NET legislators vow to look out for business interests

Hank Hayes • Jan 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Northeast Tennessee lawmakers pledged to listen to business concerns and asked to be held accountable for their 2008 votes affecting companies and jobs during a regional chamber legislative breakfast Thursday.

“We asked for this job. We work for you,” state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, told about 200 business leaders attending the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center event.

Deb Woolley, president and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI), warned lawmakers to avoid shifting tax burdens to business interests in what is expected to be a tight budget year for state government.

She also encouraged them to keep workers’ compensation reform from being eroded by court decisions.

“You have the most influential delegation of any area of the state,” Woolley said of the region’s caucus of lawmakers.

State Rep. Nathan Vaughn, D-Kingsport, suggested lawmakers should avoid partisanship during this election year.

“One of the things I see as our greatest challenge is how are we going to manage to stay out of the weeds in Nashville,” he said. “During an election year, we start out working together. But every election year, we get ourselves in the weeds and start playing politics. Things get off track. We don’t have time for that kind of foolishness this year.”

Vaughn, who has come under attack from the Tennessee Republican Party for late filings of Community Enhancement Grant (CEG) applications, also pointed out that he has presented his first CEG check to a local nonprofit organization. At the start of the breakfast, Lundberg, House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey presented three CEGs to local nonprofits.

Mumpower, R-Bristol, promised to renew medical malpractice reform efforts and improve the state’s roads and infrastructure.

“If working for an electric company is your profession, then politics is your business. If working for a hospital or a bank is your profession, or working for a phone company, or advocating for children ... then politics is your business,” Mumpower told attendees. “The best thing about being the House minority leader is you literally get to have your hand in everything that happens. The worst thing about being the House minority leader is you have to have your hand in everything that happens.”

State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said he will work to build on Tennessee’s recently enacted half-percent sales tax reduction on food.

“We’re just getting started. ... It dovetails into the whole business message. ... It means that every term you have to fight to keep taxes low,” Hill said.

State Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, predicted there will be battles over issues like illegal immigration and health care but noted he’s working to increase the availability of drinking water in his district.

“There are people living 15 minutes from here who don’t have access to utility water. That is totally unacceptable in this day and age,” Ford said.

Ramsey said he will build on a goal he had last year to have a “pro-business” state Senate with strong leadership in overseeing state finances and keeping job-killer bills from advancing in committees.

“It makes a difference who governs. ... We affect your lives every day,” the Blountville Republican said.

For more about TCCI go to www.tnchamber.org.

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