Rep. Brooks: State House Summary

Thursday, July 25, 2013 - by Rep. Kevin Brooks
Tennessee Claims Key Ranking Of Lowest Debt in the Nation

House lawmakers from across the state joined together this week to announce that Fitch Ratings, one of the country's top bond agencies, has officially name Tennessee the lowest debt state in the nation.  

The news, which was released by Fitch earlier this week, is based on an analysis of total debt ratios in all 50 states. The calculation is measured by combining each state’s total debt and unfunded liabilities and measuring them against the state’s average individual income level.

The special report from Fitch revealed that the median level for states' combined debt measures 7.0 percent of 2012 personal income. Tennessee's was lowest at 1.8 percent. The nation's highest percentage was Illinois at 24.8 percent.

Fitch plans to use the debt ratios as a factor in evaluating states’ credit ratings. Favorable ratings from Fitch and the other rating agencies means lower interest rates when the state borrows money, resulting in big savings for taxpayers across the board. 

"There’s a simple reason why our state’s debt rate is so low – we borrow a small amount of money relative to the size of our government and we repay it quickly,” Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson said. “That’s a credit to our state legislators, who have managed our finances very wisely. They have helped keep the burden that future generations of Tennesseans will have to repay low.”

The award from Fitch complements other recent accolades given to the state which honor  Tennessee's top-rated fiscal environment, including placing as the 3rd best-managed state in the country by Barron’s Magazine and being named the #1 state in the nation for retirement by 

These important rankings come on the heels of House lawmakers wrapping up one of the most successful legislative sessions in Tennessee history, where efforts were focused 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.

With the second half of the 108th General Assembly set to begin in only a few months, this most recent round of business-friendly awards prove that in Tennessee, things are moving in the right direction. Through the hard work and dedication of Governor Haslam and legislative leadership, state government has been successful in coming together to attract job-creators, inspire entrepreneurs, and put Tennesseans back to work. 

Launch Tennessee Kicks Off TENNProgram Initiative

Local entrepreneurs and leaders of Tennessee startup companies now have a chance to get more exposure and funding through a new state initiative called the TENNProgram.  

The new program, which is part of the public-private partnership called Launch Tennessee, aims to identify and assist the top 10 startup companies graduating from the state’s regional accelerators—the primary resource offered to entrepreneurs to launch their businesses in Tennessee. 

The program kicks off with a statewide demo day on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Bridge Building in Nashville, during which the top 10 startup companies from across the state will be identified. Following this initial event, the ten companies will embark on a statewide bus tour, where they will meet with leaders of Tennessee’s top corporations. In addition, the group will fly to various states to network with venture capitalists and potential investors.

Companies that have graduated from one of Tennessee’s nine regional business accelerators in the last year can apply to be one of the ten companies chosen to participate in the TENNProgram.  

Interested applicants can apply online by Aug. 2 by visiting

State’s Agritourism Industry Continues Steady Growth

Researchers at the University of Tennessee released new findings this week that show Tennessee’s agritourism industry — which includes any agriculturally-based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch — has more than doubled between 2006 and 2012, bringing in hundreds of millions of tourism dollars for farmers across the state.  

In 2012 alone, the study cites, Tennessee agritourism visitors spent more than $54 million in farm visits and agriculture purchases from farmers in all areas of the state. In addition, the study estimates approximately 200 agritourism operators hosted in excess of 1.75 million people on their farms in 2012. 

The most common types of activities and attractions that drew people to Tennessee farms, according to the study, were school field trips, pick-your-own product events, wagon rides, farm tours, and retail farm markets. 

To view the complete UT agritourism report, please visit

Annual Sales Tax Holiday To Take Place Aug. 2-4

Members of the Tennessee House of Representatives are reminding citizens across the state this week that 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.

For more information, visit The Tennessee Department of Revenue also assists consumers via e-mail at, and through its toll-free hotline, 1-800-342-1003.  

Rep. Kevin Brooks serves the 24th Legislative District in Cleveland and Bradley County.  Kevin and his wife, Kim are actively involved in their community and local schools with their two children, Zach and Elizabeth who are both attending Lee University.

Possessiveness, Jealousy And Greed: The Original Three Stooges

Are possessiveness, jealousy and greed the original three stooges? Not really. The words “possessiveness,” “jealousy,” and “greed” are often viewed by the majority of people as all negative qualities when displayed.  But are they? In this column, as it is solely my opinion, agree or disagree, I am throwing the dictionary with its designated meanings out the window.  Good ... (click for more)

Hopscotching On North Market Street

I work in the North Shore area.  North Market Street looks like children's hopscotch markings all the way from the bridge up to the light at Mississippi.  You need a trained dog to figure out all the markings. Traffic was already crawling since the addition of townhomes, apartments and a busy Publix in the area.  Really, you have to stop and study it or just follow ... (click for more)

Legislative Hearing On Volkswagen Emissions Scandal To Be Held In Chattanooga Oct. 29; Haslam To Visit VW Plant Wednesday

The Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee’s Appropriation Subcommittee will be conducting a hearing in Chattanooga to review the financial impact on the state from Volkswagen’s violation of U.S. emissions standards. The meeting will be held at the Hamilton County Department of Education, 3074 Hickory Valley Road, on Thursday, Oct. 29, from 1:30-3:30 p.m.  Members ... (click for more)

Bradley County Commission Decides Not To Provide Animal Pickup Service

Bradley County Commissioners on Monday finally put animal control to rest. It was not easy and it was not without confusion, but in the end, the county will not provide animal pickup service. Confusion began when commissioners were asked to approve the agenda, which included two options for animal control pick up. Item “D” provided for the SPCA of Bradley County to pick ... (click for more)

Baylor Boys Win 17th D-II AA Golf Title; Baylor Girls Take Second

  MANCHESTER – On a sun-drenched afternoon, it was a special day for Baylor golf and for the King Oehmig family. Highlighted by a 5-under, 31 on the final nine holes, Baylor senior Oliver Simonsen shot a two-day, 3-under 141 to lead Baylor to the 2015 TSSAA D-II AA boys state championship at WillowBrook Golf Course here Tuesday. Carrying one-of-a-kind black golf ... (click for more)

Ooltewah Whips Lady 'Canes For Shot At District 5-3A Volleyball Title

(Story will be updated) CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Old rivals will play for the District 5-3A volleyball tournament championship on Wednesday. Ooltewah (41-11) and Walker Valley (28-11), the tourney’s Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, posted semifinal wins Tuesday night at Cleveland Middle School and earned their shots at the title, along with berths in the Region 3-3A tournament ... (click for more)