COLLEGEDALE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee city of fewer than 7,000 residents is poised to become the first municipality in the state to grant health care benefits to domestic partners.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/12shZN7 ), Collegedale City Commission members last week passed on first reading a plan to extend the same benefits married city workers receive to heterosexual and same-sex partners of city employees.
A consultant with the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service said that, if the commissioners approve the proposal again, Collegedale would become the first among Tennessee’s 346 cities to cover domestic partnerships.
Consultant Bonnie Jones said she is surprised one of the larger cities might not be the first.
“Collegedale is kind of on the cutting edge,” Jones said.
News release from Tennesseans for Fair Taxation:
Washington, DC, June 19, 2013 — In recent years, state and local governments have been awarding giant economic development subsidy packages to corporations more frequently than ever before. The packages frequently reach nine and even ten figures, and the cost per job averages $456,000 and often exceeds $1 million. Tennessee is tied for fifth-most megadeals–with 11–and ranks eighth in total megadeal spending at $2.5 billion.
These are the findings of Megadeals, a report released today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit resource center based in Washington, DC. The report can be found online at www.goodjobsfirst.org/megadeals.
“These subsidy awards are getting out of control,” said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report. “Huge packages that used to be reserved for ‘trophy’ projects creating large numbers of jobs are now being given away more routinely.”
Naomi Goodin of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation (TFT) noted, “Tennessee is fifth in the number of megadeals, yet tied for last in measures of personal income growth. This sounds like a ‘reverse Robin Hood’ mentality. We already penalize our middle and lower-income citizens with proportionally higher taxes. Let’s at least make sure their tax dollars will benefit the people.”
More from the Chattanooga TFP: The deal to lure Volkswagen to Chattanooga was the largest in Tennessee at $554 million in state and local subsidies, the report said.
Also, three Tennessee economic development projects involving Japanese automaker Nissan, including the relocation of its North American headquarters, were cited in the report, with total subsidies reaching $528 million, according to the study.
Kasia Tarczynska, a co-author of the report, said Tennessee offers expansive subsidy programs to companies. She cited the state’s tax credit programs related to jobs and training.
“Tennessee is very aggressive in this arena,” she said.
Tarczynska termed the headquarters relocation subsidies by the state “one of the more controversial,” saying it offers up to $50,000 per job for simply moving positions from one state to another, for example.
Sponsors say Tennessee will become the 18th state in the nation to require first-time drunken driving offenders to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle under legislation approved by both the House and Senate on Tuesday.
The bill first passed the House 95-0 under sponsorship of Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, then passed the Senate later in the day 31-0. It now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam, who is expected to sign it.
Under current law, only repeat DUI offenders or first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher can be required to install an interlock device. The bill (HB353) lowers the threshold to .08 blood alcohol content, the same level required to create a legal presumption of driving under the influence.
The devices require a driver to take a breath test for alcohol before starting a vehicle, which will not start if any alcohol is detected.
While required to have an interlock device installed, DUI offenders do not have to go through a year’s suspension of their license as the case under present law. Beavers said the effect is to allow them to be “getting their lives back together” while at the same time protecting the public by preventing drunken driving.
“With this bill, we know we can reduce the number of deaths on our highways,” said Beavers on the Senate floor with Shipley at her side.
Other states that have mandated interlock devices for first offenders have seen a 30 percent decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, Beavers said, and a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that those required to have an interlock device are 67 percent less likely to become a repeat offender.
Andy Sher has tallied up $367,000 worth of late campaign spending by PACs in Tennessee legislative campaigns that were reported in filings for the period July 1-26.
More than $250,000 came from two PACs supporting school voucher legislation that got much of their money from outside the state. Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, and Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, were the biggest beneficiaries. In Memphis’ House District 90, Students First and the Tennessee Federation for Children have joined hands in a state House primary on behalf of a Democrat who backs education vouchers.
Tennessee Student First’s PAC put up $104,018 to fund neighborhood canvassers and direct mail to help Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis. DeBerry, a black social conservative, faces Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, a white liberal, records show.
The Tennessee Federation for Children spent nearly $36,000 on direct mail and advertising to help DeBerry. It also put $100,489 into contributions and independent expenditures for various Republican candidates.
DeBerry backs vouchers while Richardson does not.
…The Tennessee (Students First) group received all its funding from the national organization. It spent $150,182 to help House Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, who faces Republican Dale Carr. That included an independent expenditure of $46,164 for advertising.
The Tennessee Federation for Children’s in-state backers include Nashville auto dealer Lee Beaman and Dorothy Scarlett, wife of retired Tractor Supply Co. Chairman Joe Scarlett. They respectively gave $10,000 and $15,000 in the second quarter.
But the group in July received a flood of new contributions, including $65,000 from the American Federation of Children, a Washington, D.C., group that also backs vouchers, according to Registry filings.
Top Tennessee-based PACs in cash-on-hand as of June 30 (excludes national PACs that make occasional contributions to TN candidates; includes partisan PACs):
State Republican Party’s Legislative Committee $530,426.03
Joint House-Senate Republican Caucus $441,129.11
Tennessee Education Association $350,895.72
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s PAC $313,683.63
Tennessee Democratic Party State PAC $310,286
House Speaker Beth Harwell’s PAC $302,418.61
State Employees Association PAC $242,136
Tennessee Health Management Co. PAC $222,758
State Employees Association PAC $242,136
Wine and Liquor Wholesalers PAC $205,195 Top ten PACs in donations to candidates for the state Legislature during the second quarter of 2012:
Students First PAC, $105,000
Plumbers and Pipefitters PAC, $88,400
Tennessee Education Association, $58,500
Tennessee Bankers Association, $42,250
AT&T PAC, $36,500
Tennessee Health Care Assn PAC, $33,750
Federal Express, $33,716
Independent Medicine PAC (doctors) $27,400
Leaders of Tennessee PAC, $25,400.
— Note: A full list of all PAC balances and a list of all PAC contribution amounts is available HERE.
Democratic state legislators criticized Republican colleagues on Thursday for opposing legislation that would give Tennessee companies the first shot at working on state projects. From The Tennessean account: Four state representatives and two Metro councilmen who hope to join them in the General Assembly held a news conference to promote the Tennessee First Act, which would give preference to Volunteer State firms if their bids for public contracts are within a certain percentage of the lowest bids.
The idea was first introduced by Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, in 2011 as HB 2079 but failed to advance to the floor of either chamber…. A similar measure was introduced as an amendment to another bill earlier this year but was rejected by Republicans, who hold a heavy majority in the House.
Councilman Darren Jernigan, who is running for the District 60 House seat and faces no primary opposition, called out Republican Rep. Jim Gotto, who voted against the amendment and will be Jernigan’s opponent in November.
“I think the people of District 60 would be appalled, especially those who are looking for jobs,” Jernigan said.
While Democratic state Rep. Sherry Jones called the proposal “a no-brainer” to create jobs for Tennesseans, Gotto said it represents a “protectionist” philosophy that he doesn’t accept because it would hinder commerce across state lines.
“The way you create jobs is by removing government regulations to help small businesses get started,” Gotto said. “You create jobs by reducing taxes, which we did.”
Further, from The City Paper: (Bo) Mitchell, who is running for the open District 50 House seat, recalled his experience working with Gov. Phil Bredesen, a time when he said if an idea “would benefit the people of our state, it didn’t matter if it was a Democratic or Republican idea.” He also touted the two council members’ work on the Music City Center project as an example of ensuring a preference for local workers, before returning to the refrain.
“I want to come to the General Assembly to create jobs, not controversy,” Mitchell said. “If we’re on the headline news, national news at night, I want it to be with how many jobs we’ve created with this program instead of some bill that will not create a single job for a Tennessean or educate a single child in this state.”
Not surprisingly, Towns gave the hard sell.
“Putting people to work — that’s something that all of us should work in tandem to try to accomplish,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to try to do otherwise. Unless you have a death wish for the state, death of the economy of the state. These are just simple things that you don’t have to analyze, you don’t have to fight about, you don’t have to debate about. Just put your back to the plow and push it, so our people can work. Simple as that. This is the cry across the land. To do anything otherwise, I would almost go as far as to call it treason to the people.”
And this statement emailed by Adam Nickas of the state Republican party: “Today’s press conference by Tennessee Democrats is another reminder that they are out of touch, out of ideas, but fortunately for Tennessee voters, they will soon be out of office.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A state-created venture capital fund that uses federal grant money to spur investments in high-growth companies has infused $4.4 million in five ventures in Tennessee.
It’s the first disbursement from the INCITE Co-Investment Fund. Officials plan to eventually invest $28.6 million in ventures across Tennessee.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/LG9juv ) is reporting that three more deals could be announced later this week.
The program is designed to spur innovation, new business ventures and better-paying jobs across the state by matching private-sector investments in early-stage companies.
The five recipients of the state funds include: Molecular Sensing Inc.; medical device company Pathfinder Therapeutics; Pro Player Connect, a company that links professional athletes to fans and business opportunities; Venture Incite, a technology transfer company in Oak Ridge and Nashville; and Chattanooga-based electronic signature company SIGNiX.
A majority of Tennessee voters support education reform and think the state is heading in the right direction, a recent poll found, reports The Tennessean. A memo to state lawmakers last week from Mike Carpenter, Tennessee’s director of nonprofit StudentsFirst, showed its poll backed teacher tenure changes, new teacher evaluations and more charter schools. The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed 600 likely voters on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, and had a 4 percent margin of error.
Among the findings: 72 percent of those polled like teacher evaluation changes, 68 percent favor alternate teaching licenses and 58 percent favor ending forced placement of teachers by districts without teacher or principal consent.
Gov. Bill Haslam garnered a 72 percent approval rating and lawmakers a 63 percent approval rating by voters.
Restore Our Future, the “Super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, is attacking Rick Santorum in its first Tennessee broadcast advertising buy, totaling about $182,000.
As of Friday, the PAC had filed three notices of Tennessee expenditures listed on the Federal Election Commission website- a $173,109.91 “media buy” plus two for “media production,” one costing $7,218.11 and another $1,870.25.
A Youtube posting of a Restore Our Future ad — listed as running in Tennessee as well as Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama — says Romney “helped create thousands of jobs” and “turned a deficit into a surplus without raising taxes” while Santorum is called “the ultimate Washington insider,” voted to raise the debt ceiling five times and “voted for billions in waste, including the bridge to nowhere.”
(Link to video HERE)
The FEC notices state only that the ads will oppose Santorum while supporting Romney and were purchased for Tennessee. They do not indicate where in the state the ad is running.
An American Research Group poll earlier this month showed Santorum leading in Tennessee with 34 percent support among those surveyed, followed by Newt Gingrich with 16 percent and Ron Paul with 13 percent.
Restore Our Future has so far spent more than $20 million backing Romney’s presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Most of that, $13.1 million, was for attack ads against Gingrich, formerly considered Romney’s most serious challenger. Santorum, who surged in polls more recently, has been attacked by $2.5 million worth of Restore Our Future ads as of Friday, according to the Center.
Tennessee is slightly below average in how well it monitors, verifies and enforces the terms of its job-creation subsidies, an economic-incentive watchdog group said in a study released Wednesday.
From the Tennessean’s report : The Volunteer State received a C-minus grade and a 29th-place ranking from Good Jobs First, whose Money-Back Guarantees for Taxpayers report found fault with all five of the state’s major incentive programs.
Tennessee doesn’t require those receiving job tax credits to report their outcomes, the study said. Nor does the state independently verify claims made by those receiving FastTrack job-training assistance, the headquarters tax credit or even sales-tax credits for a qualifying facility in an emerging industry.
The law that created the Tennessee Job Skills program, which awards job-training grants, does not contain any penalties for those who don’t meet requirements, the study said. The group said the program’s administrator was “unwilling” to answer its questions about the program.