When a smiling Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a new statute governing the operation of staff leasing companies, he was surrounded by a group that included two people whose company recently was cited and fined for operating without a license, reports The Tennessean. One of them had been described in a state document as “not of good moral character” — which may be why no one seems to want to own up to inviting them.
In a consent order signed April 9, the attorney representing Chris and Andrea Ball of Powell, Tenn., acknowledged that their firm, HR Comp LLC, had acted as an employee leasing agency without the license required by state law and that the Balls had given false responses when asked about it.
An investigation by the state Department of Commerce and Insurance found that HR Comp LLC had a staff leasing arrangement with Barden Enterprises, parent company of a Knoxville sports bar, for about 10 months ending in November 2010.
“Southside Sports Bar had three to five employees during that period,” said D. Christopher Garrett, a spokesman for the agency.
So the department imposed a $10,000 fine and issued another Ball company — but one with a strikingly similar name, HR Comp Employee Leasing — a probationary one-year license.
…”The department determined that Andrea Ball was not of good moral character because the Jan. 12, 2010, response she sent about HR Comp’s unlicensed activity was not true,” the consent order states.
The probationary license was issued after Andrea Ball admitted submitting the false statement and paid the $10,000 civil penalty.
According to Haslam’s aides, the bill on the licensing of staff leasing agencies was one of 25 signed in a series on May 29.
As for who invited the Balls, Haslam aides and state legislators on hand for the ceremony said they had no idea.
— Note: The state legislators in the picture are Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin. Johnson told the Tennessean he came to the ceremonial signing event for another bill, but then joined the staffing bill group for the picture.
The ceremonial signing season, which is currently under way, may in some ways be the antithesis of efficiency in government that our governor and all legislators proclaim as a goal. But it enjoys great bipartisan popularity.
Our state constitution requires the governor to sign or veto a bill passed by the state Legislature within 10 days after it reaches his desk or it becomes law without his signature. But the real signature merely marks the beginning of the ceremonial signing season, which can stretch for months after the Legislature has adjourned and the duly signed bills are already in effect as laws.
About 660 bills were really signed into law. You won’t see any ceremonial signings for measures that involved controversy. In such cases, the less said, the better. And you darn sure won’t see a ceremonial veto for the one measure Haslam killed this year. Or a ceremonial nonsigning of legislation that became law without his ink.
No, ceremonies are reserved for bills that were popular with most everybody — or at least the special-interest groups that pushed them with no serious opposition.
News release from governor’s office:
HUMBOLDT – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today traveled to Luckey Family Farm in Humboldt to highlight the second of three tax cuts passed during this year’s legislative session and signed by the governor.
Haslam held a ceremonial bill signing of HB 3760/SB 3762, which phases out the state inheritance tax during the next three years before it is completely eliminated starting January 1, 2016.
The bill was introduced by the governor as the state continues its work toward providing the best customer service at the lowest possible cost to Tennesseans.
“We’re focused on making state government more efficient and more effective while reducing the cost to taxpayers,” Haslam said. “Jobs are created when people invest capital. The inheritance tax is causing Tennesseans to take their capital to other states as they grow older, but businesses and family farms can’t pick up and leave. Eliminating this tax will ease the burden on family businesses and farms that are left to other generations.”
The exemption level will be lifted to $1.25 million in 2013; $2 million in 2014; and $5 million in 2015.
Haslam included $14.2 million in the FY 2012-2013 state budget to fund the legislation.
In Whitwell Monday, the governor signed HB 3761/SB 3763, legislation reducing the state portion of the sales tax on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent. His plan is to reduce it next year to 5.0 percent.
News release from governor’s office:
WHITWELL – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today traveled to Marion County to sign legislation to reduce the state portion of the sales tax on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent.
Haslam held a ceremonial bill signing at the locally- and independently-owned Smith Bros. Grocery in Whitwell, Tenn.
“We’re focused on making state government more efficient and more effective while reducing the cost to taxpayers,” Haslam said. “The sales tax on food touches all Tennesseans, and this is an effort to lower the burden. I applaud the General Assembly for passing this important piece of legislation this year.”
The bill, SB 3763/HB 3761, was introduced by the governor and was one of three tax cuts passed by the legislature and signed by Haslam this year as the state continues its work toward providing the best customer service at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers.
The governor was joined for the event by bill sponsor House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), Rep. David Alexander (R-Winchester) and Marion County Mayor John Graham. Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) sponsored the bill in the Senate.
Haslam included $21.3 million in the FY 2012-2013 state budget to fund the legislation.
The reduced tax rate does not apply to prepared foods such as a meal at a restaurant, candy, alcoholic beverages or tobacco.
Gov. Bill Haslam ceremonially signs the “Tennessee Works Act” on Tuesday, surrounded by Democratic legislators including House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, who were lead sponsors of the measure.
(Note: This is an unedited version of a column written for Sunday’s News Sentinel.)
An annual phenomenon in Tennessee – perhaps occurring this year more than most — is that many people only discover what the General Assembly has been doing after the deeds are done and the Legislature has gone home for the year.
This is somewhat understandable, since the volume of legislation is such that even active participants in the process don’t know what’s going on with more than a few dozen of the 2,500 or so bills in the works during session.
As Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey acknowledged, regarding a bill to prohibit social promotion of third graders (SB1776): “I don’t think it got the first ounce of media coverage…I didn’t know the bill existed until a week before it passed.”
Actually, it got several pounds of media coverage, but most came after it had already passed and had been signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Haslam, incidentally, had a legislative package that was tiny by his predecessors’ standards, just 20 bills. He got dragged into some level of involvement in another couple of dozen or so, occasionally with some eagerness but mostly, it seemed, with some reluctance..
But, by gosh, he has signed every bill put in front of him. Unlike Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist, he hasn’t even occasionally shown his disdain by refusing to sign a measure and letting it become law without his signature.
News release from the governor’s office:
MEMPHIS – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today held a ceremonial signing of his charter schools bill, HB 1989/SB 1523 at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Memphis, legislation lifting the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state and opening enrollment to more students.
The changes will make charter schools an option for more districts that seek to take advantage of this innovative tool and for more parents who seek educational options for their children. The initiative is part of his first legislative package that focused on continuing the state’s progress in education reform and ultimately geared toward Haslam’s first priority: making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.