A bill putting new restrictions on the Tennessee State Employees Union – enough to disable or eliminate many of the organization’s functions, according to a TSEA official – won approval of the House State Government Committee on Wednesday.
The bill (HB913) is being pushed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, who said it is intended to assure that state employee dues “do not go into political areas.”
But Sarah Adair, director of government affairs for TSEA, said the bill actually forbids TSEA from using dues money for anything but collective bargaining, enforcing a bargaining contract or helping members with grievance procedures. The bill permits lobbying only to the extent of contacting the group’s own members.
Since Tennessee prohibits state employee collective bargaining and there are no contracts, the organization would effectively be left to do nothing to handle grievances, she said. And even that may be in doubt because a state law enacted last year eliminates the term “grievance” in state law and instead sets up an appeals system for a state work who believes he or she has been wrongly disciplined or discharged, Adair said.
The bill is a case of a “national organization bringing a bill to a state that does not have a problem” with public employee labor unions “that may be a problem in other states,” she told the subcommittee in remarks limited to one minute by the panel’s chairman.
In the Senate, where the bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, the measure was discussed at length in the Commerce Committee and a vote and Campfield agreed to a week’s delay to consider amendments.
The bill declares that union dues cannot be used for political activities unless voluntarily donated. Adair said TSEA already requires members to check off whether or not a portion of dues can be sent to the group’s political action committee and the organization would not object to that provision.
Current law also allows a TSEA member to take a two-year, unpaid leave of absence to serve as president of TSEA. The bill reduces that to one year and Campfield said that is not an area where he thinks there can be a compromise, though Adair said the president – as now the case – is typically retired because active employees cannot afford to take unpaid leave
The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce came out Wednesday in support of expanding TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, reports Michael Cass. Marc Hill, the chamber’s chief policy officer, said the business group looked closely at the controversial issue over the past month before deciding to advocate for the expansion — which would be fully funded by the federal government for the first three years — in its 2013 legislative agenda.
Hill cited four main reasons:
• Job creation and increased consumer spending. A University of Memphis analysis found expansion would support more than 20,000 new jobs in Tennessee by 2019.
• Increasing the insured population would replace the money lost in cuts to hospitals and other health care providers, thereby reducing uncompensated care, which would help keep insurance premium increases in check.
• Avoiding a scenario that would allow many people who are below the poverty line to buy insurance from a health exchange created by the federal government, which would “drive up premiums for everybody else, including businesses that provide health insurance to employees.”
“That’s a bottom-line cost to businesses across industries,” Hill said.
• Finally, having health insurance would increase the likelihood that people would get access to preventive and early-stage care.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Leaders in the Tennessee Statehouse are hoping for what they call a reasonable solution to a legislative fight over a bill seeking to guarantee employees the right to store firearms in cars parked at work.
But not everyone is convinced that cooler heads will prevail over the issue that has Republicans torn between their loyalties to gun rights advocates and the business community.
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry “doesn’t have any hope” that there will be an obvious way to bridge competing interests between gun and property rights advocates, said Bill Ozier, the group’s chairman.
“We’re preparing for the fight again,” he said. “We’re not very optimistic.”
The measure introduced this spring would have allowed anyone to store a firearm in their vehicle at work. The proposal was later whittled down to apply to the state’s 376,000 handgun carry permit holders. But large employers like FedEx and Volkswagen balked at giving up control over whether guns were kept in their lots.
News release from Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
NASHVILLE, TN., October 23, 2012–The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced today the appointment of Catherine Glover of Albany, GA, as its president and chief executive officer.
Ms. Glover, executive vice president for global affairs of Equinox Chemicals with 20 years of experience leading chambers of commerce in Maine, New York and Georgia, will begin work for the Tennessee Chamber next month, according to chamber chairman Bill Ozier, a partner in the Bass, Berry & Sims law firm in Nashville.
“Catherine Glover is a strong advocate for business, and has international and domestic experience on the corporate side as well as in chamber work,” Ozier said. “She has a successful track record in legislative coalition-building, growing membership and marketing chamber programs.”
Ozier said the Chamber search committee believes Ms. Glover “is the perfect fit to continue the Tennessee Chamber’s 100-year history of being the voice of business in our state.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform has rated Tennessee as the 26th best state information in ‘legal climate for business.’
That’s down from 19th in 2010, the year before Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform law was enacted. That law has multiple provisions, including new limits on damages that can be awarded to plaintiffs bringing lawsuits against businesses, and was promoted by the governor as making Tennessee more business-friendly.
The Chamber group rates Delaware as the best state for businesses in dealing with the civil justice system,, West Virginia the worst.
The group’s national news release, which focuses on what the Chamber considers the “worst” states, is HERE. The state-by-state ratings map is HERE.
The Tennessee “detailed” page is HERE.
Knox County leaders say they want Knoxville Chamber officials to ensure taxpayers that no public dollars were spent on two so-called political campaigns that the organization helped carry out during the past year or so, reports the News Sentinel. Commissioners and county Mayor Tim Burchett say they want the chamber to account for its handling of county contributions. Officials say they are not accusing the chamber of wrongdoing, but they want the organization to provide documents that show government funding wasn’t used when the chamber fought against a hillside protection plan last year and more recently touted a $35 million school plan that would have led to a tax increase.
“The chamber has waged two politically significant campaigns in the last few years but their mission is supposed to be about economic development and business development,” said Commissioner Tony Norman, who first publicly broached the subject during last month’s commission meeting. “But it seems to me that they spend most of their time on politics. I want some accounting because it’s not OK to use public funding to support their political agenda, so I’m just asking: ‘Where did you get the money?’ ”
Mike Edwards, president and CEO of the chamber, referred questions to Anthony Welsch, who helps handle communications for the organization.
“When we get something from Tony Norman that tells us what it is he’s looking for, then we’ll be happy to look at it as an organization,” Welsch said. “At this point we haven’t received anything from him.”
Norman, though, said he was pretty clear during the meeting about what he wanted and that under the terms of a memorandum of understanding that the chamber has with the county, the organization has to provide the information. The commissioner said his interest lies in how public money — not private money — was spent, so that should ease any concerns the chamber has about disclosing information.
The county in this year’s budget and in the one from last year set aside $80,000 for the chamber and $125,000 for Innovation Valley.
Welsch said no public dollars were used on either political campaign that Norman questioned.
News release from Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the voice of business in the state and Tennessee’s largest trade association representing employers and their employees, has launched a search for a new President and CEO.
The new executive will replace Deb Woolley, who left the Chamber effective May 31 under terms of her employment agreement.
Wayne Scharber, the Chamber’s Vice President for Environment and Taxation has been named interim president, according to Bill Ozier, Chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors. Scharber has been with the Chamber for 13 years and was employed for 36 years in state government.
“We are fortunate to have someone as trusted and experienced as Wayne to help us steer the Chamber forward during this interim period,” Ozier said. All Chamber programs and services will continue as usual while the executive search is under way.
“We are going to build on the Tennessee Chamber’s 100-year track record of success, with new programs and fresh ideas on how better to serve Tennessee businesses and industries,” Ozier continued.
He added that a key part of the Chamber’s mission is a strong and cooperative relationship with the Governor and General Assembly. Ozier said the Chamber plans to have a new CEO in place later this year, “so that individual and the entire Chamber can work with the Administration and legislators to uphold Tennessee’s well-deserved reputation as a prosperous and business-friendly state.”
Ozier said the Chamber believes the outlook for business in Tennessee is “excellent and filled with opportunities. Our goal is to help our member businesses succeed in every possible way.”
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey chided the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday for focusing their lobbying efforts on opposing a bill to guarantee workers the right to store firearms in vehicles parked on company lots.
The Blountville Republican said in a speech to the group that there are far more important business issues pending in the Legislature, like making it easier to deny unemployment insurance to fired employees.
“I realize you put G-U-N in a sentence and the subject becomes emotional,” he said. “But let me assure you there are issues that affect us more every day than this that we could use your help on.”
Following a groundswell of Metro-led opposition, the City Paper reports that the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has retracted its support of controversial state development bills that critics fear would undermine local planning and zoning authority. Previously lobbying for the Republican-backed legislation, the chamber is now “neutral,” Marc Hill, the Nashville chamber’s chief policy officer, told The City Paper Tuesday.
“We’re now re-focusing our efforts to solve as many of these challenges as we can at the local level over the remainder of the year,” Hill said. “The legislative environment is a dynamic one,” Hill said when asked to explain the new stance.
“There’s constant changes — not only every day but every hour. The important thing is to address the problems that businesses face. You can do that in a variety of ways.”
At issue are three Rep. Jim Gotto-sponsored bills that the Republican lawmaker from the Hermitage area says are designed to remove the layers of “bureaucracy” that planning and zoning regulations place on private business. “They’re all about job creation,” he said in a City Paper story that first reported the proposed bills.
News release from state Department of Financial Institutions:
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions (“Department”) took possession of Tennessee Commerce Bank, Franklin, Tennessee at 4:00 p.m. CST on January 27, 2012. The Department has appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) as Receiver of the Bank effective upon the Department taking possession of Tennessee Commerce Bank.
The Department took possession of Tennessee Commerce Bank due to Tennessee Commerce Bank’s impaired capital, unsound condition and the bank’s inability to continue normal operations.
Through an agreement with the FDIC, deposit accounts of Tennessee Commerce Bank have been transferred to Republic Bank & Trust Company, Louisville, Kentucky and will be available immediately. Depositors of Tennessee Commerce Bank will automatically become depositors of Republic Bank & Trust Company. Depositors will be able to access their accounts at the former main office of Tennessee Commerce Bank during regular business hours. Customers of both banks should continue to use the existing office until Republic Bank & Trust Company can fully integrate the deposit records of Tennessee Commerce Bank. Additionally, the former depositors of Tennessee Commerce Bank can continue to access their accounts through automated teller machine transactions, checks and debit transactions.
Since deposits transferred to Republic Bank & Trust Company, there will be no loss exposure to former customers of Tennessee Commerce Bank. The FDIC has established a website and a toll-free phone number to answer questions from depositors, creditors and other interested parties regarding the receivership of Tennessee Commerce Bank. Please refer to the FDIC’s website at http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/tcb.html for further information regarding the details of the transaction. The toll-free number is 1-800-450-5668. The phone number will be operational this evening until 9:00 p.m., Central Standard Time (CST); on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., CST, on Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m., CST; on Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., CST; and thereafter from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., CST.
The Department’s Commissioner, Greg Gonzales, reminds depositors that deposits for all Tennessee banks are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000. Special rules are in place for accounts held in trust status and joint accounts that may further expand deposit insurance coverage. Additional information on FDIC Deposit Insurance may be found at www.fdic.gov.