Please join State Senator Jack Johnson for his 10th Annual Boots and Jeans, BBQ and Beans event with Special Guest, Congressman Marsha Blackburn, honoring the Williamson County Republican State House Candidates: State Representative Glen Casada, State Representative Charles Sargent and Colonel Sam Whitson (Republican Nominee for the 65th House District). BBQ provided by Martin’s BBQ and music by Charlie Richards & the Austin Brothers.
LEGISLATION WOULD BAN CITY AND COUNTY GOVERNMENTS FROM REQUIRING THAT LOCAL COMPANIES BIDDING ON CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS EMPLOY WORKERS WHO LIVE WITHIN THEIR JURISDICTION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Darlene Schlicher (615) 741-6336
September 14, 2015
NASHVILLE – State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) filed legislation today to stop local governments from enacting any charter provision, ordinance, resolution, referendum or regulation which requires a company bidding on a public construction project to employ individuals that reside within their jurisdiction. The legislation comes after the adoption of a charter amendment pushed by labor unions in Nashville that requires at least 40 percent of work hours of local companies bidding on contracts come from Davidson County workers on Metro construction projects that cost $100,000 or more. The amendment does not affect companies outside of Tennessee which can hire as many out-of-county or out-of-state workers as they choose.
“This constitutionally suspect amendment, which discriminates against local businesses, is misguided,” said Senator Johnson. “It will result in increased costs to taxpayers in a wide variety of ways, including less competition for contracts, delayed construction projects, and greater administrative costs to implement the regulatory guidelines of the amendment. But most of all, it has a chilling effect on the economic growth and development of this area and Tennessee as a whole.”
The practical effect of Johnson’s bill would be to nullify the Metro Nashville amendment. It would also prevent other local governments from taking similar action in the future.
“More than half of workers in Middle Tennessee reside in another county,” added Johnson. “This amendment discriminates against thousands of workers who commute short distances from adjoining counties.”
The General Assembly will return to Nashville on January 12. The bill is expected to be considered early in the legislative session.
I am excited to announce that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will be my special guest this year at our 9th Annual Boots and Jeans, BBQ and Beans event being held on August 23, 2015 from 4-7 PM at the Factory at Franklin. I hope you will be able to join us! Reserve your tickets today.
Senator Jack Johnson
Education and jobs were the focus on Capitol Hill this week as Governor Bill Haslam unveiled his proposal to fund state government for the 2015-2016 fiscal year in his annual State of the State Address. The $33.3 billion balanced budget makes strategic investments in education and workforce development, while continuing a thoughtful approach to making government work more efficiently and effectively.
During the speech, Haslam said nearly 225,000 new private sector jobs have been created in Tennessee since 2011. Over the past several years, the General Assembly has made great strides in preparing students for the 21st century marketplace and in creating a business-friendly climate which draws new and better paying jobs to our state. These efforts include passage of a number of job creation initiatives such as tort reform, unemployment reform and workers’ compensation reform.
The governor also announced that out of the 65,000 high school seniors, 58,000 have signed up for Tennessee Promise, the scholarship program which provides last dollar tuition assistance to fill unmet financial needs so students may attend community college or a college of applied technology free of charge. The General Assembly worked with the governor in passing the scholarship program last Spring. Tennessee Promise is part of the state’s efforts to ensure a strong workforce by filling the skills gap to bring technologically advanced industries to the state. It is also part of the Drive to 55 initiative that aims to raise the percentage of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree beyond high school from 32 to 55 by the year 2025.
On K-12 education, Governor Haslam heralded the state’s recent academic achievement gains. State students had the largest academic growth on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the nation, making Tennessee the fastest improving state in the nation. He also noted that Tennessee “is one of the few states in the country to make significant investments” in funding education improvements. State spending on K-12 education over the past four years increased at a rate more than double the national average. The proposed budget includes nearly $44 million in new money to account for growth in the Basic Education Program, $100 million for increasing teacher salaries and $5 million to create the Educators’ Liability Trust fund to offer liability insurance to teachers at no cost.
Other highlights of the governor’s proposed budget include:
- $260 million for capital projects, including new science facilities at Jackson State Community College and the University of Tennessee, nearly $25 million for improvements to colleges of applied technology across the state and funding for a fine arts classroom building at East Tennessee State University;
- $25 million to fully fund the Complete College Act formula;
- $10 million for need-based scholarships for students;
- $2.5 million for statewide outreach efforts geared toward adult students, technical assistance to local communities that are finding ways to support adult learners, and a one-stop portal for adults;
- $2.5 million to support the success of the SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) program which address remediation in high school;
- $1.5 million to provide last dollar scholarships to adults with some post-secondary credit to attend community college;
- $1 million to establish competitive grants to 2-year and 4-year institutions to develop initiatives specifically designed for veterans;
- $48 million for state employee pay raises and compensation tied to performance and ongoing market adjustments
- $4.7 to fund group health insurance cost increases for state employees and $2.5 million to fund their 401 K match plan; and
- $41.3 million to complete the phase out of Tennessee’s inheritance tax which is set to expire in 2016
The budget reflects $300 million in revenue growth, $500 million in cost increases and $200 million in reductions. Unlike Washington, Tennessee requires a balanced budget so any increase in spending in excess of available revenues must be off-set with reductions.
Tennessee has the lowest debt per capita of any state and is among the lowest tax rates. Haslam said that the state will spend $13 million less this year on interest than the previous as a result of reducing the amount of debt. At the same time, the proposed budget would add $36.5 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund to bring the total to $528 million, the highest level since 2008. The Rainy Day Fund acts as the state’s savings account in case of an emergency and helps ensure the state’s financial stability with credit rating agencies.
Tennessee’s sound financial practices have earned the state top-notch credit ratings with Wall Street rating agencies. This credit rating helps determine how much interest state and local governments must pay when they borrow money to fund projects such as new schools and roads.
The first Extraordinary Session of the 109th General Assembly adjourned on Wednesday after three days of legislative deliberations on Governor Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal. The action to adjourn came after the Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 7 to 4 against giving the Governor authorization to enter into a contract with the federal government to expand the number of Tennesseans eligible for Medicaid or healthcare benefits which are available under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Senate Joint Resolution 7001 would have given the Governor authority to implement TennCare Demonstration Amendment #25, which is a waiver amendment request to provide services to “newly eligibles” between the ages of 19 and 64 with family incomes that do not exceed 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Legislative authorization on the Insure Tennessee proposal was required under a law passed by the General Assembly last year.
The Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, which is responsible for analyzing the cost of all legislation with a financial effect on state government, released an analysis on Tuesday showing the Insure Tennessee proposal would increase state spending by $7.8 million in the 2015-16 budget year, $43.6 million in the 2016-17 budget year and $46.2 million in the 2017-18 budget year. It also showed it would increase federal expenditures by $675.3 million in 2015-16, $1.4 billion in 2016-17 and $739 million in the 2017-18. Although the federal government would fund the vast majority of the program, concerns were expressed about the impact the proposal would have on the national debt which now stands at $18 trillion.
Other key concerns expressed by state senators opposing the plan included the absence of a final legal agreement that would bind the Obama administration to provisions in which federal representatives had verbally agreed to in their talks with Governor Haslam’s administration in preparation of the waiver. Of particular concern was the ability of Tennessee to opt out of the program without legal repercussions or loss of federal funding.
In 2005, state lawmakers worked to rein in the escalating cost of TennCare to the state budget from 33 percent to 25 percent due to its negative impact on other critical areas which need funding like education and public safety. There were, however, legal hurdles to that disenrollment. That cost is now back up to 33 percent due to mandates from Washington.
In the 1979-1980 budget the total cost of TennCare was $116 million. The state now puts in more than that amount on an annual basis in just the increased costs, which has averaged $187 million per year over the past four years.
Another key concern for committee members voting against the plan was the number of enrollees projected to be eligible for Insure Tennessee. The original projection in December of 200,000 enrollees has been increased by 20 percent to 280,000. The Bureau of TennCare has stated enrollment is estimated to be 307,600 by the 2017-18 budget year, with other healthcare experts anticipating that population could be as much as 400,000.
In addition, while initially intrigued by some of the free-market aspects of the governor’s plan, many Senators expressed concern that providers would have little incentive to enforce the co-pays in the Volunteer Plan. This would effectively eliminate a key-cost saving measure cited by proponents of the plan.
This year’s Extraordinary Session was the 58th special session in the history of the state. The most recent Extraordinary Session prior to this year was in January 2010, and focused on education.
General Assembly to Reconvene Regular 2015 Legislative Session on Monday as Governor Prepares to Deliver Budget AddressFebruary 6, 2015
Now that the Special Session is complete, the General Assembly will reconvene the regular session on Monday evening, when lawmakers will gather to hear Governor Bill Haslam’s fifth annual budget address. Rising healthcare costs to the TennCare program combined with inflationary growth for the state’s Basic Education Program have compounded the state’s budget problems during the slow economic recovery. These two items will consume the vast majority of new revenue growth, leaving little discretionary money for improvements for other important state government needs unless other cuts are made. This will make passage of a conservative balanced budget that prioritizes education, job creation, and public safety challenging in 2015.
The State Funding Board met in December to reevaluate Tennessee’s economic condition and set a new growth rate of 2.6 to 3 percent upon which the 2015-16 budget year will be based. This compares to an estimated growth rate of 3.85 to 4.2 percent last year and equates to approximately $300 million in new revenues.
Citizens can view the Governor’s budget address at 6:00 p.m. CST through the General Assembly’s live video stream at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/. A more detailed budget presentation will take place on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. CST in the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee. Viewers can watch that presentation at the same website.
In the meantime, legislation is still being filed for consideration during the regular session. As of noon Thursday, 403 bills have been filed in the Senate and 419 bills have been filed in the House of Representatives. The deadline for filing all general bills for consideration is Thursday, February 12 for both houses. Senate Committees are scheduled to hear several important bills next week, as well as presentations on a number of other important state government matters. This includes a Senate Commerce and Labor Committee hearing on potential forthcoming legislation to authorize municipal electric systems and other governmental utility authorities to provide broadband services.
Tennessee’s new Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) has been heralded as a model for other states to follow, according to a new report released on Tuesday by the Brookings Institute, a private nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and innovative policy solutions. The competitive grant program provides for cooperative efforts between government, education and businesses to fill the skills gaps in the local workforce pool, while increasing the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees. It allows students at Tennessee’s technology centers and colleges the opportunity to combine occupational training in a high-skill or high-technology industry with academic credit and to apply that experience toward a degree.
The report, America’s Advanced Industries: What they are, Where they are and Why they Matter, praises LEAP, along with the state’s Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs. Tennessee Promise provides two years of free attendance for high school graduates at a state community college or college of applied technology (TCATs), while Tennessee Reconnect provides tuition-free certificate training at the state’s TCATs. The three programs bolster the state’s Complete College Tennessee Act and “Drive to 55” initiative with the common goal of raising the percentage of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees from 32 to 55 percent by 2025.
“States should facilitate and support ‘bottom-up’ efforts to align labor with demand regionally through the workforce development and skills education system,” the report said. “Only through robust partnerships and open channels of communication can the public sector hope to respond to the rapidly changing needs of local advanced industry employers.”
Experts maintain that within the next five years, over half of all jobs in Tennessee will require postsecondary credentials beyond a high school degree.
A task force formed by Governor Bill Haslam meets Thursday in Nashville to continue studying the state’s sentencing structure and examine ways to reduce Tennessee’s high recidivism rate, or the number of people returning to prison within three years of being released. The goal of the task force is to develop recommendations for the Governor and his cabinet in an effort to improve state corrections laws.
The current sentencing structure in Tennessee has been in place for more than 20 years, with the recidivism rate averaging approximately 45 percent. After the meeting, the task force is expected to release its findings to Governor Bill Haslam by June. At that point, the Governor will make his own recommendations to various state departments and offer changes to state law to the legislature for approval.
Last week, the Council of State Governments (CSG) released a Texas study which showed that juveniles under community-based supervision are far less likely to reoffend than those incarcerated in state correctional facilities.
The study is expected to have significant implications on the operations of state juvenile justice systems across the country, including Tennessee, which experienced the fourth-largest decrease (more than 70 percent) in its incarcerated youth population in its state correctional facilities between 1997 and 2011. Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services Juvenile Justice Division is already working with the CSG Justice Center to pilot recommendations to improve its data collection.
Earlier this year, Tennessee joined Utah, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Kansas to test recommendations set forth by two CSG studies which detail what state and local governments can do to improve outcomes for youth in their juvenile justice system. The grant will help the states improve their methods for collecting and analyzing recidivism data and will serve as a model juvenile justice system for other states to emulate.
(NASHVILLE, TN), – State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) has been reappointed Chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor. The announcement was made by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey as the General Assembly wrapped up a week of organization duties.
The Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over legislation concerning banking and lending institutions; communications; regulation and licensing of occupations; protections of trade and commerce; corporations; labor and industrial relations; consumer affairs and consumer protection; and unemployment compensation. Due to the scope of legislation considered there, it is considered one of the most powerful committees in the General Assembly.
“I am very honored to have been selected again as Chairman of the Senate Commerce committee,” said Senator Johnson. “It is important that Tennessee has a pro-business climate that is attractive for bringing new jobs to the state. I look forward to the challenges we face in a very competitive environment.”
Senator Johnson was also appointed to the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The State and Local Government Committee is responsible for all general matters pertaining to state and local government and its entities, as well as election laws.
Now that the organization is completed, the General Assembly has adjourned until February 2, when an extraordinary session of the 109th General Assembly called by the Governor is scheduled to begin.
As the 2015 legislative session opens, citizens can access more information about the issues and proceedings through a redesigned and improved General Assembly website. The redesign represents a substantial effort to make the website more usable, accessible and informative.
The new format supports all major mobile devices for streaming video, as the site will shrink, bend or move to adapt to the screen size. This improvement provides desktop content to users with smaller screens such as iPhones, iPads and Android devices.
In addition, a new content sensitive search engine makes it easier for users to navigate the site. Other improvements include a new web design feature which lets the general public set up an unlimited number of lists in the “my bills” application. This allows users to keep up with the latest developments on issues of importance to them. Action history flags highlight which chamber took action to make it easier to track bills through the legislative process.
The main page features the current schedule of meetings, giving citizens easy access to live video streaming of meetings. The website also provides access to previous meetings which are archived on the site.
The General Assembly has received awards and national recognition for their website, including the Online Democracy Award and the Digital Governance Award.
In addition, Tennessee’s public broadcasting stations (PBS) will continue live and tape-delayed broadcasts of legislative meetings. Citizens can check with their local public television station for the weekly schedule of legislative coverage.