Rep. Watson: Capitol Hill Review

Monday, July 1, 2013

In recent weeks, media outlets and news organizations across the country have placed Tennessee at the top of several top economic rankings. This important news for the state comes after lawmakers recently wrapped up one of the most successful legislative sessions in Tennessee history, focusing their efforts on cutting taxes, decreasing the size of government, and passing commonsense reforms that make it as easy as possible to start and operate a business in Tennessee. 

While politicians in Washington and around the country continue policies of reckless spending and partisan bickering, lawmakers in Tennessee proudly passed a state budget that exercised fiscal restraint, saved money for the future, cut taxes for all Tennesseans, and fully-funded our state’s educational priorities.

Because of this stark contrast with the rest of the country, Tennessee has rapidly climbed the ladder over the last three years as one of the overall best-managed states in the nation. Coupled with the fact that Tennessee is one of only a handful of states with a higher bond rating than that of the federal government — a major indicator that showcases our state’s stable fiscal environment — it is easy to see why so many are looking to us for economic guidance. Awards for the most recent round of rankings for Tennessee include: 

•        Being named the 4th best state in the nation for business by Chief Executive Magazine;

•        Placing as the 3rd best-managed state in the country by Barron’s Magazine;

•        Ranking 4th in the country for transportation/road quality and 2nd in cost of living by CNBC;

•        And being named the #1 state in the nation for retirement by Bankrate.com.

In addition to these honors, Site Selection magazine ranked Tennessee 8th in the U.S. for total number of new capital investment projects in the annual Governor’s Cup Awards. The organization also named Tennessee the eighth best state in the nation for business climate for the second year in a row. These highly regarded annual rankings are based on a state’s strong record of attracting new company investment deals, an analysis of statewide tax burden, and a survey of corporate site selectors. 

Tennessee ranked seventh overall in Area Development magazine’s ‘Top States for Doing Business’ list — up one spot compared to the previous year’s survey results. Tennessee also scored the #1 ranking for overall global and infrastructure access, and beat out its competitors in ranking first in the nation for distribution/logistics hub access.

There is no doubt that in Tennessee, things are moving in the right direction. Through a strong partnership of the General Assembly and Governor Bill Haslam, state government has been successful in coming together to attract job-creators, inspire entrepreneurs, and put Tennesseans back to work. While Washington and other states around the country are broken, Tennessee is truly doing things right. 

As another example of the upward swing in Tennessee’s economy, there have been numerous major business expansions announced by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development over the last few months. Since January of this year, dozens of companies, both from within the state and from other parts of the country, have decided to expand their operations in Tennessee. With these expansion projects, thousands of jobs will be created along with millions of dollars invested into local communities across the state.

Some of the most prominent of the recently announced expansions include: 

  *   Meiwa Industry, Marshall County — The automotive components supplier has chosen Lewisburg for its first North American expansion, which represents a total $6.1 million community investment and the creation of 98 new jobs.

  *   Eastman Chemical Company, Sullivan & Hawkins Counties — Called Project Inspire, Eastman Chemical Company will invest $1.6 billion in its Kingsport site and add 300 new jobs during the next seven years, allowing the company to invest in new growth opportunities, safety and environmental projects, increased warehouse capacity, building renovations, and expansion of its corporate campus.
  *   HomeServe USA, Hamilton County — HomeServe will expand its Chattanooga operations, creating 100 new customer service positions.
  *   Sonoco Flexible Packaging & Team Technologies, Inc., Hamblen County — Both companies, located in Morristown, will expand their operations over the coming months. Sonoco has pledged to invest $9.7 million and create 26 new jobs; Team Technologies will invest $11 million and create 200 new jobs for the area.

  *   Goodman Manufacturing, Rhea County — The air conditioning and heating equipment manufacturer will expand its plant in Dayton, creating 200 new jobs and investing $200 million in the community. 

The Tennessee’s 9th annual sales tax holiday is scheduled for Friday, August 2nd through Sunday, August 4th. During the three day tax holiday, shoppers can save almost 10 percent on tax free clothing, school and art supplies, and computer purchases. 

The holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. During the designated three day weekend, shoppers will not pay state or local sales tax on select clothing with a price of $100 or less per item, school and art supplies with a price of $100 or less per item, and computers with a price of $1,500 or less.

Please visit www.tntaxholiday.com<http://www.tntaxholiday.com/> for more information. The Tennessee Department of Revenue also assists consumers via e-mail at salestax.holiday@tn.gov<mailto:salestax.holiday@tn.gov>, and through its toll-free hotline, 1-800-342-1003. Exempted items include: 

•        Clothing: Shirts, dresses, pants, coats, gloves and mittens, hats and caps, hosiery, neckties, belts, sneakers, shoes, uniforms — both athletic and non-athletic, scarves.


•        School supplies: Binders, book bags, calculators, tape, chalk, crayons, erasers, folders, glue, pens, pencils, lunch boxes, notebooks, paper, rulers and scissors.

•        Art supplies: Clay and glazes, acrylic, tempera and oil paints, paintbrushes for artwork, sketch and drawing pads, and watercolors.

•        Computers: Laptop computers, desktop computers, tablets, central processing units (CPU), along with various other components including monitor, keyboard, mouse, cables to connect components, and pre-loaded software. 

In recent weeks, ‘Main Street Community’ programs have begun gearing up to host local events in cities and towns all across the state to help support Tennessee’s historic downtown business districts.

The events, which include numerous outdoor summer gatherings, farmers’ markets, and other community-oriented ceremonies and festivals, have a common goal of making Tennessee’s downtown districts safer and more vibrant places where people want to live, shop, and make memories for years to come. 

Typically, downtown areas play an important role in a community’s economic development strategy, usually accounting for as much as 30% of a community’s jobs and forty percent of its overall tax base. Last year alone, certified Main Street communities generated more than $82 million of public/private investment and created more than 600 new jobs.

Currently, there are 25 certified Main Street communities across Tennessee, including the cities of Bristol, Cleveland, Columbia, Fayetteville, Franklin, Greeneville, Lawrenceburg, Rogersville, and Union City. 

For more information about Tennessee’s ‘Main Street Community’ program, visit www.tennesseemainstreet.org<http://www.tennesseemainstreet.org/>.

With the first half of the 2013 legislative session having concluded at the end of April, multiple laws passed during the first four months of the year are set to become effective on July 1. These new statutes include a wide array of subjects, ranging from education and taxes to healthcare, election laws, and public safety. 

Various highlights of these bills include:

 *   House Bill 193 — Lowers the state sales tax on food from 5.25% to a flat 5.00 percent rate, putting an additional $25 million back in the pockets of Tennessee taxpayers. 

 *   House Bill 25 — Requires the Department of Safety to waive the driving test for active duty and honorably discharged service members who apply for commercial driver licenses, if such person has already passed the test while in service.

 *   House Bill 196 — Enhances penalties for offenses committed by gang members and gang affiliated groups. 

  *   House Bill 288 — Enacts the ‘Jacob Nunley Act’, which requires immunizations against meningococcal disease for incoming college students who live on campus.

  *   House Bill 1294 — Defines and creates enhanced penalties for prescription drug fraud.

  *   House Bill 999 — Stops the exponential growth of Tennessee’s beer tax by changing our outdated beer tax structure from price based to volume based, as is done in 48 other states. 

 *   House Bill 681 — Requires any person convicted of a felony and sentenced to a local jail or workhouse to also be sentenced to participate in the jail’s work program.

 *   House Bill 222 — Gives home schooled students an opportunity to try out for local school sports teams if they meet the same health, academic, and conduct standards required of other participants. 

  *   House Bill 520 — Increases penalties for promoting the prostitution of a minor from a Class E felony to a Class A felony.

For a full list of laws going into effect on July 1, visit http://ow.ly/mdR2R.


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