NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 19, 2015) –As the midpoint of the Legislative Session nears, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry has announced progress on its 2015 Legislative Agenda.  The legislative agenda is adopted each year and serves as a blueprint for the business community’s priorities in the General Assembly.  The Chamber’s agenda is developed throughout the year and is formed with input from its board of directors, Tennessee business leaders and local chambers.Listed below are key topics and areas of focus for Tennessee’s business community.  It’s important to note that due to the legislative process and changes that can result from amendments, the Chamber is monitoring many other bills and will oppose those that can harm Tennessee’s business climate.

Workforce and Education

Tennessee Chamber members have noted workforce preparedness is a challenge to businesses and Tennessee’s long-term economic prosperity.  The Chamber is focusing on the following for the 2015 legislative session.

–              The Tennessee Chamber is supportive of Governor Haslam’s proposed Tennessee Reconnect initiative included in his “Drive to 55 Alliance.”  This vital plan, geared towards helping adults complete degree work, is included in the Chamber’s agenda and is part of the Governor’s budget.  Early discussions have indicated this program will be enacted by the Tennessee General Assembly.  SB 605 is the corresponding legislation that has begun moving through the respective Chambers with unanimous approval.

–              Support and maintain high educational standards.   The Tennessee Chamber is working to ensure that high educational standards are maintained in Tennessee.  Although there is much debate surrounding this subject, the Chamber and our members are seeing positive commitments from legislators who support a reevaluation of the current standards that ensure maintaining high standards. HB 1035 was approved in House committees and implements a standard review process that will work to keep high standards.  The Chamber is supportive of these efforts and the legislation as amended.

 

Strengthen Right to Work / Business Regulations

A key element to Tennessee’s economic growth is our status as a right to work state.  The Chamber believes that we constantly must look for ways to improve or expand this distinction as competition between states becomes increasingly fierce, as they look to create more jobs.

–              The Chamber is supportive of SB 475 that clarifies that neither a franchisee nor a franchisee’s employee shall be deemed to be an employee of the franchisor for any purpose, thus protecting employers from unnecessary labor actions. This legislation is moving forward in both the House and Senate

–           The Chamber also supports SJR 2 which establishes the regulatory freedom amendment by Senator Mark Norris that recently was approved by the State Senate. The Regulatory Freedom Amendment would establish that when one quarter of the Members of the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate transmit to the President their written declaration of opposition to a proposed federal regulation, it shall require a majority vote of the House and Senate to adopt that regulation.

Economic Development and Taxation

Business taxes are crucially important to Tennessee and are instrumental to future economic growth as long as they are implemented responsibly. A key function of the Chamber is to ensure that we are proactively working to protect and improve our business climate. The Chamber is actively engaged in this arena and is currently working on the following bills:

–              The Chamber supports SB 322 which expands and modernizes current ECD tax incentives.  This legislation expands both the jobs tax credit and establishes that industrial machinery involved in research and development is exempt from sales tax. This legislation is advancing in both houses, supports Tennessee manufacturing, and the state’s industrial recruitment efforts.

–              Support of the Made in Tennessee Act HB 549 which is advancing through both houses.  The bill strengthens Tennessee manufacturing by allowing and encouraging products made in Tennessee to be labeled and promoted.

–              Revenue Modernization Act, the Chamber is working on SB 603 to make sure that Tennessee’s business tax climate remains competitive and is fair to employers.  Although the legislation has some positive business applications, there are a number of provisions the Chamber is seeking to modify.  We expect this legislation at its conclusion will benefit Tennessee business, while maintaining strong and predictable tax collections.

–              SB 321 is also advancing through both houses.  It serves to modernize fees assessed by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.  Many of Tennessee businesses have been monitoring this legislation.  Amendatory language has been added to address Chamber concerns and ensure that these assessed fees do not grow beyond what is needed.

Energy and Environment

The Tennessee Chamber is focusing on efforts to ensure the air, water and solid waste permit process remains fair and balanced with the needs of industry, while also maintaining a clean environment.

–                The Chamber is supporting SB1043 which establishes a state administered mining program through the Department of Environment and Conservation, rather than via federal government agencies.

–              The Chamber also supports SB0092 that is advancing through both the House and Senate.  It makes changes to the regulation of petroleum underground storage tanks and waste programs that ensure a balance to environmental needs and Tennessee’s industry.

–              The Chamber is actively supporting SB1325 related to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines under section 111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act. This legislation will ensure that any future plans by TDEC to enforce carbon dioxide emission control measures will have embedded considerations from Tennessee business and industry.

About the Tennessee Chamber:

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry is Tennessee’s largest statewide business advocacy organization with members across the entire state.   The Statewide Chamber has been the voice of Tennessee businesses and manufacturers representing them on matters of state policy, legislation and regulation since 1912.