Tag Archives: reduce

State Won’t Follow New Law Cutting Unemployment Benefits

A showdown over a new state law might end up costing thousands of Tennesseans their unemployment benefits, as the state is facing an impossible choice: either defy the law or put families at risk, according to WSMV-TV.
The new law that had been set to take effect Monday is meant to cut payments to unemployment recipients who have children.
For now, the state pays the first 26 weeks of benefits, then the federal government pays an extra 37 weeks. But that money comes with strings attached. Namely, states can’t cut benefits.
“To find out, first of all, that the Republican Party was OK taking money away from children when their parents are unemployed was unbelievable and heartless,” said State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville.
People on unemployment who have children get an extra $15 a week per child, but state lawmakers passed a bill to eliminate that extra money.
The new law had been primed to go into effect Monday, but the Tennessee Department of Labor decided to hold off.
….According to federal law, if states make certain cuts to it unemployment benefits, they risk losing federal benefits entirely.
As of January, around 30,000 in Tennessee were receiving those federal benefits. The Department of Labor was all ready to enact the new law, even notifying people on the state website that the money was going away.
However, Director of Benefit Operations Mark Stiles sent out an email Friday, letting people know that they wouldn’t be cutting these benefits until the end of the year.
Democratic state lawmakers say it appears the Department of Labor is poised to break its own law to preserve those benefits.
…The Tennessee Department of Labor is now seeking guidance from the federal government about the impact of removing these dependent benefits.
Until they make a decision, the benefits stay.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor said the benefits are still active in Tennessee, but the case remains under review.

Bill Introduced to Use Internet Taxes to Cut State Food Tax

Sen. Frank Niceley has filed legislation that would use any new state revenue from out-of-state retailers to lower the current sales tax on groceries.
Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, filed the bill (SB1424) Tuesday for consideration during the 2014 legislative session that begins in January. In an interview, Niceley said he adamantly opposes legislation pending in Congress that would authorize states to collect sales taxes from their citizens buying products over the internet or via mail order from companies located in other states.
But if the law is approved by Congress, the bill declares that the state finance commissioner will make an annual estimate of “surplus Internet tax revenue” and put that amount of money into the state budget for use in reducing the tax on grocery food.
Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey all support the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which passed the U.S. Senate last month but is stalled in the U.S. House, and have all indicated an interest in using some of the new revenue to reduce current state taxes.

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Bill Cuts State Knife Control

Sen. Mike Bell has proposed what he calls “a complete rewrite of the knife laws in Tennessee,” repealing present provisions that effectively prohibit use of “switchblades” and apparently ban use of knives with blades longer than four inches for self-defense.
Bell’s bill (SB1015) would also override multiple city and county government ordinances that restrict knives. It was approved on a 7-1 vote Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with one member abstaining.
The Riceville Republican said he began looking into knife laws after a judge told him “a couple of years ago” he tried to order a knife from an online retailer and was told the company did not ship to Tennessee because it read state law to ban knives with blades longer than 4 inches.
He has since learned, Bell said, that “thousands of people throughout Tennessee” are violating state law by having “switchblade knives,” which he said are more properly called “spring-loaded knives.”
Bell said the present ban on switchblades, which are useful for people who need to open a knife with one hand in some situations, was banned in Tennessee and many other states after ” hysteria caused by Hollywood movies.”
Actually, he said officials of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation say they are rarely, if ever, used in crime. Further, with only a slight variation in opening procedure, a knife can avoid the switchblade designation and be legal, he said.
The bill repeals several provisions of current law, including those on the crime of carrying a knife “for the purpose of going armed.” The law now forbids having a knife with a blade of more than 4 inches for such purposes, he said, unless it is used in hunting, fishing, camping or “other lawful activity.”
Effectively, Bell said, that means a person cannot carry a knife for self-defense. He said his 18-year-old daughter cannot legally get a handgun carry permit to possess a gun for self-defense and should be able to carry a long-bladed knife instead.
The only no vote on the committee Tuesday came from Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, who said a law enforcement officer had contacted him with concerns about the bill.
Bell said pre-emption of local ordinances is needed to provide statewide uniformity in laws. Clarksville, for example, prohibits knifes with blades longer than 3 inches, shorter than the state standard. Knoxville’s city ordinance, he said, is roughly the same as current state law, though using an array of undefined terms that include “razor, dirk, Bowie knife or other knife of like form” and, in another place, “sword cane” and “ice pick” — if the named items are “for the purpose of going armed.”

Note: There is a national ‘knife rights’ effort, subject of a Mother Jones story. HT/Jeff Woods

Duncan’s Debt-Cutting Idea: Raise Fed Retirement Age

Duncan: Cut deficit by clamping down on early retirement (News-Sentinel/Collins)
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is urging the congressional “super committee” looking for ways to lower the federal deficit to seriously consider reducing the number of federal employees eligible for early retirement, reports Michael Collins.
The Knoxville Republican sent a letter to the panel this week and argued that the government could save billions of dollars by prohibiting all new federal workers from drawing federal pensions any earlier than age 62.
“There are many thousands of federal employees who are in their 50s or even in their late 40s,” Duncan wrote. “As much as American lifespans have increased, we simply cannot afford to allow people to draw federal pensions at such young ages.”
The congressman stressed that he is not suggesting changing the retirement rules for anyone currently employed by the federal government.
“But what we need to start doing — and we need to start doing it sooner than later — we need to tell the new people coming in that we can’t give them as lucrative retirements as in the past,” Duncan said in an interview.
In 2009, the average age for federal retirees was 58.9, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. But under voluntary early retirement, an employee with 20 or more years of service can retire as early as age 50.