request.
Tennessee Chamber Opposes & Tennessee Manufacturers Association Opposes. Both worked hard to explain the flaws in this legislation. The use software and electronic controls in modern agricultural equipment are used for safety systems and emission controls. It is important that technicians are properly trained to ensure the continued safe operation of these systems. Secondarily, the intellectual property of manufacturers' software and the privacy of users can be placed in jeopardy when the keys to the encrypted controls are placed on the open market. The sponsors of the legislation have also noted their interest in expanding the legislation to other consumer goods
Outcome: DEFEATED; Referred to the 2nd calendar of 2018.
Both of these pay equity bills created a number of additional legal actions that could be brought against employers regarding employee pay in a number of areas including gender. Most concerning is the addition compliance burden that all employers would have to comply with including documentation that an employer must provide to show that any discrepancies related to pay were NOT related to an employee's gender.
Tennessee Chamber Noted Concerns: There is currently, federal law in place that offers guidance to employers and protection to employees on gender pay equity issues, and we understand there are federal proposals pending as well.
Outcome: DEFEATED: SB 1105 failed in Senate Commerce committee & HB 1246 failed in House Consumer & Human Resources committee
SB 1371 / HB 1405 - Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) / Rep. Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown) Protection of Natural Gas Transmission
As amended this legislation clarifies that the State Air Control Board in Tennessee should make its determinations on air pollution control permits based on the scientific approaches established in law and rule, currently.
Tennessee Chamber Supports. This bill is brought by the Tennessee Chamber. Recently, a local government pushed to include an additional standard to block a specific project and could have stopped future industrial and utility permitting. Their proposal is not based in the same scientific method as the current law and was rejected by the Air Board. We are certain the Air Board was correct and this legislation provides clarification for future attempts to circumvent the law and regulations governing air quality and potential emissions.
Outcome: PASSED full Senate,
PASSED in House Energy Subcommittee this week: set to be heard in House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday (4/4).
HB 1021 / SB 1336 - Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) / Sen. Paul Bailey (R- Sparta) Local Referendum for Energy Projects
This legislation was brought by local sponsors to block a proposed wind farm development in Crab Orchard, TN. The Chamber is a proponent of consistent state application of environmental and energy permits and fear local referendum would stop or impact a number of industrial activities. A series of amendments proposed on the bill established a series of steep regulatory hurdles that must be met before a permit could be submitted for construction. Most onerous was language requiring a county wide referendum to approve an industrial project after the time and effort to receive an approved permit. The referendum concept proposes a dangerous precedent. Future industrial projects and economic development would be seriously impacted if permits were required for new site development. After several vigorous debates in House and Senate committees, cooler heads prevailed and have proposed a serious study on the issue over the summer.
Tennessee Chamber opposed but moved to neutral with proposed amendment to study the issue.
Outcome: DEFEATED: An amendment has been agreed to that limits the application of the proposed bill. It will set a moratorium until July 2018 on construction and establish a study committee to review other states regulatory methods on wind turbines. The study committee will make recommendations on what action Tennessee should take. The House version will be heard in House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday (4/4).
If you would like to be informed about the study committee meetings on this topic, please contact the Tennessee Chamber. We will need assistance in providing best practices for industrial permitting and land use.
INSURANCE MANDATE BILLS:
Tennessee Chamber opposes additional insurance mandates. Recent changes in surrounding healthcare recently have resulted in significant cost increases for all employers. Chamber members frequently note rising healthcare costs is one of their greatest concerns. The Tennessee Chamber evaluates all proposals to determine the resulting cost impact it will have on insurance prices for business.
HB 960 / SB 0991 - Rep. Bryan Terry (R- Murfreesboro) / Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville) Drug Formularies
As drafted this legislation proposes a "frozen formulary" to annual health insurance plans, locking in a preferred drug's pricing for the entire year. It is a drug coverage mandate that will prevent insurance companies from negotiating prescription drug prices to be cost effective for their patients. The result will drive up pharmaceutical costs, and thus, insurance premiums for all private employers and individuals. Healthcare mandates at the state level add costs to individual and small group plans and creates a challenging environment for Tennessee business to afford healthcare plans for their employees.
SB 0922 / HB 1059 - Sen. Bill Ketron (R- Murfreesboro) / Rep. Lamberth (R-Cottontown) Mandate for Oral Chemotherapy
Requires health insurance to charge patients the same amount for anti-cancer drugs regardless of whether or not they cost the same. States the drugs must be comparable, whether given intravenously or taken orally in pill form.
The Tennessee Chamber opposes this mandate, the bill does not consider whether the pharmaceutical company, hospital or pharmacy may charge different prices for these medications. Patients are only required to pay $150 for a month's supply. As written the legislation does not apply to health insurance purchased through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Outcome: House and Senate version to be heard in committee this week (4/3 or 4/4).
HB1029 / SB 1049 - Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) / Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) Mandates on Certain Industrial Chemicals
This legislation purposes to ban several chemicals that are used as flame retardants. It places unneeded mandates on manufacturers of clothing, upholstery and furniture that use flame retardants. Retailers would also have to meet certain standards and become liable if products were not marked correctly.
Tennessee Chamber opposes these unnecessary mandates that drive up the cost of doing business. Chemicals that are used as flame retardants are heavily federally regulated, adding an additional layer of inspections, certifications and fees is completely unnecessary. These types of chemicals are approved and have been determined to be safe to use. Further, chemicals used in consumer products, when they are scientifically determined to be unsafe are immediately taken off the market (often by the manufacturers themselves).
Outcome: DEFEATED: This bill will not be heard in 2017. The House sponsor requested that it be taken off notice and the Senate sponsor has not requested that it be scheduled.
Committees that have closed:
Senate Energy, Agriculture & Natural Resources committee
House Business & Utilities subcommittee
We anticipate more committees will close in the week ahead.