Legislation headed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk would prohibit local municipalities from requiring private employers to adopt prevailing wages for employers — thus nullifying a 16-year-old Nashville law that guarantees these rates for contracted workers on city construction projects, reports The Tennessean. The Republican-backed bill (HB501), sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, cleared the Senate by a 24-6 vote Thursday, largely along party lines, with all nay votes coming from the chamber’s handful of Democrats.
Conservative Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville was the lone Democratic senator to vote for the Republican-backed legislation, while newly elected Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, voted present.
A spokesman for the Republican governor said Haslam would review the legislation like he does all bills. Past statements from Haslam have indicated skepticism of so-called “living wage” ordinances but also deference to local governments on whether to adopt them.
…”Living wages are about fairness and stability,” Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry said, adding: “By taking away yet another tool that Metro government has, the legislature is making it more difficult for the building and construction trades to earn a living.”
In addition to targeting wages, the bill would prevent local governments from requiring companies to ensure health insurance benefits and leave policies that are different from state policy. Metro’s ordinance does not require that.
See also the Commercial Appeal story. An excerpt: City officials and Memphis Democratic legislators said the bill is another example of Republicans, from the suburbs and elsewhere, targeting Memphis and to a lesser degree Nashville. The legislature last year overturned a Nashville local ordinance that forbade city contractors from discriminating against employees who are gay, despite the business community’s support for the local law.
“This is another pre-emption bill. If you think a community is smart enough to decide whether they want wine in grocery stores then I think you ought to consider them smart enough to set their wages and contracts,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis, alluding to a separate bill to allow wine sales in grocery stores if approved by local referendums.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated a jury verdict for compensatory damages against Americare Systems, Inc., the management company of Celebration Way, an assisted living facility in Shelbyville. The Supreme Court remanded the jury verdict for punitive damages to the Court of Appeals for further review. A jury returned a verdict against various defendants, including Americare, totaling $300,000 in compensatory damages, and $5,015,000 in punitive damages, in favor of the daughters of Mable Farrar. Farrar died as a result of the failure of Celebration Way’s nursing staff to give Farrar her prescribed medicine and the negligent administration of an enema that caused her colon to rupture.
In 2003, Farrar, age 83 and in good health other than occasional constipation, resided at Celebration Way. The nursing staff was under doctor’s orders to give Farrar one dose of MiraLAX, an over-the-counter laxative, each morning, but frequently failed to give her the medicine over a number of months. After Celebration Way’s failure to give her any prescribed MiraLAX in March 2004, and only five doses in April, Farrar became seriously constipated. Her doctor prescribed enemas, which the facility’s staff failed to administer as directed. On May 29, 2004, the nursing staff gave Farrar an enema without first checking her abdomen. The enema caused Ferrar’s colon to rupture and she died shortly thereafter.
Farrar’s daughters sued, alleging that Americare’s failure to adequately staff Celebration Way caused or contributed to her death. The jury agreed and returned a verdict in the plaintiffs’ favor. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment against Americare, ruling that there was no evidence that understaffing caused Farrar’s death.
The Tennessee Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, ruled that the plaintiffs presented material evidence supporting the jury’s finding that Celebration Way was understaffed, that Americare knew it and failed to remedy it, and that the lack of sufficient staff was a substantial factor causing Farrar’s death. The Supreme Court reinstated the jury verdict against Americare for compensatory damages but remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to review the punitive damages award.
To read the Wilson v. Americare Systems, Inc. opinion authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, visit the opinions section of tncourts.gov.
News release from Tennessee Republican party:
NASHVILLE, TN – At a candidate forum on Monday, the Democrat nominee for State House in District 25 promoted the implementation of a progressive income tax and a living wage, and keeping in place the death tax.
The comments came from the Democrat nominee in District 25 at a Pleasant Hill, TN forum. (Note: She is Flo Matheson, who is opposing Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.)
“Tennesseans have to wonder if the Tennessee Democrat Party has encouraged their candidates to adopt this extremist, big government agenda which would amount to some of the largest tax increases in our state’s history,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.
“While many Democrats in our state desperately attempt to disassociate themselves with the failed economic policies of Barack Obama, it appears the President’s big government philosophy has taken solid root within the Tennessee Democrat platform. Are these the far-left ideological policies that Democrat House Leader Craig Fitzhugh wants his party’s nominees to unite around? Will Craig Fitzhugh denounce this radical legislative agenda or will he remain silent?
“Tennessee Republicans, working with Governor Haslam, have made tremendous progress in reducing the size of government by eliminating unnecessary regulations and enacting more tax cuts in this year’s budget than any other in our state’s history. That’s the path we need to stay on; not return to the path of more taxes, more debt, and massive government,” concluded Devaney.
Audio of the comments made by the Democrat nominee in State House District 25 can be heard HERE.
— Email in response to the release from Brandon Puttbrese, communications director of Tennessee Democratic party:
As we all know, the most recent state income tax plan was carried by a Republican governor of this great state.
This is another pathetic attempt by Republicans to hide the fact that their top-down tax policies reward the wealthiest Tennesseans and shift a greater tax burden onto working and middle class families.
Their policies are a global race to the bottom for American workers. In Tennessee, pay is down and poverty is up. Confidence in the special interest-dominated legislature is falling and the unemployment rate is on the rise. That’s the GOP’s legacy.
And while Ms. Matheson’s ideas might not be a perfect solution to increase pay for working people, Tennesseans are not going to fault her for having a discussion about ideas that reward responsible, hard working families.
We’ve seen too much focus on top-down, multi-million dollar tax giveaways for the wealthy and well connected. It’s time middle class Tennesseans got a fair hearing in the legislature, too.
The Tennessean has a roundup story on some of the state House candidates who live outside the boundaries of the district they want to represent. Jason Potts wants your vote in the Aug. 2 Democratic primary, and he’s going to need it. After all, the House District 53 candidate won’t be able to vote for himself.
Charles Williamson says he already cast a ballot for himself in District 50. But the Republican shouldn’t have, based on Metro Codes documents and rulings that show he can’t legally live where he registered to vote.
Potts, already a Metro councilman, does not yet live in the South Nashville legislative district he seeks to represent in the General Assembly. He’s one of several candidates who haven’t established residency this year in the districts where they’re campaigning for voters’ support.
“I do think it’s important to live in the place you’re going to represent,” said Jason Powell, Potts’ primary opponent.
But Powell had his own bit part in the game of musical homes that tends to play out every 10 years in the wake of redistricting by the legislature. He just moved to the district himself in March, after he had already picked up a candidate qualifying position.
The candidates have benefited from a timing quirk in state election law, which allows them to run from beyond a district’s borders but requires them to live within them to hold the office.
Earlier this year, a Knox County judge removed state Senate candidate Shelley Breeding from the ballot over residency concerns. Breeding said her home was in Knox County, but the judge determined the border property was actually in Anderson County. A state appeals court upheld the ruling, and the Tennessee Supreme Court declined to consider the case further.
Susan Lynn, a former state representative running to reclaim the District 57 seat she held for eight years, now lives in District 46. Lynn has said lawmakers, including Rep. Linda Elam, who replaced her, redrew the Wilson County district to exclude her.
The developments concerning the Living the Dream project and the Upper Cumberland Development District has now gone to the state level, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen. The latest development involves State Rep. Ryan Williams filing a resolution for the comptroller to conduct a statewide audit of each development district and human resource agency in the state.
“There have been reports of other instances regarding similar instances in other communities happening in other areas,” Williams said. “We’re just trying to steward the taxpayers’ dollar better and understand how these (agencies) operate.”
Originally, Williams proposed a bill asking the legislature to create a special joint committee to study issues pertaining to development districts and human resource agencies in the state — including, but not limited to, the sources of funding for, the functions of and the community services provided by such development districts and resource agencies.
However, that bill was never presented due to the fiscal impact it would have. (Note: A quick check of the legislative website indicates no bill by Williams was filed on the subject; ergo, no fiscal note. Also, I thought they already did audits of HRAs and DDs.)
This new resolution (HJR818) states, “it is the duty of this general assembly to ensure that the UCDD and the remainder of Tennessee’s development districts, and human resource agencies, are being operated upon sound management principles and with fiscal responsibility; now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the 107th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, the Senate concurring, we hereby request the Comptroller of the Treasury to conduct an audit of each development district and human resource agency in this state, including, but not limited to, the sources of funding for, the functions of, and the community services provided by each development district and human resource agency.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Workers from across the state are speaking out against legislation that would prevent Tennessee cities and counties from establishing a living wage.
About 100 workers gathered on the steps of the state Capitol to protest the measure that would ban higher wage requirements set by local governments and repeal any standard that has already been set, which in this case would be in Memphis.
Republican Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin, the bill’s sponsor, said it’s necessary to have “uniform … business practices” between cities and counties.
Tom Anderson is president of the United Campus Workers. He says the proposal is a bad idea because the “living wage is the bare minimum that a person needs to pay their bills.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he wants to leave it up to local governments to decide whether to set their own wage requirements for contractors.
The Republican governor told reporters that he’s “not a fan of the living wage,” but that those decisions should be left up to counties and cities.
Haslam’s stance puts him at odds with some fellow Republicans in the Legislature.
Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin and Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown are sponsoring legislation seeking to ban higher wage requirements set by local governments and to repeal those standards where they have already been set in place.
“Local governments are unwittingly pricing certain employees out of jobs, especially minority teens, who do not yet have the skill set to demand high-wage, high-benefit jobs,” Kelsey said in a release announcing the bill last month.