Rep. Favors: Session Wrap
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
- by Rep. JoAnne Favors
Jobs, Tax Cuts for Working Families, Improvements for Teachers go Unaddressed
Republican- led General Assembly spends taxpayer dollars in Virginia, gives governor unprecedented power
The Republican-led Tennessee General Assembly, which finished its business Tuesday, scuttled efforts to address job growth, tax cuts for working families and improvements for teachers across the state, while sending half-a-million dollars in pork to a Bristol, Virginia museum.
In addition, an unprecedented move gave the sitting governor power to strip seniority rights for Tennessee workers and hire and fire members of boards across the state without Legislative authority.
“Our caucus worked to re-establish rights for teachers, create jobs for working families and improvements for teachers,” said Rep. Rep. JoAnne Favors (D-Hamilton County). “Instead, we saw nothing more than a power grab that redistributed the separation of powers in our government, while at the same time sending Tennessee taxpayer dollars to Virginia.
“While the governor called for a ¼ percent off of the sales tax on food, I worked to bring it down to one-half percent and was denied,” Rep. Favors said. “
Democrats think jobs should have been the number one priority in Tennessee
Rep. Favors backed efforts to create more jobs while opponents gave tax breaks to the wealthiest Tennesseans.
“We worked to pass the following legislation but found only resistance, due to an effort to shift funding to the upper few,” Rep. Favors said.
The following priorities were ignored:
HB 2079 “Tennessee Contractors First”
• Gives preference on state projects to in-state contractors.
HB 2314 “Back to Work Act”
• $15,000,000 one-time appropriation to Tennessee Technology Centers, allowing them to expand programming and purchase new equipment to educate more Tennesseans for the purpose of filling technical job vacancies.
HB 2308 “New Energy Act”
• Directs the University of Tennessee to put in place a plan by 2013 that maximizes the output of the West Tennessee Solar Farm.
Other states are investing in new energy with visible success and more jobs. With the right planning, the West Tennessee Solar farm can double it’s output and put more Tennesseans back to work.
HB 2582 “New Entrepreneur Tax Credit”
• Provides a 20% tax credit for new small businesses in Tennessee employing 5 or less people.
We want entrepreneurs to go out, invest their capitol and create jobs for our citizens. As a state, we need to do everything we can to make this process easier, including providing tax credits like this that help jump start businesses.
Efforts to restore teachers’ rights ignored in House Education Committee
(NASHVILLE) – The largest anti-teacher bill in state history, which took away the rights of teachers to negotiate a contract covering their salary, benefits, working conditions, school safety, class size, planning time, time to teach, length of the school day, scheduling and other priorities, passed last year. Efforts to reverse this law, a move that was championed by teachers across the state, was ignored.
The new majority also approved a law last year that tenure would not be available until five years of probationary work was reached by our teachers. The former probationary time was three years, after which a teacher wouldn’t be fired without probable cause. Even after tenure is obtained, a teacher is still subject to disciplinary action or dismissal for incompetence, inefficiency, and insubordination, and neglect of duty or unprofessional conduct. This law has also stayed in place.
Efforts to abolish law supporting photo identification at polls denied
(NASHVILLE) – Efforts to reverse a controversial law passed last year were also ignored. Under the law, which passed in 2011, Tennessee’s senior citizens can’t vote without a photo identification.
“The law suppresses voters,” Rep. Favors said. “Many of our seniors don’t have the ability to acquire a photo identification because, quite frankly, there are many counties that don’t even have driver license stations. This is an undue burden on the voters of this state.”
OTHER BAD IDEAS THAT PASSED
Science/Evolution/ “Monkey Bill” (SB 893, Watson): Effectively allows teachers to teach creationism alongside other scientific theories, and allows teachers to teach against proven science such as global climate change. Bill has received continued national attention both for the legislation itself and the Governor’s failure to veto it, instead allowing it to go into law without
his signature. Tennessee is now one of two states to have such a law on its books; the other is Louisiana.
Virtual Schools (SB874, Gresham): Creates a virtual school district in Tennessee that takes local funds and turns them over to a private company, K-12 that was founded in part by a convicted felon and spends as much in advertising each year as the total amount of Tennessee education dollars that will go to the school. K-12 and virtual schools have been the subject of extensive national reporting that show their enormous profits on the backs of taxpayers and their ineffective methods.
Anti-“All Comers” Bill Targeting Vanderbilt (SB3597, Beavers): In the most blatant case of big-government intervention, the majority party passed a bill relating to Vanderbilt’s campus and its student groups and policies regarding religion, mandating that Vanderbilt must allow student groups to discriminate regarding group membership.
Unlimited Corporate Campaign Funds (SB3645, Watson): Republicans voted to allow unlimited corporate spending on campaigns and removed PAC limits for candidates.
Urging Congress to return to 19th Century Commerce Clause: (HJR614, Elam): Republicans urged Congress to return to a “more original understanding” of the federal Commerce Clause, which, among other things, predates child labor laws, child pornography laws and civil rights laws.
Alternative Licensing for High School Teachers (SB2302, Summerville): Allows adjunct college professors to automatically receive a license to teach their subject in Tennessee high schools.
Multiple Liability/Tort Laws Lifted or Abolished (Multiple sponsors, including Ketron and Haile): Liability laws changed for horses, bulls, cows, whitewater rafting, ice skating and the overall changes passed in 2011.
Killing Mountaintop Removal Ban (Senate and House Republicans): Republicans maneuvered to prevent a Senate floor vote on banning mountaintop removal mining, while sending the bill in the House to summer study.
BAD IDEAS THAT WERE DEFEATED
Lottery scholarship cuts (SB2514, Gresham): The bill would have cut full HOPE scholarships for 5,257 students at a time when the lottery is bringing in record-level revenues. The bill passed in the Senate along party lines before the House sponsor took it off notice, saying he didn’t have the votes.
6,000 Percent Solar Tax Increase (SB3296, McNally): The Comptroller bill would have changed assessment rates for solar energy equipment, effectively implementing a 6,000 percent tax increase on the equipment and damaging the state’s fastest growing jobs sector. After opposition from Democrats and small business owners, the Comptroller’s office pulled the bill.
Larger Class Sizes (Haslam administration): The Haslam administration proposed making class sizes larger in exchange for incentive pay for teachers. The move would have ended up cutting 5,300 teaching jobs while increasing class sizes and decreasing teacher-student interaction. After an uproar from Democrats and teachers, the Haslam administration pulled the idea off the table.
Defense of guns in restricted areas (SB3324, Beavers): Bill would have provided legal defense for carrying handgun into restricted area. Vote failed in the Senate.
Guns in Parking Lots (SB3002, Faulk): Would have allowed handgun carry permit holders to keep guns in cars on business premises (including private college campuses), regardless of business owners’ wishes. Bill deferred in both chambers after pressure from business owners.
GOOD IDEAS SUPPORTED BY Rep. JoAnne Favors
Tennessee Works Act (SB2129, Berke): A product of the Tennessee Jobs Tour, the Tennessee Works Act provides employer with training funding for those on unemployment benefits in exchange for a guarantee that they will hire a percentage of their trained workers. Saves state nearly $1 million in UI payments.
Unemployment Insurance for Trailing Military Spouses (SB884, Barnes): Provides unemployment benefits to military spouses who have to leave their jobs due to spouse’s military-ordered reassignment. Funding provided in budget; Barnes recognized by Dept. of Defense for his work.
Carbon monoxide detector (SB2357, Barnes): Requires that all rented/leased RVs have working carbon monoxide detectors. Bill passed after tragic incident in Clarksville where five people died of carbon monoxide poisoning at outdoor motorcycle event.
Grant programs in blighted neighborhoods (SB3424, Marrero): Allows local governments to create grant programs to encourage rehabilitation and stabilization of blighted properties and neighborhoods.
Increased stalking penalties for sex offenders (SB2438, Finney): Increases penalties for sex offenders convicted of stalking from Class A misdemeanor to Class E felony charge.
Protections against livestock abuse (SB2759, Henry): Creates Class E felony charge of aggravated cruelty to livestock.
Veterans’ preference points in civil service hiring (SB2246, Norris/Haslam): Democrats fought to reinstate veterans’ preference in civil service hiring after it was initially left out of the Governor’s TEAM Act.
Study of dangerous high-alcohol beverages (SB2167, Finney): Commissions ABC to study high-alcohol products like Everclear to determine potential ban. Bill comes after West TN teenager died from consumption of product.
Successful fight against Economic and Community Development secrecy (Herron): Democrats raised the question of keeping recipients’ names secret regarding grants from ECD. The administration eventually pulled the legislation.