Tennessee Chamber Update: Is a monthly newsletter distributed in place of the weekly Capitol Update which is produced when the legislature is in session. 
TN Chamber Update                     August 2017
Quick Links - News
Political Roundup:
August 23-25

August 30 

September 20

September 27-29

October 2-6 Manufacturing Week

October 6, 2017
National #MFGDAY

October 16
TN Chamber Golf Tournament sponsored by FedEx

October 23 - 24

November 8 

Visit tnchamber.org for more information; To register - Click 'Events' & select training/conference
 date on calendar.
Tennessee Leaders Tout Lowest Unemployment Rate in State History
Tennessee has rate of 3.6 percent for June 2017
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced last month that Tennessee's unemployment rate for June 2017 was 3.6 percent, the lowest in Tennessee recorded history.
The June 2017 preliminary seasonally adjusted rate surpasses the previous low of 3.7 percent from March 2000. The state has not experienced an unemployment rate below 4.0 percent since it was 3.9 percent in February 2001.
"What's truly exciting about today's news is that this is a statewide story," Haslam said. "Today more than ever, businesses have a choice of where to grow or expand, and because of the policies this administration has put in place working with the General Assembly, we're seeing the job growth that comes when businesses choose Tennessee."
June's rate declines four-tenths of a percentage point from the May revised rate of 4.0 percent. Amid notable improvements in Tennessee's unemployment rate, the national preliminary rate increases by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month to 4.4 percent, lingering in the 4.0 percentile.
"When a state's rate declines during a national uptick in unemployment, that's something to note," Phillips said. "Just seven years ago more than 10 percent of Tennesseans were out of work. One of Governor Haslam's top priorities has been to make Tennessee the best state in the southeast for high quality jobs. All indications point to that priority becoming a reality."
Last month's unemployment shift is largely due to declines in the seasonally adjusted labor force. Over the past year, Tennessee has led the decrease in seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, declining from 4.7 percent to the current 3.6 percent, while the national rate declined half a percentage point from 4.9 percent to 4.4 percent.

Tennessee Chamber/ Manufacturing Efforts Highlighted
The  Chattanooga Times Free Press this week highlighted the statewide efforts of the Tennessee Chamber and Tennessee Manufacturers Association to tackle workforce concerns. Denise Rice, who directs manufacturing outreach, noted a number of challenges in both retirements and worker skill gaps for manufacturing.  The interview also focused on the strength of manufacturing in the volunteer state. 
Tennessee: A Hotbed for Foreign Direct Investment
Business Facilities magazine reports that Tennessee was ranked No. 1 among all U.S. states for foreign direct investment (FDI) job commitments in 2015, according to the 2016 IBM Global Locations Trends report. There are approximately 926 foreign-based companies with operations in the Volunteer state and foreign investments total more than $33.8 billion in capital investment. More than 127,000 Tennesseans work for foreign-owned companies, which accounted for 30 percent of all new job commitments in the state in 2015. "There is a direct correlation between having suits and boots on the ground and capital coming to Tennessee," said Bob Rolfe, Commissioner of Tennessee DECD. To read the entire article click here.
UAWnoUnionUAW Expansion Efforts Fail Again in Southeast: Nissan Workers Soundly Reject Mississippi Efforts to Unionize  

Despite the vision of union leaders to grow their dwindling ranks through southeast union campaigns their efforts are falling short. By a 63%-37% margin, Nissan workers cast their ballot against the UAW in an election that spanned two days with the final vote of 2,244 to 1,307. A number of prominent Mississippi leaders including Governor Phil Bryant and business leaders across the state urged workers to reject the UAW efforts.  The Tennessee chamber is also pleased at the result of the campaign and noted the importance of workers right choosing to self-represent through direct relationships they  enjoy with their respective companies.  
Workforce and Education News ... 
Tennessee leading National Student FAFSA Filings Again; Good Sign for Post-Secondary Participation to Address Workforce Challenges

Efforts to increase Tennessee's post-secondary admission and completion rates, a hallmark initiative of the Haslam Administration, seem to be paying off, according to a report from Chalkbeat .
Haslam announced last month that the state has set another new record for the number of high school seniors filing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA.  With 73.5 percent completing the form for the upcoming academic year - an increase of 3.2 percent from last year - Tennessee led the nation in FAFSA filings for the third straight year, according to the governor's office.  The FAFSA filing rate is one indicator that more students are pursuing educational opportunities beyond a high school diploma.
Getting students ready for college and career has been a major focus under Haslam. He launched his Drive to 55 initiative in 2013 with the goal that at least 55 percent of Tennesseans will have postsecondary degrees or other high-skill job certifications by 2025.
"The continued surge in FAFSA filing rates shows the Drive to 55 is changing the college-going culture in Tennessee," Haslam said in a news release. "First-time freshman enrollment in Tennessee has grown 13 percent in the past two years and more students than ever are going to college. As a state, we have invested in making college accessible and open to everyone and students are hearing the message."
According to calculations from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Tennessee led all states by a large margin this year. The closest states or districts were Washington D.C., 64.8 percent; Delaware, 61.6 percent; New Jersey, 61 percent; and Massachusetts, 60.4 percent. 
tndeptofedTennessee Chamber Appointed to Provide Industry Perspective on Improving K-12 College, Career, and Technical Education
Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced that she is establishing the College, Career and Technical Education (CCTE) Transition Advisory Council to provide immediate insight and direction as the state welcomes new leadership to guide our work in postsecondary and career readiness.  The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry is honored to serve on this committee that will provide meaningful input to enhance CCTE education crucial to Tennessee's long-term workforce success.  You can view the full list of CCTE Transition Advisory Council members here.
BlountandArconicBlount Partnership and Arconic Foundation Tackle Local Workforce Challenges with Manufacturing Internships, Work-Based Learning Programs
Manufacturers in Blount County are getting a boost to help train local students with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace thanks to the Arconic Foundation and the Blount Partnership, reports the Maryville Daily Times .
There, 17 graduates of the Arconic Global Internship Program had completed three weeks of workforce readiness instruction and 100 hours of paid work experience.
They had resumes, knew how to impress recruiters by asking questions about their businesses and could point to real-world experience that showed their abilities to meet workplace standards, participate in teams and demonstrate leadership.  Some students are hired by the employers where they intern, but even if that workplace doesn't have any current openings they are in a better position to find work.
In addition to gaining job experience, interns in the program may earn certifications in areas such as forklift operation and safety.  During the most recent training, employers who offered internships included Skier's Choice, Cherokee Millwright, Promat, Newell Rubbermaid, Axis Fabrication and DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee Inc.
The program is made possible by a grant from the Arconic Foundation's Global Internship Program for Unemployed Youth, along with the Adult Education Foundation of Blount County and Blount Partnership.
Workforce Updates: LIFT Report Provides Recommendations for Aligning College Curricula with Advanced Manufacturing Needs;
Webinar Series to Highlight New Metals Technology Announced
new report from leading national higher education and workforce experts says colleges and universities should work with industry to modify their curricula to ensure students gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities they will need upon graduation for jobs that involve new lightweighting technologies, materials, and processes.
The report, the first in a series of six scheduled releases, was created by a team of college and university faculty (Expert Educator Team, or EET)-experts in both materials science and education and workforce preparation-assembled by LIFT - Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS).
The report includes recommendations about college-level competencies required for emerging technologies and lightweight metal solutions across several industries. The report urges programs at both the technical/production (two-year, associate's degree) and design/engineering (four-year, bachelor's degree) levels to review curricula and integrate materials and approaches that address competencies in four different manufacturing areas, including integrated computational materials engineering (ICME), metamorphic manufacturing, distortion control, and thin-wall aluminum die casting.
LIFT also announced a new webinar series, "LIFT Off," featuring small and medium-sized companies highlighting the newest innovations in lightweight metals manufacturing. There are manufacturing innovations being developed at small companies all around the country - particularly around lightweighting.  

Beginning on August 17and held at noon ET on the 3rd Thursday of each month, LIFT - Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow and The Center will provide an opportunity for a small or medium-sized company to highlight the newest design, material, manufacturing process or material they are working on.

Don't miss these opportunities to be a part of the leading edge of lightweight manufacturing.
TNReadyTNReady High School Scores Improve Across All Subjects in Second Year of New Assessment
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced last month that Tennessee high school students improved across all subject areas - English, math, science, and U.S. history - on the 2016-17 TNReady end-of-course exams.  Thousands of additional students are meeting course expectations compared to last year, and the state reduced the percentage of students scoring at the lowest achievement level across all subject areas.
TNReady is the statewide assessment administered to all students in grades 3-11. It is a more rigorous assessment, compared to past state tests, that is fully aligned to Tennessee's academic standards, which are based on what students need to know and be able to do each year to ultimately be prepared for college and their careers. In 2015- 16, high school students set a new baseline in the first year of TNReady, and as expected, their scores are beginning to increase as teachers and students adjust to higher standards that ensure students are ready for the next step in their academic journey.
Also, for the first time this year, high school students in 24 districts took TNReady online. This was the first year of a three-year transition to online assessments, and in 2017-18, all high school students will take TNReady end-of- course exams online. Additionally, districts will have the option for students in grades 5-8 to take TNReady online in 2017-18 before fully transitioning those students to online assessments in 2018-19.

  GeneralNewsGeneral News ... 
Report: Increasing Number of Cyberattacks
Pushing Business and Manufacturers to Improve Network Security
Automation World (7/24, Greenfield) reports that news about the increasing occurrence of cyberattacks on business networks "appears to be leading manufacturers to improve security." The article cites a recent report stating that "95 percent of the manufacturing security professionals surveyed said cybersecurity breaches have driven improvements at their companies to at least a modest extent," and that "28 percent of the manufacturers surveyed for the report cited a loss of revenue due to cybersecurity attacks in the past year." The report, authored by Cisco, finds that many manufacturers utilize security measures that are overly complex, from multiple sources. The article quotes the report saying, "To get to the point where manufacturing systems are updated and integrated, manufacturers must resolve the security solution complexity problem." It adds, "Forty-six percent of the manufacturing security professionals said they use six or more security vendors; 20 percent said they use more than 10 vendors." The report concludes that "despite the clear increase in cybersecurity breaches that have targeted manufacturers, Cisco says the good news is that there are simple steps manufacturers can take to improve security," the article adds. 

White House Deregulation Push Clears Out Hundreds of Proposed Rules
The White House  reported Thursday it had withdrawn or removed from active consideration more than 800 proposed regulations that were never finalized during the Obama administration as it works to shrink the federal government's regulatory footprint.
In a report, the Trump administration said it had withdrawn 469 planned actions that had been part of the Obama administration's regulatory agenda published last fall. Officials also reconsidered 391 active regulatory proceedings by reclassifying them as long-term or inactive "allowing for further careful review," the White House said.
Business Community Continues To Pressure Congress to Pass Tax Reform
The Hill (7/25, Jagoda) reports that the business community is putting "increasing pressure" on lawmakers to "pass tax reform legislation as soon as possible." While groups are "still hopeful that tax reform legislation will pass this year...they are also growing restless and eager to see action." Last Thursday, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue "wrote an open letter to lawmakers and congressional candidates warning that 'failure is not an option' on tax reform," which came a month after the NAM, Chamber, the Business Roundtable, and NFIB "sent congressional leaders a joint letter urging them to press forward with a budget resolution that could ease the path for tax reform." 
Healthcare Reform at a Standstill in Congress
Senator Alexander to Focus on Stabilizing the Individual Marketplace
So far Republicans in Congress has to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act there are several questions as to next steps.  Will Congress eventually repeal and replace the ACA?  Will the ACA be reformed to address excessive regulation and burdensome taxes that increase the cost of providing healthcare?  What in the short-term can be done to help address some of the most pressing issues facing the insurance marketplace? 
One issue of immediately importance is the issue of cost sharing payments.  Congress has until September 27th to re-authorize these payments for 2018.  A study by Oliver Wyman states that two-third of 2018 premium increases are linked to uncertainty around cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments and the relaxation of the individual mandate.  The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that silver plans on the ACA exchange will increase an additional 21% here in Tennessee for 2018 without CSRs. 
The Commonwealth Fund has an in-depth dive on CSRs and their impact on the overall marketplace.  Under the ACA - insurance companies are obligated to reduce the cost-sharing obligations of low-income enrollees, such as their copayments and deductibles.  If Congress and the Administration don't re-authorize these payments insurance companies would be left holding the bag, either causing massive premium increases to cover the loss or insurance companies could simply leave the individual marketplace all-together, leaving many without any insurance options.
Bruce Josten from U.S. Chamber addressed this issue in The Hill.  Like other business contracts, the insurance industry cannot function properly if government unexpectedly makes changes to rules in the middle of the game.  Regardless of what happens in the long-term re: repeal and replace or reform of the ACA - there are some short and mid-term actions that Congress can lead on to help stabilize an already fragile insurance marketplace. 
Tennessee's own Senator Lamar Alexander (Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee) made comments from the Senate floor on August 1st, in support of cost sharing payments through 2018 to bring some stability to the marketplace while Congress figures on next steps on healthcare reform.  Sen. Alexander's Committee is planning to renew reform efforts in the months ahead.  Tennessee is fortunate to have leadership at the center of this serious discussion. 

Environment & Energy News ... 
Air Quality Improves as America Grows
The EPA released a new report showing the tremendous strides being made in air quality across the country.  You can review the highlights of the report here .
Nationally, concentrations of the criteria and hazardous air pollutants have dropped significantly since 1990:
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) 8-Hour,  77%
  • Lead (Pb) 3-Month Average,  99%
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Annual,  56%
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) 1-Hour,  50%
  • Ozone (O3) 8-Hour,  22%
  • Particulate Matter 10 microns (PM10) 24-Hour,  39%
  • Particulate Matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) Annual,  42%
  • Particulate Matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) 24-Hour,  44%
  • Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) 1-Hour,  85%
  • Numerous air toxics have declined with percentages varying by pollutant
During this same period, the U.S. economy grew, Americans drove more miles than ever and population and energy use increased.  This chart is a strong representation that can be used to show that energy production, electric generation, manufacturing, and energy delivery are compatible with a safe, healthy environment.   Not to mention that industry is doing its part to preserve air quality. 
EPA Clears New Chemicals "Backlog", Industry Cheers
The Environmental Protection Agency has finished reviewing its backlog of more than 600 new chemicals as required by Toxic Substances Control Act reform. This is good news, though "there is still work to be done to completely clear the backlog and prevent it from reoccurring," said Jon Corley of the American Chemistry Council.  More from Bloomberg BNA.

Study: Tennessee Ranks 25th in Residential Energy Expense
Tennessee ranks right in the middle in terms of energy costs compared to the 49 other states, according to a new analysis by personal finance website WalletHub.com.  WalletHub analysts used a formula to account for the following residential energy types: electricity, natural gas, motor fuel and home heating oil.  According to the study, Tennessee's average monthly energy bill was $274.  Compared to the 49 other states and D.C., Tennessee ranked 12th for electricity costs and 39th for natural gas.  The study also revealed that Tennessee consumers rank 5th highest for total consumption. See more on the study by clicking here.
EPA Will Inventory Chemicals Being Used in Commerce
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to get a better handle on which chemicals have been in production since 2006 and in what quantities, including chemicals with less than 25,000 pounds of annual production.  The EPA knows chemical manufacturers made generally 25,000 pounds or more of some 8,700 chemicals since 2012, the last year information was tracked.  So the agency -- working with chemical manufacturers, importers and processors -- will soon start figuring out exactly what chemicals have been made or used in the U.S. since 2006. This process will begin after the EPA publishes what's called its final Inventory Update rule in the Federal Register.  More information here.

Tennessee Political Update: One Year Out from 2018 Primary Elections, Big Changes Loom on the Horizon
For the Tennessee Chamber and business leaders, a constant assessment of Tennessee's political environment is always top of mind.  The onset of August marks the official start of the one-year stretch until the 2018 Primary elections, and so far, there is no sign that the rapid pace of legislative retirements, vacancies, appointments, and other moves on Tennessee's political chess board is slowing down anytime soon.  The month of July yielded yet another round of seismic political announcements, although some were more expected than others.
Have your own tips or scoops about legislative retirements, candidate announcements, or noteworthy political events unfolding in your local area?  Be sure to email them to ted.boyatt@tnchamber.org and we can share them in our monthly updates.  All submissions may be kept anonymous, of course.
Governor's Race:
On the gubernatorial front, the last month saw the field of announced and prospective contenders finally solidify as Congressman Diane Black, Speaker Beth Harwell, and House Democrat Leader Craig Fitzhugh made formal announcements of their candidacies.
After months of quiet positioning and sometimes overt public insinuations, U.S. Congressman Diane Black (R- Gallatin) finally ended the speculation about her political future and formally announced her entry into the gubernatorial contest.  While perhaps the last major Republican candidate to get into the race, Black enters the field with arguably the largest initial advantage in name recognition and a deep-pocketed capacity to fund her own campaign with personal dollars.  With her own extensive political background in both the state legislature and the U.S. House, Black will be relying on her reputation as a fiercely conservative pugilist with strong credentials amongst both conservative grassroots activists and more "establishment" party centrists alike.
Current House Speaker Beth Harwell (R- Nashville) also officially tossed her hat into the race to succeed Gov. Haslam, joining Black, current State Senator Mae Beavers , former Economic & Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd , and middle Tennessee businessman and Lee Company founder Bill Lee .  Harwell, who has served as House Speaker since 2011, appears set to run on her extensive background and deep experience in state government, having served in the legislature since 1988 and even as Chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2001 - 2004.  While she does not boast the vast personal resources of Boyd, Lee, or Congressman Black, she has indicated that she does plan on seeding her campaign with some personal money and has signed notable mega-donor  David Ingram of Nashville to be her campaign treasurer.  Her decision to run for governor not only leaves a vacancy in the House speakership, but also in her suburban west Nashville legislative district.  So far, only one candidate has officially declared candidacy to replace her: 47-year-old Nashville surgeon Dr. Brent Moody .  While rumors suggest Moody intends to follow in Harwell's footsteps as a more moderate Republican, the near-evenly split swing district will be a tough battle for either party to gain a clear upper hand in November.
On the Democratic side, Tennessee House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D- Ripley) made his plans to run for governor official , setting up a real primary battle on the Democratic ticket with former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.  Although one of Tennessee's last rural democrats with a penchant for somewhat moderate stances on gun ownership and some social issues, the small town West Tennessee banker is seen as more aligned with traditional Democratic and liberal-leaning constituencies than Dean, who has broken with his party at times to support sometimes-controversial school choice and charter school measures in Nashville.  The primary battle on the left will be the first credible one for statewide office that Tennessee democrats have seen since 2010, providing a real draw for Democratic voters to cast their ballots in their own party primary election.

House Speakership:
While Harwell's announcement also injects a new dynamic into the ever-evolving gubernatorial race, it signals a potentially seismic shake-up within the ranks of House leadership.  Only days after entering the race for governor, speculation and open prognostication immediately followed about which members of the House Republican Caucus would seek to assume her gavel.  Current House Majority Leader Glen Casada (R- Thompsons Station), who has long been positioning himself for a potential speakership bid, was coy when asked by reporters about his intentions.  Conversely, former House Majority Leader and current Finance Subcommittee Chairman Gerald McCormick (R- Chattanooga) was quick to candidly signal his interest in succeeding Harwell when asked by the media, noting his years of spearheading many of the Haslam administration's landmark legislative successes and upholding the interests of the House when negotiating with Senate counterparts.  Also said to be considering a run is Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk (R- Greeneville), a new face within the ranks of House leadership but a longtime member of the body who carries the broad respect of many of his fellow caucus members.  Similarly, current House Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis Johnson (R- Clarksville) also said he intends to seek the Speaker's gavel, leveraging his leadership credentials as Harwell's constitutional proxy. 

Congressional Delegation :
After over 50 years of combined, steady representation in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman John J. "Jimmy" Duncan and his father, renowned judge and Congressman John Duncan Sr., Knoxville and Tennessee's second congressional district are set to have a new face and a new name in Washington D.C. after the 2018 elections.  In a move that had been long anticipated but that still came as a shock to political observers, Congressman Duncan announced that he would not be seeking re-election, bringing an end to one of the Tennessee politics' longest-standing family dynasties. 
The announcement from Congressman Duncan immediately drew speculation about who would be lining up to succeed him.  The first and perhaps most competitive choice is term-limited outgoing Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who scheduled a weekend event to publicly reveal his political plans.  As a well-known and generally well-liked high profile official from the district's single largest population center, early odds would likely put Burchett in an advantageous position.  In 2010, he and his now-Chief of Staff Dean Rice pulled off one of the most unexpectedly lopsided victories in recent political memory, besting then-outgoing Sheriff and local political powerhouse Tim Hutchinson by a whopping 85-15 margin in the county mayoral primary election.  Hot on Mayor Burchett's heels, State Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R- Lenoir City) also announced his plans to seek the congressional seat, likely relying on his small business background and name recognition in the Loudon County area of the district. Other Republicans said to be considering bids of their own are Blount County Sheriff James "Jimbo" Berrong, Knoxville State Sen. Richard Briggs, and longtime Knoxville State Rep. Bill Dunn.  On the Democratic side, Joshua Williams, a clinical psychologist, and Renee Hoyos, a non-profit executive, are reportedly weighing their own potential bids.
In Middle Tennessee, with Congressman Diane Black's gubernatorial announcement last week, it is official that the 6th District seat will have an open election next year.  Looking at historical precedent, it is very likely that plenty of candidates will emerge.  When this same seat was last vacated in 2010, there were several credible candidates who ran strong campaigns.  State Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) has announced he is running, and other local elected officials may follow.  It has also been widely rumored that John Rose, the founder of an information technology training company and a former agriculture commissioner will be a candidate.  Rose, who owns and lives on a farm in Smith County, has deep family ties throughout the district.

The Senate:
Just weeks after President Trump nominated Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris to fill a vacancy in a federal district court judgeship in West Tennessee, the President also prompted another likely exit from the body when he nominated Maryville State Senator Doug Overbey to be the next U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  Although Overbey's 4-year term isn't set to expire until 2020, his would-be confirmation by the U.S. Senate could leave his seat to be filled by special election, county commission appointment, a rescheduled appearance on the regular 2018 ballot, or some combination thereof, depending on the exact timing.  Fellow Maryvillian and current House Business and Utilities Subcommittee Chairman Art Swann, a longtime leader in Blount County political circles with wide-ranging respect from both centrist and conservative activist factions within his hometown's local Republican Party, is rumored to be considering a bid to replace Overbey in the Senate.
As for the district vacancy in Norris's senate seat, three candidates have so far been mentioned as possible contenders, although none of them are said to be current residents of the district.  First among them is House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee Chairman Mark White, a longtime Republican House member in the Shelby County legislative delegation.  The others are Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer and three-time Republican congressional candidate Dr. George Flinn.
The expected departures of two top senate leaders- Norris and Senate Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron- is also triggering some early positioning within the Senate Republican Caucus for rights of succession.  While the list of potential contenders is less clear than in the House, where the maneuvering has been more overt for the speakership, rumors are centering on Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) as a likely aspirant to replace Norris as Senate Majority Leader.  Joining him in the speculative chatter around the halls of Legislative Plaza is Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R- Riceville), who is also said to be eyeing the Majority Leader's race.  Similarly, Senate Energy and Agriculture Committee Chairman Steve Southerland (R- Morristown) and Knoxville Sen. Becky Duncan Massey are also rumored to be considering leadership bids for either Caucus Chairman or Majority Leader, along with several others.

The House:
While the month of July saw relatively little news on the House side, the first week of August produced some of the most notable political news of the 2018 cycle to date.  After months of informally signaling his intentions to run, Knoxville State Rep. Roger Kane officially announced his intentions to leave the legislature in 2018 and seek the post of Knox County Clerk instead.
Perhaps the most notable vacancy occurred in the 21st district were State Rep. Jimmy Matlock announced that he would be vacating his office to run for the congressional seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan.  His exit from the state legislature opens up the seat he has held for a decade representing the suburban and rural populations of Loudon and Monroe Counties.  It also affirmatively rules out his rumored bid for speaker in the state House, leaving a void in that potential field of candidates for someone to represent the hard-right. 

In yet another legislative exit of an experienced lawmaker, State Rep. David Alexander (R- Winchester) officially announced that he would be seeking the office of Franklin County Mayor in 2018 and not be returning to the legislature.  An eight-year veteran of the State House, Alexander's exit opens up a contest to represent the rural and largely conservative district.
Finally, voters in Hamilton County learned this week that State Rep. Marc Gravitt (R- East Ridge) would be leaving his seat in the state legislature to instead purse a race to succeed the outgoing local Hamilton County Register of Deeds.  First elected in 2014, Gravitt's departure will open up his Republican-leaning, partially urban and suburban district bordering the Tennessee-Georgia line.
Political observers also note that the handful of House members lining up for potential Senate bids as a result of this month's vacancies, like Reps. Mark White, Debra Moody, and Art Swann, could place as many three or more additional House seats in play.  Moreover, Congressman Black's entry into the gubernatorial contest sets off another electoral showdown in the 6th congressional district, where several area State House members are rumored to be considering entering the race to succeed her.  State Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) has already announced his campaign for the seat.