Chamber celebrates wins in Tenn. Legislature

Hank Hayes • Jun 27, 2014 at 12:28 AM

KINGSPORT — Business is winning in the Tennessee legislature, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) President and Chief Executive Officer Catherine Glover told a Kingsport Chamber of Commerce legislative barbecue Thursday night.

Republicans hold supermajorities in both the House and state Senate, and appear poised to add seats in the November state election.

Glover, speaking before about 150 business leaders and elected officials at the Kingsport Farmers Market, pointed out no new business taxes made it through the legislature this year.

"We saw a number of anti-union bills advance," she said.

TCCI, Glover said, also saw business gains in worker's compensation reform and education measures aligning academics with workforce readiness.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, was one of 13 lawmakers receiving a 100 percent score from TCCI on 14 key business votes taken during the last two legislative sessions on issues ranging from unemployment insurance reform to the so-called "Tennessee Promise" bill allowing graduating high school seniors to get free tuition at state community colleges.

"We've become such a pro-business state you don't have anything to worry about," Ramsey said.

Ramsey also noted one of the toughest things lawmakers had to do this year was balance the state's $32 billion budget without planned two percent raises for teachers or state employees.

"I don't know I've had to do anything harder than that, than lay (raises) on the table, but pull it back," Ramsey said. "It's no fun ... but we made it through that."

State Rep. Mike Harrison, R-Rogersville, is on the front lines of state budget matters because he chairs the House Budget Subcommittee, also known as "The Black Hole."

Harrison told the crowd he's married to a teacher who didn't get a raise this year.

"It's never a good thing to promise something and take it back, but that's what we do in Tennessee during tough times," Harrison noted. "We don't kick the can down the road. We deal with it. ... Hopefully revenues will turn around. We've got some of the best teachers and state employees in the country."

State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, touted his work as House Criminal Justice Subcommittee chairman to adopt tougher limits on pseudoephedrine purchases to control meth production.

Lawmakers also stopped short this year of making pseudoephedrine available only by prescription.

"When we stop production, the Mexicans increase importation of meth," Shipley said. "It's a very difficult equation to get your hands on. This year, the House passed the most aggressive meth package in the history of our state. It was a 75 percent reduction in (meth) precursor, ... (but) until we close our southern border, we will have a problem with meth."

The passing of former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker and ex-state Rep. Mike Locke was also recognized at the event with a moment of silence.

Ramsey also asked for prayers for former state Sen. Mike Faulk, now a judge, who has been diagnosed with cancer.

"The prognosis (for Faulk) is not as good as we would like for it to be," Ramsey disclosed.

For the full report on lawmakers' business voting record with TCCI, go to www.tnchamber.org.

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