Tag Archives: pay

House sub shoots down minimum wage, ‘equality pay

Bills to create a Tennessee minimum wage and require “equality pay” for women were killed in a Republican-controlled House subcommittee last week with Democrats complaining the measures — similar to legislation regularly defeated in past years — did not get an appropriate hearing.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, brought the “Tennessee Pay Equality Act” (HB1947) before the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee, accompanied by Dia Cirillo of Murfreesboro, public policy chair of American Association of University Women in Tennessee.

Cirillo testified that 70 percent of Tennessee women have outside-the-home jobs and, on average, make about 83 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same positions.

The subcommittee chair, Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Old Hickory, took the lead in criticizing the measure. She contended that the “pay gap” between men and women is already narrowing, that federal law on the subject is adequate and that some pay differences are the result of “life choices that women make” — citing herself as a “perfect example” — that give priority to family over careers.
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House sub kills ‘pay equality’ bill

In the process of killing a proposed “Tennessee Pay Equality Act,” House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee Chair Susan Lynn touted the benefits of stay-at-home mothers and suggested the sponsor, Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville, was trying to boost business for lawyers such as himself.

So reports Jeff Woods, who includes block quotes of exchanges between Lynn, R-Old Hickory, and Clemmons along with critical commentary of the chair and Republican legislators generally.

Lynn said…”I delayed finishing my college education because of raising my children, then I chose jobs that were close to their school. Because I wanted to be available for my family. And I know lots of women who make those choices, and thank God women make those choices. Children need their parents, particularly their mother.”

Clemmons replied, “Thank God you had the opportunity to make the choices you made. A lot of women across Tennessee don’t have the opportunity to make that choice. They’re working one, two, three jobs to support their families. They don’t have the opportunity to make the choices you were able to make.”

…Lynn: This proposed state law, it would be extremely litigious, wouldn’t it? It would probably be very litigious. Would this not stand to benefit you, as an attorney, personally as an attorney?

Clemmons: Stand to benefit me as an attorney? No, it would stand to benefit women with equal pay.

Lynn: Would it stand to bring you more business as an attorney possibly because this is a very litigious bill? It really is.

…Clemmons: I appreciate the question. That’s a good point. It’s not a fair point and it’s not an accurate point. But just like any law that creates a civil rights action, laws are only as litigious as they are violated. So if every employer paid women equally there’d be no cause of action and no need for litigation…. It’s not to create business for me. It’s not to create business for my colleagues. It is to protect women. It is to bring our state into the year 2016 and make sure that women are treated equally to men and paid equally to men.

The bill (HB1947) was killed on a party line vote; Democrats for it, Republicans against.

Herron back as full-time Democratic chairman after trial victory

Roy Herron has returned to full-time work — and pay — as chairman of the state Democratic Party after serving as an attorney in monthlong trial that resulted in a $15.2 million verdict for his client, a young man left permanently disabled by alleged malpractice of a doctor and hospital.
Herron, a former state senator, stopped drawing his chairman’s salary May 15 to prepare for the trial, which began June 3 and ended July 3 with a Weakley County Circuit Court jury verdict in favor of Cody Wade of Martin, Tenn., who was 17 when left with brain injuries while under the care of the defendants following a traffic accident.
Herron, who was part a team of attorneys representing Wade and his grandparents, returned to the party headquarters to resume full-time work on Monday, according to Democratic spokesman Brandon Puttbrese.
Defendants in the case were Dr. Susan Lowry of Martin and Cane Creek Rehabilitation Hospital, owned by Rebound LLC, an affiliate of HealthSouth Corp. They may appeal the verdict.
“This verdict can mean that he lives in Weakley County with his family and those who love him, instead of the state taking Cody from his family and shipping him to Memphis, Nashville or even East Tennessee to languish and survive in a distant nursing home that takes ventilator-dependent patients,” Herron told the Union City Messenger.

TVA Nuke Chief Paid $552,488 for Leaving

TVA nuclear chief Preston Swafford will be paid an extra $552,488 as severance for leaving the federal utility by October reports the Chattanooga TFP.
In a Securities and Exchange filing today, the Tennessee Valley Authority said Swafford’s resignation is considered “an approved termination” and he will also be eligible for executive bonuses and incentive awards paid to top managers this year.
Swafford, 53, announced this week he will retire from TVA by October. He is being replaced by Joseph P. Grimes, an executive with Exelon Nuclear.
Grimes, who has worked in the utility industry for 30 years, is scheduled to start work with TVA around Labor Day. In a statement this week, TVA Chief Generation Officer Charles “Chip” Pardee, also a former Exelon executive, said that Grimes is the right person to lead TVA’s nuclear division.
Swafford also was hired by TVA from Exelon in 2006 and was paid $2.3 million in fiscal 2012 as TVA’s executive vice president in charge of running TVA’s three operating nuclear plants
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Haslam Reiterates Support for Huffman

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday reiterated his support for the state’s education commissioner, who has come under fire for changes to how teachers are paid.
At least two Facebook pages have been created calling for Kevin Huffman’s ouster as well as an online petition that has garnered hundreds of signatures.
The state Board of Education approved the changes last month after supporters and opponents argued for nearly two hours over the matter. The measure changes the minimum teacher salary schedule, reduces steps in salary increases from 21 to four and eliminates incentives for doctorate degrees and post-master’s training.
Haslam told reporters on Monday that the changes are needed to further education reform in the state, and that if he were to hire an education commissioner again today, it would be Huffman.
“If you look at the states that are making the most progress in education, Tennessee is at the top of that list,” said the Republican governor. “Kevin gets a lot of credit for that.”

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State to Pay $13 Million to Keep ‘Nashville’ Filming in Nashville

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has approved a grant of up to $12.5 million to support the local production of ABC’s Nashville, reports The City Paper.
Mayor Karl Dean has also agreed, on behalf of Metro, to provide a $500,000 cash grant for the production of the show, something that Dean’s office has previously referred to as advertising the city can’t buy.
There had been speculation about the possibility of the show leaving Nashville for its second season, but ABC confirmed last week that the show would remain in its title city.
“Nashville offers a valuable international platform to showcase our state’s dynamic entertainment industry, while providing a confluence of film and music that is unique only to Tennessee,” ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said in a release from the department. “Promoting and assisting this thriving business sector is an integral part of our state’s economic development efforts. From our rich musical heritage to our talented artists and crew, Tennessee’s entertainment industry is second to none. I am pleased Nashville producers recognize the value of filming in Music City, and I look forward to another great season.”
ECD noted that the grant will be based on “qualified expenditures,” defined as “those incurred in the state for goods or services purchased from a Tennessee vendor or paid to a Tennessee resident in connection with the production.”
The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. and the Event Marketing Fund will each contribute a cash grant of $125,000. The production is expected to generate more than $40 million in local spending, according to ECD.
“Small and large Nashville businesses have benefited greatly from the local filming of Nashville, not only from the direct spending related to the show but also from the worldwide attention this show has generated for our city and our state. With beautiful scenic shots of our landscape and the portrayal of our unique music scene, more people, without a doubt, are visiting our city and spending their money here because they’ve seen this hour-long commercial for Music City that airs every week during primetime,” said Dean, in a prepared statement. “The city’s investment in Nashville this season is a recognition that this show benefits our local economy and is opening doors to further grow the film and television industry here.”

Board of Education Goes Along With Huffman’s Teacher Pay Plan

The State Board of Education on Friday approved controversial major revisions of the state’s minimum salary schedule for teachers that sharply reduces the value of experience and advanced degrees, reports Rick Locker.
The board approved the changes sought by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration on a 6-3 vote despite opposition by teachers who packed the meeting room. They said the new plan could freeze their salaries at their 11th year in the profession. The plan proposed by State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman tops out at year 11, while the current plan tops out at year 21.
The current salary schedule lists the minimum annual salaries for teachers for each year of experience through 21 years and for each of five levels of college degrees they hold. The new minimum schedule lists only four pay levels based on years of experience up through the 11th year, and only two levels of college degrees — bachelor’s and any level of advanced degree.
The state’s 135 local school boards are free under the law to pay their teachers more, as all but three rural districts do. But about half the districts pay within 10 percent of the state-required minimums.
The board approved the plan at the urging of Huffman’s Department of Education despite requests to delay a vote by the Tennessee Education Association and the vice chairman of the state legislature’s House Education Committee, Republican Rep. John Forgety of Athens, the former superintendent of his county school district.
Arlington Middle School teacher Barbara Gray, vice president of TEA, told the board that teachers have “serious concern” about the plan. “These changes could seriously damage teaching careers and increase the inequity between the rich and the poor school systems,” she said. “The overall effect of the changes proposed is a substantial lowering of state requirements for teacher salaries.
“While no teacher will see a cut in their current salary, they may also never see another raise, resulting in drastically decreased lifetime earnings.”
Huffman lashed out at critics of the plan and media reports that it advanced under the radar with little public notice or discussion. A
“Tennessee law forbids any district from cutting an individual teachers salary,” Huffman told the board. “Two, there is more state money in the budget for salaries than at any time in Tennessee history. The state has added $130 million in taxpayer money over the last three years to the budget that goes to districts that has to be spent on compensation.
“Three, the proposed minimum salary schedule does not tell districts how to pay teachers. It gives almost complete autonomy to local districts to decide how to pay teachers. So anyone who says that this pay system does this over, that is just not accurate. Local districts are going to develop their own systems on how this gets implemented.”

Driving Force Behind the Speakers

After a Union County Republican event, Betty Bean reports that driving Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey around is more expensive than driving House Speaker Beth Harwell around.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security provides security to both the Senate and the House speakers. Ramsey’s driver, Bill Taliaferro, is paid $38.71 per hour, while House Speaker Beth Harwell’s driver makes $26.65 an hour. Both drivers are eligible for overtime and retirement benefits.
Both speakers have 2011 Suburbans, but Nashville resident Harwell’s expenses are considerably less than Ramsey’s – $3,392 in gas and maintenance so far this year to Harwell’s $1,249 – because of his long commute.
“The Lieutenant Governor and Speaker retain their responsibilities and title throughout the year and each is assigned security (state trooper) for protective services,” said Department of Safety spokesperson Kevin Crawford. The troopers are paid per diem rates for lodging and meals when overnighting away from home.
…The most common justification for such practices involves pointing out that it’s nothing new. But Republicans used to rail against Democrats’ profligate spending when they were running the show in Nashville, so more than a touch of irony sets in at the sight of members of the tough-talking, budget-slashing new majority happily settled into the practices that they once deplored.
And the sight of state employees driving state vehicles to tote politicians like Mr. Speaker around the state to purely partisan events is almost as disconcerting as realizing that they don’t give a damn what we think.

TN Teachers Paying for Classroom Supplies on Their Own

According to an online survey of nearly 1,000 Tennessee teachers, reported by the Commercial Appeal, 36 percent said they spend between $251 to $500 on classroom supplies, including work sheets, handouts and other materials they need to teach class.
Among PreK-2 teachers, that percentage jumped to 42 percent. Nearly 6 percent said they spend more than $1,000 a year.
“A lot of teachers just eat the expense,” said J.C. Bowman, a former teacher and executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, which released the survey last week. “People don’t realize how much they care and how much money they spend out of their own pocket just to do their job.”
Teachers in Shelby County Schools get $200 for classroom extras, but $100 is pooled at each school for laminating film, copy paper, chalk, file folders, scissors and other staples, including staples.
…To get a sense of how far $200 goes, Andy Gattas, who owns four Knowledge Tree stores in the metro area, says a kit to decorate a standard 4- by 6-foot bulletin board sells for $12.
“The teacher will probably need another $8 to $10 in supplies to finish it out. This is one decoration she would leave up for about a month. That’s not counting supplies; there’s no stapler, highlighters, pens, pencils.”
PET sent the results to legislators, hoping that “when they look at the BEP (Basic Education Program) formula, they will increase the amount of money teachers can use for in-house resources,” Bowman said.
“We’re saying, here’s an issue; are you aware?”
Often, the principal siphons teacher supply funds to invest in a new curriculum, said Gattas. “It’s nothing evil; there’s no misappropriation, but (teachers) don’t get all the money.”
Eighty percent of Knowledge Tree sales here come directly from teachers’ wallets, Gattas said
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Legislators’ Salary & Benefits Package Nearly $60,000 Per Year

Though state legislators talk about working for low pay, in reality, they take home more money as part-time lawmakers than most Tennesseans do in a year, reports Andrea Zelinski.
Looking at annual salary alone, lawmakers take home no less than $20,000 a year. Factor in their per diem for food and lodging, health insurance benefits and 401K, and it’s closer to $60,000.
…Lawmakers collect a legislative salary of $20,203 a year. Add in $12,000 a year for a home office — regardless whether they’ve set one up — and lawmakers make $8,000 more annually than the average Tennessean.
According to the U.S. Census, the per capita income in the state was $24,197 as recently at 2011.
State legislators also collect $173 in per diem expenses to cover their food and lodging while working at the seat of government or conducting government business, an amount tied to federal government rates. The daily automatic pay breaks down to $107 a night for lodging and $66 for meals and incidentals, whether the money is used for those reasons or not.
Sitting senators last year took home more than $14,600 on average in per diem, according to a review of state records by The City Paper. Legislators in the House of Representatives averaged more than $13,800 each in per diem.
…Lawmakers can also opt into the state’s health insurance program for state employees, which covers 80 percent of the premium. The state’s share of monthly premiums ranges from nearly $6,000 for individuals to $15,400 for families.
Long-term, sitting lawmakers also qualify to cash in on pension benefits once they leave office. After hitting 55 years of age, lawmakers who have served at least four years can begin collecting a pension that boils down to $81.73 per month for each year in the General Assembly. That’s a minimum of almost $4,000 a year for a lawmaker who spent the four years in the legislature needed to qualify
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