Governor Bill Haslam on Tuesday announced his priorities for the 2013 legislative session, building on momentum from his past proposals focused on attracting and growing Tennessee jobs, pursuing meaningful education reform, managing an efficient and effective state government, and strengthening public safety.
“In working together over the past two years with the Legislature, we’ve accomplished a lot for the people of Tennessee, and I look forward to working with the 108th General Assembly in the same way,” Governor Haslam said. “Our proposals represent our top priorities of making Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs, continuing to improve education, being the best managed state in the country, and keeping our citizens safe.”
The governor’s legislation:
· Strengthens the state’s attractive business climate through the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Improvement Act by reforming worker’s compensation laws to simplify the process and to make it more equitable for both the employer and employee. Additional details here.
· Completes the governor’s two-year plan to cut the state’s portion of the sales tax on food and groceries from 5.5 percent by taking the last step and reducing the sales tax from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, a reduction that affects every Tennessean. Additional details here.
· Establishes WGU-Tennessee, an online competency-based program with curriculum geared toward the 800,000 adult Tennesseans with some college credit but no degree. The program also emphasizes mentors who guide these adult students through the academic process. Additional details here.
· Rewrites and simplifies the Criminal Gang Enhancement statute by clarifying the definition of “criminal gang offense” and creating a list of specific offenses considered criminal gang offenses. Additional details here.
· Gives Tennessee parents another option for school choice through a program that allows students in the lowest income brackets in the lowest performing schools to attend other schools. Additional details here.
· Encourages college accessibility by creating an endowment to provide need-based, “last dollar” scholarships or grants to Tennesseans pursuing a degree from a postsecondary institution. Additional details here.
· Reduces the Hall Income Tax burden on seniors for the second time since 2011 by exempting single filers with a total annual income of $33,000 or less and joint filers with either a spouse 65 years or older and having total annual income of $59,000 or less. Additional details here.
“We’re proposing to cut taxes further, address college affordability and encourage degree attainment, improve the environment for job creation and make Tennesseans safer,” Governor Haslam said. “Tennessee is different. We’re not like Washington or other states because we work together to get things done for Tennesseans, and we’ll continue to focus on the things that matter most to Tennesseans.”
The governor will also strongly support SJR 2/HJR 8 regarding judicial selection, which is up for two-thirds vote this year in the General Assembly.
The Haslam administration has filed a total of 59 non-budget related bills, but the above pieces of legislation represent the governor’s priorities.