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.
All good conservatives believe that the government closest to the people governs best, observes Frank Cagle in his weekly column…. except when they don’t. The business lobby is prevailing on the state Legislature to forbid a city raising the minimum wage above $7.25 an hour ($2.13 for people working for tips).
There is also a bill that forbids a city requiring contractors or people doing business in the city to pay a prevailing wage rate or to require that contractors provide health benefits.
…This comes after legislation last session forbidding cities to require their contractors not discriminate against gay people.
Business lobbyists tell legislators they have to have consistency throughout the state and it would be a real problem if regulations and requirements were different in different jurisdictions. We have to have the same laws in Maynardville and Memphis and Mountain City. That’s the argument they use in Washington to “standardize” laws throughout the states.
Legislators often glibly parrot the talking points and seem to have little regard for the impact of their decisions on the average citizen. If business wants consistency, how about requiring that every town and city in the state require a prevailing wage rate over the minimum?
No? So it isn’t about consistency. It’s about using the law to keep local government from asking for better wages from their contractors.
If it makes you mad for your City Council to ask that contractors pay a decent wage, provide health insurance, or not discriminate against employees then you have the option to run for City Council or support someone else. But it’s a local matter and no one in Nashville ought to be telling local governments what they can and can’t do.
Some local school districts are resisting efforts to set up charter schools. The state is already pulling the purse strings. Will a complete state takeover of charter schools be next? Even if you think charter schools are a good idea, shouldn’t you let the local school board decide? If you don’t like the decision, run for the school board or support someone else.
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.
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.
Some Nashville officials are not happy with legislation proposed by Sen. Brian Kelsey and Rep. Glen Casada that would block cities and counties from enacting local ordinances that deal worker benefits provided by companies contracting with local governments, reports Michael Cass. “I continue to be amazed that the folks who are so often telling the federal government to get out of their business continue to want to create roadblocks for municipalities,” Councilwoman Megan Barry said.
Barry has worked to create a “living wage” for Metro employees, but she said she doesn’t have any plans to try to place similar requirements on other employers. (Memphis has a “living wage” ordinance that would apparently be impacted by the legislation. As enacted in 2007, it requires companies doing business with the city to pay $10 per hour with benefits or $12 an hour without benefits.)
Casada rejected the claims of Republican hypocrisy.
“We just want smaller government,” he said. “To have a big, overreaching local government would defeat the purpose.”
Through a spokeswoman, Kelsey referred questions to Casada. But he said in a news release announcing his proposal last month that the legislation would “open up job opportunities, especially for minority teens in Tennessee.”
Citing a study published in May by labor economists William Even and David Macpherson, Kelsey said increases in minimum wage requirements reduce employment rates for black male teenagers.
“Excessive regulations from 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 the release.
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN) November 2, 2011 – Representative Glen Casada (R-College Grove) and State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today announced the introduction of a jobs bill designed to increase the number of jobs available to unemployed workers.
Senate Bill 2149 provides that no local government can impose on any business additional mandates regarding health insurance benefits, minimum wage requirements, or family leave requirements that deviate from those required by state law. The legislation is the fifth in a series of announcements by Kelsey in his “12 for ’12” initiative for the next legislative session, which is set to reconvene January 10, 2012.
“There is no doubt that this bill will open up job opportunities, especially for minority teens in Tennessee,” said Kelsey. “Excessive regulations from 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.”
According to a study released this summer by the Chicago Urban League, the jobless rate of African American teens is a shocking 42 percent. Local government minimum wage regulations are a large contributor to that figure. Among black males in this group, each 10 percent increase in the minimum wage has decreased employment by 6.5 percent, according to a separate study released this summer by labor economists William Even of Miami University in Ohio and David Macpherson of Trinity University in Texas.
In addition to job growth, the bill aims to help small businesses who cannot afford additional burdens placed on them through local ordinances or resolutions. “This bill is modeled after the Interstate Commerce Clause which ensures that the flow of commerce is free from restraints imposed by various states,” said Representative Casada. “This legislation, likewise, would prevent counties in Tennessee from imposing additional intrastate requirements, so they cannot inhibit commerce by placing additional burdens on businesses.”
Businesses in Tennessee are already struggling in a very challenging economic environment. In order to grow jobs small business owners need protection from having to comply with additional burdens placed on them by yet another layer of government.
“Every time another burden is imposed on our small businesses, it costs jobs,” added Rep. Casada. “It also causes small businesses or their human resource departments to have to hire attorneys, an action which is very expensive.”
“Small businesses are the engine that drives economic growth and job creation. If we want our economy to improve, we must get government off the backs of small businesses, so they can do what they do best: grow jobs,” Senator Kelsey concluded.