Thursday, January 19, 2012
- by Rep. Richard Floyd
GOP Lawmakers Get Back to Work Following Redistricting
This week, House lawmakers resumed normal business after the completion of the redistricting proposals passed by both the House and Senate. The new district maps now await the review and signature of Governor Bill Haslam in order to become law. The reapportioned districts for the Tennessee House and Senate, and the U.S. Congress, take effect after the next election.
Having completed that task, the House Republican Caucus has now turned its attention to job creation—the number one priority for Tennesseans. A number of proposals to help spur economic development await action in the General Assembly. Additionally, the House Majority will work closely with the Administration to pass a number of proposals to improve both the state's economic outlook and education.
Some highlights of the governor’s legislative package include changes to the Economic and Community Development FastTrack incentive program. This is a tool for the Department of ECD to attract and expand jobs here in Tennessee. The reforms highlighted by the Administration allow for the budgets to allocate more for grants and giving the Department more flexibility in utilizing the grants.
The governor also submitted a proposal to cut taxes in Tennessee. Under Gov. Haslam’s plan, the sales tax on groceries would be reduced so the tax burden on all Tennesseans will be reduced in a time of economic hardship. He also proposed cutting the death tax, a punitive tax that hurts Tennessee family businesses and farms. Both of these items have long been priorities of many members of the House GOP Caucus.
House Republicans Pass Constitutional Amendment Banning State Income Tax
More Evidence that Tennessee Works, While Washington Dithers
As expected, House Republicans quickly switched gears this week from redistricting to focusing on job creation and the economy.
A number of conservative members have talked about the certainty job creators must have in Tennessee in a number of different areas; including legal reform, regulatory mandates and, perhaps most important, tax law. While Tennessee is currently one of only a handful of states not to impose a punitive income tax on its citizens, several attempts have been made to change this fact.
On Thursday, Republican lawmakers took a strong stand on behalf of taxpayers to ensure Tennesseans will never have to face a tax on the money they work so hard to earn. Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 221, to permanently place language in the Tennessee Constitution banning the implementation of an income tax. The amendment now must pass the next General Assembly by a 2/3rds vote before being placed on the 2014 election general election ballot.
Rep. Glen Casada (R—Franklin) stated, “America was built on the notion of self-reliance. Our tax code should reflect that principle and provide greater flexibility for taxpayers. Countless studies have shown income taxes are hurtful to state economies and harmful to the financial well-being of taxpayers while a sales tax allows taxpayers to be in charge of their resources. With today’s vote, we are fulfilling our promise to Tennesseans that we will protect them from wasteful spending and government actions that hurt job creation in the private sector.”
In passing SJR 221, the Republican majority painted a strong contrast between how government operates in Tennessee and the dysfunctional ways of the federal government in Washington.
SJR 221 removes all doubt about whether Tennesseans should have an onerous income tax levied against them. Clearly, we hear what the voters are telling us. I would hope Washington would do the same and get the federal government out of the way of America’s job creators.
Republican Lawmaker Files Bill to Make Criminal Acts Conducted by Elected Officials Ineligible for Judicial Diversion
Rep. Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) this week announced he has filed legislation to disqualify elected or appointed officials from receiving judicial diversion for crimes committed during their term of office.
Judicial diversion is the process in criminal law when a person pleads guilty to a crime and can later have the charge removed (or expunged) from their record following a period of probation. It is granted by the judge.
“Accountability is a term that is thrown around a lot in public service these days. Unfortunately, not many take it seriously and that has to change,” said Haynes. “A law like this would go a long way towards restoring the faith Tennesseans once had in their elected officials. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and I think this is a strong first step towards raising the bar in Tennessee.”
A person is eligible for judicial diversion in Tennessee if they do not have a previous class A misdemeanor, felony conviction, or never received diversion or had their record expunged before. Those charged with a class A felony, a class B felony, a sexual offense, or a DUI are not eligible for judicial diversion under state law. Senate Bill 2566 would simply add a criminal offense committed by an official in the executive, legislative or judicial branch to the list of those which are ineligible for judicial diversion, if the crime was committed in their official capacity or involve the duties of their office.
Tennessee Department of ECD Leading Trade Mission, Companies Encouraged to Apply
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that Commissioner Bill Hagerty will lead ECD’s trade mission to China and South Korea April 15-21, that will focus on Tennessee’s medical device manufacturers and other health care companies.
Applications are available at http://www.tn.gov/ecd/tntrade/trademission, along with a video explaining the trade mission. The deadline for companies to apply is Feb. 1. The trade mission is part of the recently announced TNTrade, a new initiative designed to help boost exports by Tennessee’s small- and medium-sized businesses.
Secretary of State Announces ACT & SAT Test Prep Available Through the Tennessee Electronic Library
The winter test dates for the ACT and SAT are fast approaching. While some students may be nervous about how the upcoming exams could affect their college options, the Tennessee Electronic Library has the tools they need to succeed.
TEL is an online library funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. TEL is administered by the Tennessee State Library and Archives, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.
"Success in education and in life begins with proper preparation, which is key for young students to understand," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "The free resources available through TEL show students what to expect and how to prepare for the academic challenges ahead."
The next SAT test will be offered Jan. 29, while the next ACT test will be Feb. 11.
The test prep resources in TEL are from the Learning Express Library, an online collection of study guides, practice tests and math and reading improvement courses. The courses are timed and structured to simulate actual test-taking experiences with instant grading results. Test takers receive personalized recommendations for free e-books and online courses to aid in their future study needs.
Learning Express Library has more than 1,000 online interactive practice exams and course series, plus more than 200 e-books.
"The chance to practice such an important exam is very helpful," TEL Coordinator Wendy Cornelisen said. "It gives students an idea of what their test day will be like, and hopefully lessen any test anxiety they might have."
TEL is free for everyone in Tennessee and provides the tools needed to prepare for a variety of exams and take studying to the next level. To use the test prep resources in TEL, go to www.tntel.info and click on Test Prep to create a free personal account with the user name and password of your choice. TEL is available from any Internet connection in Tennessee, including smart phones and computers at public libraries throughout the state.