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                 November 2017
Quick Links - News
Visit tnchamber.org for more information; To register - Click 'Events' & select training/conference
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Tennessee to Place 'Warranty' on its Community and Technical College Training

If a Tennessee employer doesn't feel a recent community or technical college graduate's skills are up to snuff, the state will retrain them for free.
That's the promise Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings said the state is making after the fall graduating class of next year. Tydings unveiled the "warranty" for its technical programs Tuesday during Governor Bill Haslam's annual budget hearings.
"If, within a year, any graduate that is employed comes forth with an employer and says they don't have the skill set for which we have trained them, we will take them back and retrain them for free," Tydings said to Haslam during the hearing. 
Haslam responded: "I love the warranty idea, that's awesome. That's accountability at its finest."
With the warranty program, Tydings said employers don't often find graduate's skills lacking after attending the state's technical programs.
"That's why I am standing behind our students," she said. "And if it does come up, we realize we have an issue with a program and we need to change what we are doing."  The announcement by Tydings was one of many made during the budget hearing focused on higher education in the state. The annual exercise brings various state departments together to discuss wishlists and cuts.
During the hearing, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission also announced a tuition rate hike for the 2018-19 year between 0 and 3 percent. That's an amount officials said was driven by a desire to keep college prices more affordable.
Workforce Corner- Degrees of Opportunity:  Lessons Learned from State-Level Data on Postsecondary Earnings Outcomes

A new study  from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) tackles the commonly held belief that the surest path to success is through a bachelor's degree at a four-year college or university. Based on data for five-year earnings and expected 20-year return on investment for students completing bachelor's, associate, certificate, and apprenticeship programs in specific fields of study and states, the authors conclude that many associate degree and certificate programs offer valuable routes into the middle class, among other things. 
Today, Republicans in the US House voted to PASS their version of tax reform 

It's been over 30 years since Congress has made meaningful reforms to the tax code. Let's face it the US tax code is just too complicated. One of the major goals in reform is to simplify the code and activate the American economy.  But these changes are spurring a lot of questions.
Today, right after the House vote, local chambers from around Tennessee held a conference call with the US Chamber.  They are serving as a resource to help get accurate information out to local communities. If you have a specific question, please contact us, so we can try to get you the facts.

You should also visit  https://www.taxreformforamerica.com/.  Sign up for updates or print off the fact sheet for your Congressional district. 
Tax Foundation Estimates Positive Economic Impact on Tax Reform

Last week, the Senate released  its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Tax Foundation analysts released their macroeconomic analysis  of the Senate bill, which they found would result in 3.7 percent GDP growth, 925,000 new full-time equivalent jobs, and 2.9 percent higher wages.
They calculated that, for the average middle-income family in the U.S., that means higher after-tax income of about $2,598.
To help provide a sense of how the Senate's plan would affect real taxpayers, they have even run the taxes of nine example households, each with realistic characteristics, to show you the impact on individuals and families across the income spectrum. Click here for a video breakdown of the plan by Scott Hodge.
TN Chamber LIFT Partnership Update
UT Center for Industrial Services Partners with LIFT, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center to Unveil New Lightweight Technology
The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, in partnership with LIFT and UT-CIS, announced plans last month to unveil newly-engineered lightweight aftermarket frames at the 2017 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Oct. 31-Nov. 3. Show attendees were the first to see models of the lightweight alternative for replacing frames on nearly any specialty vehicle. Although not yet in production, this forward-looking engineering could give specialty car owners access to an affordable, stiffer and safer car frame option in the future.
"This process has been a tremendous example of the synergies among the Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers and the Manufacturing USA institutes," said Mike Coast, President of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. "The group demonstrated the design, engineering, manufacturing and commercialization possibilities that can be created through such partnerships. We chose to introduce these lightweight frames and this process at the SEMA Show as a way to gauge industry interest as we look to commercialize the design next year," said Coast.
To learn more about the lightweight aftermarket frames, please visit www.the-center.org/lightweight-frames.
Labor Department: US Labor Costs Increase, 
Driven By Wage Gains in Manufacturing
Bloomberg News(10/31, Golle) reports, "US employment costs picked up in the third quarter from the previous three months, helped in part by faster wage gains in manufacturing." The department's Employment Cost Index "advanced 0.7 percent (matching est.) after a 0.5 percent gain in the prior three months," while "wages and salaries also rose 0.7 percent in third quarter," and "benefits costs climbed 0.8 percent after rising 0.6 percent." In addition, Labor Department data "showed a 1 percent increase in manufacturer employment costs from the prior quarter, helped by a jump at aircraft makers." 

Congress Acts to Support Arbitration, Opposing Unnecessary Regulations
Last month the U.S. Senate voted repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's rule prohibiting arbitration clauses in financial contracts. The Treasury Department and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency had both weighed in with warnings about the rule's effects (hint: it would have increased costs to consumers) -criticisms that prompted a surprising admission from CFPB Director Richard Cordray. Perhaps inadvertently, however, Mr. Cordray let slip a broader truth-that contrary to the argument of the rule's supporters all along, consumers are not being forced to sign contracts with mandatory arbitration clauses to access financial services.
At the Tennessee Chamber we have successfully opposed legislation that would prohibit arbitration in financial contracts at the state level.  We know that using arbitration rather than protracted civil court procures result in similar outcomes with far lower legal fees for all parties.
You can read more in the American Tort Reform Association's OP ED in the Wall Street Journal (10/26)
TN unemployment rate falls to lowest level ever recorded (again)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips today announced the state unemployment rate fell to 3 percent in September, marking the lowest it has been since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the information in January of 1976.
Tennessee first marked a historic low unemployment rate in June at 3.6%, which was then bested by the July rate of 3.4%, and then fell even lower in August to 3.3%.  You can read more on this story from Tom Humphrey.

Mark your calendars!  
106th Annual Meeting & Legislative Reception
February 13, 2018

Governing Magazine: Haslam Legacy Includes Revamp of Tennessee Government Operations
Can other states can replicate Tennessee's successes?

Many consider Tennessee as a national model for public administration, which has developed under the leadership of Gov. Bill Haslam. Read the full story  here

Tennessee General Assembly Makes Historic Move
Will Inhabit a Renovated Cordell Hull Building
Legislators in Tennessee have moved their offices from the War Memorial Plaza.  You can now find them just down the street to the historic Cordell Hull Building.  The new building has nine floors, which will present new challenges. 
  • 1st Floor - House & Senate Committee Rooms, Public Areas & Food Service
  • 2nd Floor - A/V Technical Services & Comptroller of the Treasury 
  • 3rd Floor - Comptroller of the Treasury  
  • 4th Floor - House Legislative Offices & Comptroller of the Treasury 
  • 5th Floor - House Legislative Offices
  • 6th Floor - House Legislative Offices
  • 7th Floor - Senate Legislative Offices
  • 8th Floor - Administrative Services, Law Library & Conference Center Rooms
  • 9th Floor - Legislative Legal Services
Many are anxiously awaiting how office placements and the distance from committee rooms will change the process of interacting with Legislators.  The long hallways of Legislative Plaza allowed for numerous casual conversations to occur, greasing the gears in the legislative process.  Many lobbyists had a specific location where they would spend time between meetings, making them easy to find and quickly share information.  For now we will have to wait two months to find out how this changes things. 
The new address is 425 5th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37243.  If you need to mail or visit your legislator, check here to find their new office number.  You may want to call their office as well.  We have yet to determine if the 2 block move will encourage new parking arrangements.
For myself, I foresee a lot of stairs in my future. 
Legislative Retirements Continue: Rep. Charles  Sargent, Chairman of Powerful House Finance Committee, 
Won't Seek Re-Election

State Representative Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) announced last month that he will not seek re-election to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2018.
Instead, Sargent has chosen to focus on his health. The Chairman of the House Finance, Ways, & Means Committee has dealt with skin cancer in prior years and was recently diagnosed with a related condition that requires additional treatment.
Sargent's announcement concludes a 21 year tenure in the Tennessee General Assembly. He was first elected to represent House District 61 in 1996.
Longtime State Senator Jim Tracy Resigns, Appointed to Trump Administration Position;  Special Election Triggered

Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) last week announced his resignation as Senator of the 14th District and Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate, effective immediately. President Donald Trump appointed Tracy to the position of Tennessee State Director for Rural Development late Friday. Tracy has accepted the appointment and under the Tennessee Constitution is required to relinquish his Senate seat.
 "It has been a tremendous journey. I was grateful to be able to help my friend former Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey build our majority in the Senate to put conservative ideas into action. And I was beyond honored to serve in leadership as Lt. Governor McNally's Speaker Pro Tempore," Tracy said.
 "This is a great loss for the Senate but a big win for Tennessee agriculture. Jim Tracy has been integral to the success we have had as a Senate and as a state. Since his election in 2004, he has been right in the middle of the Republican revolution in Tennessee as we cut taxes, reduced spending and made state government more transparent and efficient," said Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge).
Senator Tracy was first elected to the state Senate in 2004. He most recently served as the Senate Speaker Pro Tempore and formerly served as chairman of the Senate's Transportation and Safety Committee.
Sen. Tracy's resignation will now trigger a special election in his district to replace him.  So far, local businessman Shane Reeves and former State Rep. Joe Carr have announced their intentions to seek the seat.

Thank you Brown-Forman/Jack Daniel Distillery for hosting our Board members and meeting, November 13-14, 2017...

Congrats to Eva Lynne Disbro, McKee Foods, honored with a Lifetime Excellence Award at the Chamber's Board Meeting, November 14. 
Tennessee Chamber Board of Directors reception, November 13 at Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg.   (Pictured L-R) Larry Combs, Brown Forman/Jack Daniels, Bradley Jackson, Tennessee Chamber and Jeff Weida, Arconic. 
State Sen. Overbey confirmed as U.S. attorney for East Tennessee
Rep. Art Swann Expected to Seek Seat

The full U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of state Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, as U.S. Attorney for East Tennessee late Thursday, according to Lt. Gov. Randy McNally.

The confirmation will trigger Overbey's resignation from the Senate District 2 seat he now holds. He's the third Republican senator to resign in the past three months - proceeded by Sens. Mae Beavers of Mount Juliet, who resigned to devote full time to running for governor, and Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, who resigned after appointment to a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris has been nominated to become a U.S. District Court judge for West Tennessee and has said he will resign after the nomination is confirmed by the full Senate. He's gone through a committee hearing, but so far no Senate votes have been taken.
Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris Nominated to Federal Bench
On  Wednesday, Senator Bob Corker introduced Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to serve as U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Tennessee.
"I'm honored to introduce the majority leader of the Tennessee State Senate, Mark Norris, who has been nominated by the President to serve as the United States District Court Judge for the Western District of Tennessee," said Corker. "It is my pleasure to welcome Mark and all those who are supporting him, especially his wife, Chris, who is with him today... While he is probably most well-known for his dedicated public service in Tennessee, serving as a state senator for 16 years - something that I greatly appreciate because of the way he has presented himself and worked hard on behalf of our state - but he also has practiced law for more than three decades. He has significant experience as a civil litigator, having litigated cases both in trial and appellate courts, as well as before the United States Supreme Court."
Senator Norris has long been a strong advocate for business and manufacturing in Tennessee having shepherded through a number of major workers' compensation, workforce development and tax changes through the years. Bradley Jackson, President of the Tennessee Chamber noted, "Senator Norris has long demonstrated a commitment to sound leadership in Tennessee's upper legislative chamber and has also served his community in various leadership roles throughout Shelby County and the city of Memphis".