News release from Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth:
Tennessee is 39th in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2013 National KIDS COUNT Data Book ranking of child well-being released today.
Rankings on 16 indicators are clustered in four domains — Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community. Tennessee improved slightly on two domains, held steady on one, and dropped on another.
“Child well-being is a barometer of the current and future well-being of the state,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, state affiliate of the KIDS COUNT program, “and while we are disappointed Tennessee’s 2013 composite ranking dropped from 36th in 2012 after three years of ‘best ever’ state rankings, we are pleased to see progress in several indicators.
“Emphasis on keeping children in school in Tennessee resulted in the state scoring better than the national average in the percent of high school students graduating on time and of children in families where the household head has a high school diploma.”
Tennessee is a strong in manufacturing, but production growth is limited by Tennesseans’ relatively low level of educational achievement, says a Ball State University study. From the Commercial Appeal’s brief story: The 2013 Manufacturing and Logistics Report Card, an analysis from Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), grades all 50 states on factors that lead to success.
Tennessee received these other grades: Logistics, B+; Human Capital, D-; Worker Benefit Costs, B+; Tax Climate , C; Expected Liability Gap, B; Global Reach, B; Sector Diversification, B; and Productivity and Innovation, C-.
“This year the state saw the scorecard register improvements in tax climate and the expected fiscal liability gap,” ” stated Ball State’s Michael Hicks, CBER director and economics professor.
“These two changes suggest that Tennessee will see improved prospects for manufacturing. Still, the only real constraint to making goods in Tennessee remains the quality limitations of the workforce.”
The report is available at: cms.bsu.edu/academics/centersandinstitutes/bbr/currentstudiesandpublications
Humane Tennessee PAC has issued a “scorecard” for state legislators based on their “support and promotion of animal welfare legislation.”
The ratings are based on votes involving six bills — three the PAC supported and three it opposed — with extra points added or subtracted for other activities.
Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, for example, got extra points for holding a news conference to denounce the so-called “ag gag” bill that the group opposed.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the lowest rated legislators were the sponsors of that bill, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville. The measure, which required anyone making pictures or video of livestock abuse to turn it over to law enforcement authorities promptly, passed both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Joining them on the “paws down” list were Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport and Sens. Mike Bell, R-Riceville; Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey; Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga; Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.
Ranking high on the list were Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, sponsors of a bill increasing the penalty for cockfighting. The Humane PAC supported the bill, which was killed in a Senate floor vote with Niceley leading the verbal opposition.
Besides them and Johnson, others given high ratings were Reps. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet; Mike Stewart, D-Nashville; and Curry Todd, R-Collierville, along with Sens. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson; Jim Kyle, D-Memphis; and Mark Norris, R-Collierville.
The PAC was established in late 2010 and, insofar as donating to campaigns goes, has not been very active. It has given just $3,500 to candidates since being created — including $1,000 to Ketron and $500 to Lundberg — and had a balance of $1,214 in its last report, according to the Registry of Election Finance.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam said meetings with three credit agencies this week went well and he is optimistic about the outcomes.
Tennessee currently has triple-A credit ratings from Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Inc. and a double-A-plus rating from Standard and Poor’s.
Haslam said in a conference call Tuesday from New York City that credit agency officials were impressed by the state’s low per-capita debt and revenue that has exceeded expectations.
He said officials wanted to know how threatened federal cuts would affect the state.
Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes said the state could lose about $40 million for education and more in indirect federal spending.
However, Haslam said that Tennessee officials feel the state is in a good position to weather cuts compared to other states.
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.
The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund says state Senate candidate Frank Niceley has been “deliberately misleading voters” by saying in campaign literature that his NRA rating is “A+” instead of the “C” that has was assigned for the 2012 primary.
The fund’s president, Chris Cox, warned Niceley in a letter that his rating could be lowered further unless the “misrepresentation” is ended.
Mike Alder, a spokesman for Niceley’s campaign, said the candidate as a state representative had an “A+” in his last NRA rating and the rating was not changed until July 23. Before that, he said, literature stated that Niceley “has had” the “A+” and that was accurate.
Immediately after the rating was changed, Alder said, the campaign moved to eliminate the reference to “A+” in all references, including “tossing out” about 2,000 hand cards.
The new ratings leave Hobart Rice as the highest rated candidate in the 8th Senate District primary with an “A Q,” which means he is rated on the basis of a questionnaire answers and has no voting record.
The NRA has also lowered its previous ratings of some other legislative candidates, notably including House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart. She now has a “D” and the NRA has spent $75,000 on attacking her and supporting her opponent, Courtney Rogers, who got a special non-incumbent “A” and an endorsement.
— Note: NRA Tennessee legislator grades page is HERE.
A national firm that that advises investors says Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed overhaul of the state’s utility regulating agency could mean lower earnings for the state’s utilities.
“We lower our assessment of Tennessee regulation to generally constructive/declining, due to concerns regarding pending legislation, which would alter the Tennessee Regulatory Authority’s (TRA) ability to adequately regulate the state’s utilities,” says a report issued by Baird Equity Research on Tuesday.
David E. Parker, senior utility analyst for the Baird, said in a telephone interview that “generally constructive” is the rating assigned to regulatory agencies deemed “average or slightly above average.” The report means the basic rating of the TRA is not yet changed, he said, but if the Haslam bill is enacted, it could be lowered to the next step down.
Baird Equity Research, an arm of Robert W. Baird & Co., routinely evaluates state regulatory agencies as part of its efforts in advising investors, Parker said.
The governor said today he sees nothing in the report that would change his mind about the need for passage of the legislation, (SB2247),which is up for a vote on the Senate floor later today.
The bill would increase the TRA’s board from four members to five, but make the new positions part-time. It also calls for creating a new fulltime position of executive director of the TRA.
“We do not believe that a part-tie commission serves the best interest of utilities operating in the state or consumers,” says the report. “This change likely makes it difficult to attract qualified commissioners and could increase regulatory lag pressuring earned returns.”
“That’s a real stretch,” Haslam said after reading the Baird memo. “If you follow that reasoning, you’d have to downgrade all the Fortune 500 companies because they have part-time boards, too.”
The governor, asked about the matter at a breakfast gathering for legislators at his office, questioned how a “regulatory lag” could be caused by the legislation and wondered if Baird knew the TRA had only 19 rate cases in the past five years. If aware of that, he said, “maybe they would be comfortable.”
To see the Baird report, click on this link: -UT_-_12862074.pdf
Tennessee teachers earned one of the highest overall grades in the nation on the National Council on Teacher Quality’s 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, reports the Memphis Business Journal. Tennessee earned a B- and was one of only four states to receive a B grade. Tennessee overall grade rose from a C- in 2009, according to the biannual report.
The Yearbook is compiled by the National Council on Teacher Quality and has tracked teacher policies for the last five years. The report measures progress against a set of 36 policy goals focused on helping states put in place a comprehensive framework in support of preparing, retaining and rewarding effective teachers.
Tennessee improved on three of the five basic areas: from a C to a C+ in expanding the teaching pool; from a C to a B in identifying effective teachers; and from an F to a C in exiting ineffective teachers. The other three states with overall B grades were Florida, Rhode Island and Oklahoma.
Release from House Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the Tennessee Legislature readies to gavel in session later today, top Republican lawmakers are touting the results of a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that says Tennessee is a leading “Enterprise State” for its remarkable environment of low taxes and navigable regulations.
The Chamber report, available here, notes “Tennessee’s low cost of living, fourth lowest state and local tax burden and manageable budget gap place it first in this year’s tax and regulation ranking.” The State moved up two places from last year’s ranking.
The report also cites the “business-friendly Legislature” and the fact the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development and the Commissioner of Revenue work together to ensure there is a “no surprise” regulatory environment in Tennessee. Additionally, in profiling the State, the Chamber highlights Governor Bill Haslam’s Jobs4TN initiative that utilizes “existing economic development assets to identify and prioritize growth-ready industry clusters, establish nine regional ‘jobs base camps’…and reduce regulations that get in the way of business and job growth.”
House Speaker Beth Harwell (R–Nashville), House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R–Chattanooga) and House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart (R–Hendersonville) believe Tennesseans can expect a continued focus on sound fiscal policy and common sense reforms to regulations in the new legislative session.
Speaker Harwell stated, “We are proud Tennessee has, once again, been recognized as a top State for businesses and families. I look forward to a successful session that will further Tennessee’s unmatched record of accomplishment by keeping taxes low and further reducing the State’s regulatory burden.”
“Tennessee is on solid footing when it comes to tax and regulatory policy. That said, I believe we can do more. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Haslam, we have a guiding vision for transforming Tennessee into a truly competitive State that will be an engine for growth in the coming years,” stated McCormick.
Maggart added, “This session will be a model for future legislative sessions. We are focused on how to best pave the way for job creation in the private sector, removing government barriers to business growth, and maintaining our State’s low tax reputation. Tennesseans expect government to serve them and their priorities and we are going to do just that.”
The 2nd session of the 107th General Assembly begins today at noon central time.
(Note: Expands and replaces earlier post)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rating agencies have decided not to downgrade Tennessee’s debt after the state submitted a detailed game plan for how each agency would respond to deep federal spending cuts.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday cited a “proven history of fiscal responsibility” in announcing that Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings have reissued their top ratings to Tennessee and that the state will remain one notch below Standard and Poor’s best grade.
The only change is Moody’s switching Tennessee to a negative outlook, following a decision in August to do the same with the federal government’s debt.
Haslam last month led a delegation of state official to meetings with all three ratings agencies in New York in which he presented plans for coping with federal spending cuts as deep as 30 percent.
The governor told reporters after a speech to a Republican group at a Nashville law firm on Tuesday that Tennessee showed the ratings agencies a willingness to make difficult spending decisions if they are required.
“Their concern is not about delivery of services,” he said. “What it’s about (is): Will people who loan money to the state get paid back? And to do that, they want to be hear if you’re willing to make cuts if you have to.”
“That’s reassuring to them,” he said.
The ratings decisions were reported earlier by The Tennessean and The Memphis Daily News based on an email to lawmakers from an aide to the state comptroller and a Twitter post by state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, on Monday afternoon.
“These ratings are proof that a united Republican government determined to cut government and promote economic growth works,” Ramsey said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s that simple.”
Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes earlier led a delegation of state officials to meetings with Moody’s and Fitch after initial rumblings in August that Tennessee could face a downgrade because of it relies on the federal government for about 40 percent of its budget.
Upon his return, the former CEO of tire maker Bridgestone Americas ordered each state agency to lay out plans for how it would cut 15 percent of federal aid, and another for reducing those funds by an additional 15 percent.
The state in September submitted its 153-page plan detailing how the each agency would deal with an across-the-board reduction in federal money.
“They were used to seeing contingency planning and risk assessment from corporations, so I think they were favorably impressed that the state government had looked at this and gone through the process,” Emkes said after a second round of meetings with the ratings agencies.
Under the worst-case scenario, Tennessee would have to cut $4.5 billion out of the $30.8 billion spending plan and lay off more than 5,100 state employees.
About half of those cuts would be made at TennCare, the state’s expanded Medicaid program serving 1.2 million people.
Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen cut 170,000 adults from TennCare and reduced benefits to thousands more to bring spending under control during his two terms as governor that ended in January. TennCare costs dropped by about $1 billion between 2005 and 2009, but still make up about a quarter of the state budget.
Tennessee’s approach doesn’t appear to have been replicated by other states making their cases to keep or improve their debt ratings. Note: News release below