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 Bankrate.com. 

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 http://ow.ly/niz2v.

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 http://tiny.utk.edu/ATStudy.

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 www.tntaxholiday.com. The Tennessee Department of Revenue also assists consumers via e-mail at salestax.holiday@tn.gov, 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.



More Than A Test Score

“Public Education” is on the lips of every politician, during every election cycle. Yet, the debate continues. It is doing well, it is doing poorly, it needs reform, whatever the narrative needs to be that day or what the audience wants to hear.  Well, there are three sides to every story: “Yours, mine, and the cold, hard truth,” like the old Don Henley song reminds us. ... (click for more)

Continue The Current Leadership In Lakesite

November gives each of us an opportunity to go to the polls and demonstrate our “opinion” on how our government is functioning and select those candidates who we feel represent our ideas on how our tax dollars should be spent.  The citizens of Lakesite are currently served by five elected commissioners who continue the long-standing tradition of frugal tax management and maintaining ... (click for more)

County GOP Chairman Says Berke Should Resign For Admittedly Using Encrypted Messaging With Top Staff; Berke, Lee Call It Blatant Partisan Attack

Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Tony Sanders said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke "should immediately resign after admitting that he and his senior staff employ an encrypted message application that neither records or stores messages sent and received for the purpose of official city of Chattanooga business on a government-owned server." He said he was guilty of "deliberates ... (click for more)

Grohn Says Berke Use Of Encrypted Message Service Was Deliberate Attempt To Avoid Open Records

City Councilman Larry Grohn said Friday  that the use of an encrypted message service by Mayor Andy Berke was a deliberate attempt to avoid the Open Records Act. Councilman Grohn, who is running for mayor, said, " In recent days, there has been one story after another come out concerning how the Mayor and his head staffers have used end-to-end encryption apps to ... (click for more)

Cleveland Rolls Into 5-3A Volleyball Tourney As Favorite

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Despite posting a one-loss District 5-3A regular season record, Cleveland volleyball coach Trish Powers acknowledges that her Lady Blue Raiders need serious work on several aspects of their game before starting the postseason tournament as the No. 1 seed. “Our senior class went above and beyond what the coaches expected and our growth as a team has been good,” ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Volleyballers Power Past Ooltewah

Signal Mountain unleashed a potent front-line attack on Ooltewah on Thursday and the Lady Eagles blew past the Lady Owls 3-0 in  non-district volleyball action at Edward M. Foster Gymnasium. The set scores were 25-19, 25-22 and 25-15. Signal Mountain’s Aubrie Johnson, Maia Rackel and Olivia Powers combined for 30 kills and that proved to be a deciding factor in the ... (click for more)