With Final Flurry of New Legislation
The 107th General Assembly adjourned yesterday evening.
What seemed like a race for the roses last week actually ended up being more like a race for the checkered flag – with the final NASCAR-style laps littered with caution flags, fender benders, bumping and dirty air. In the end, it was the earliest adjournment since 1998.
In the final laps, the legislature passed a $31.5 billion budget. Despite a week of family skirmishes and a rare conference committee meeting last week, the Senate passed the budget 31-2 and the House, 64-28. All “no” votes were cast by Democrats.
In the mad race for the checkered flag, a final – and threatened showdown – on the guns issue failed to materialize. Democratic Rep. Eddie Bass of Prospect had refused to say until the end whether he would try to pull the measure backed by the National Rifle Association directly to the floor. In the waning moments of the session there was a collective intake of breaths when he took to the microphone and began making the motion. He then joked that he was reading the wrong paper. A relieved House breathed again and broke into applause.
The Legislature, in those final laps, passed our worker’s comp pain meds bill, restructured the Tennessee Regulatory Agency, eliminated the inheritance/gift tax, passed Fast Track legislation, sang a few songs, played a few songs and bid each other good by.
The leadership provided by House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, as well as Governor Bill Haslam, is greatly appreciated by the business and industry community and resulted in a session that will continue Tennessee on the path to economic recovery. It is a session that will be remembered for being hectically paced and headline grabbing both in the local and national media. But, in the end, it will be remembered for legislation – such as the civil service reform – that will make government more effective and efficient, tightening up of the unemployment insurance system, starting down the road to clarify our method of selecting judges, key education reforms that support continued student improvement, and a leaner, balanced state budget that imposed no new taxes while cutting some key taxes.
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry will continue to work over the summer and fall with the various summer study committees and with the commissioners as next year’s legislation is developed.
For most legislators, however, it is home for the 2012 election season, complete with new districts.
It will be a critical election. The new districts and numerous retirements will mean hard-fought races and fresh faces. Also, many of those legislators who are strong supporters of our business climate and jobs creation have been targeted by the Tennessee Education Association, the National Rifle Association and the Tennessee Firearms Association for defeat – all because they supported education reform for our students and private property rights for business and private owners.
We need your support to ensure that our General Assembly remains one that fights for free enterprise, economic growth and jobs creation. We need a General Assembly that will stand up for our state’s employers, providing them the climate in which they can grow and provide jobs for Tennesseans.
Elections require financial support. And the Tennessee Chamber PAC needs your help to make a difference.
Under new laws passed in 2011, corporations and business entities can participate in the political process. While there are reporting and registration requirements for giving corporate support directly to a candidate, corporate donations can be made directly to a PAC, such as the Tennessee Chamber PAC, with no reporting requirement for the comapny and no limits.
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The Tennessee Chamber is beginning work on our comprehensive analysis of the 107th General Assembly. Our analysis will include a Scorecard on crucial business issues along with a comprehensive analysis of the upcoming primaries, including the U.S. Congress and State House and Senate legislative races. We will discuss the legislation that passed this year and what it will mean for you.
A special thanks to all of our members and to the local chambers and other business allies for your hard work this session. There were some crucial issues and some hard-fought battles. It took all of us – speaking as the unified voice of business – to protect our state’s business climate for economic growth and jobs creation. We succeed by standing together.
Until January 8, 2013, at noon, we say sine die and good-bye.