News release from Tennessee Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – In honor of National Bike Month, the League of American Bicyclists has released its latest Bicycle Friendly States (BFS) ranking. In the sixth annual assessment, Tennessee ranked 2nd in the southeast region, while placing 17th nationally. Tennessee has improved its national ranking from 26th in 2012.
“With all the competing transportation needs we have, Tennessee is proud to be making gains in the area of bicycle friendliness,” said Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer. “The network of bike lanes across the state is growing each and every year and we will continue to dedicate funding for important programs such as Safe Routes to School.”
Tennessee’s ranking was based on a number of key indicators, including infrastructure and funding that provide on-the-ground bicycle facilities; educational programs that promote cycling, and passage and enforcement of bicycle friendly laws that increase safety for riders of all ages. The League of American Bicyclists commended TDOT for developing a statewide bicycle plan, and for including a bicycle safety emphasis in its Strategic Highway Safety Plan.
Actions of the 107th General Assembly, recently adjourned, establish that businesses generally have reached a new peak of political power in our state.
Probably the most prominent illustration came when the business lobby locked horns with the Second Amendment lobby over whether employees should be able to keep guns in their locked cars in the company parking lot, even if the company prohibits firearms on premises.
The “Safe Commute Act,” as the National Rifle Association and the Tennessee Firearms Association called it, was the subject of a vigorous and intense push – including a TFA threat to politically crucify those voting no. The business lobby pushed back with less rhetorical bombast but equal vigor.
Maybe the whole thing – pitting individual gun rights against business property rights — was largely symbolic. But legislators took it seriously and business won.
Beyond the symbolic, examples abound of legislators in the Republican majority making Tennessee, already rated at the top of business-friendly lists, even more business friendly.
A column written for the Knoxville Business Journal:
While Gov. Bill Haslam often declares his intention to make Tennessee the most business-friendly state in the Southeast, his “flag” list shows that some legislators’ ideas for advancing that goal are just a little too friendly.The governor this year began issuing “flags,” which are written notices of his administration’s objections to pending bills, after refraining last year.
Gubernatorial flags have traditionally served as major roadblocks to a bill’s chance of success. Early indications are that this will apply to Haslam’s administration as well, as his party holds a strong majority in the Legislature. Several flagged bills have already flopped.
Most Haslam letters are “fiscal flags,” wherein the objections are based on costs to the state not covered in the governor’s proposed budget for the coming year, though there are some “philosophical flags” issued for policy reasons.
Here’s a sample of some business-friendly bills that Haslam has flagged on a bipartisan basis:
As part of a story on the controversy over the state’s mitigation program and related legislation, Anne Paine uses the example of a Sumner County creek that was apparently damaged by a development that was supposed to pay into the mitigation fund, but did not.
Halo Properties LLC had sought permission about four years ago to shorten and move the creek. It agreed to pay $140,000 to the Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program for the approval to do so. The company also contracted to pay $27,000 to fill in a 0.39-acre wetland elsewhere.
The money for wetlands was paid in 2008 to the Harpeth Wetland Bank, but documents show the $140,000 was not, despite the requirement.
“My understanding is it is being paid,” said Danny Hale of Halo Realty in Hendersonville. “Either it has or it will be,” he said.
He was a partner in Halo Properties but said that company is in receivership. He said the property was sold two years ago.
….A road was built across the property where the creek was shifted and the wetlands removed, but no development was built.
In January 2009, the state issued a notice of violation to Halo Properties, on grounds that included the failure to pay the $140,000. An official invoice to Halo from the stream mitigation program was not sent until November 2011, though Halo asked for one earlier.
One of two annual required monitoring reports of the site where the stream was shifted has not been received, TDEC officials said last week.
The issue is being assessed by the state’s water pollution control division, Meg Lockhart, TDEC spokeswoman, said Friday.
Sulkin’s group and the Tennessee Environmental Council, meanwhile, are taking action on a situation they say has only lingered.
They said they sent notice Friday that they intend to sue Danny Hale of Halo for polluting streams.
The company has failed to meet requirements, including not having paid the stream mitigation money, not planting enough trees and not establishing a 50-foot buffer on each side of the stream, they say in their letter.
…Hale is one of the businesspeople who blasted TDEC in round-table talks Gov. Bill Haslam held last year as comments were sought on how to make the state more business-friendly