Legislative Successes Touted at Chamber
Legislative successes touted at Chamber
Say streamlined government, K-12 reforms among some of highlights
Written by Doug Davis, Courtesy of the Daily News Journal
Members of Rutherford County’s state legislative delegation sang praises about the accomplishments of the 107th General Assembly Friday morning during the fourth and final Capitol Connection breakfast at the the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce building on Medical Center Parkway.
“We had a great session. One of the best we’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been (in office),” stated Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro. “We’ve streamlined government cut billions of dollars out of the budget, but kept the core services. We’ve addressed many bills, including K-12 reforms. Next year we’ll look at higher education from top to bottom.”
For the first time since the senator has been in office, the Legislature adjourned in May.
Four of the six members of the delegation showed for the event. State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, were not at the meeting.
The longest-serving member of the delegation offered opening remarks. Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, highlighted three initiatives of lasting impact for Rutherford County and Middle Tennessee: the funding of the new MTSU science building, the repeal of the state death tax also known as the estate tax (commonly known as the death tax), and repeal of the gift tax.
“The estate tax is going to be completely repealed over a period that extends to 2016,” Carr told The DNJ. “The current one-time state exemption of a gift is $13,000. What we did is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012. We raised the gift tax exemption from $13,000 to $5 million to match the current federal exemption level.”
Carr also worked on the SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification Act) bill, which was approved this session. It basically disallows any illegal alien from receiving any taxpayer benefits, with a couple of exceptions.
State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, spoke of the funding of the MTSU science building, giving credit to MTSU President Sidney McPhee and to Spark’s predecessor in the state House, Kent Coleman, for their work toward the long-delayed capital project.
“Our entire Republican delegation worked hard for it, but I know that Kent worked hard for the science building to be built,” he said.
With Amazon, Nissan’s battery plant and the new Saks Fifth Avenue facility coming to the county, Sparks said “there are a lot of good things going on.”
He also referenced a recent Smyrna beer board meeting where a market owner had his license to sell beer revoked for a year after pleading guilty to two counts of possession of cannabinoids (synthetic drugs).
“I think it does send a message that not only will the sale of illegal synthetics not be tolerated, but we expect all of our permit holders to abide by all the regulations of the ordinance,” Smyrna staff attorney Jeff Peach told The DNJ Friday afternoon. Sparks said, “I want beer boards statewide to follow Smyrna’s lead.”
Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, reminded the audience that voters were promised conservative leadership.
“When we took office two years ago, the state government spending was $33.6 billion overall,” Womick said. “This year our budget is $31.5 billion . That is $2.1 billion less than two years ago. Last year, we had a budget that was $32.2 billion versus the $33.6 million; another $1.4 billion. The total savings from the budget two years ago is $3.5 billion over two years.”
Ketron summarized a number of other key pieces of legislation that have passed since January, including requiring mandatory drug testing for people on welfare, decreasing the size of boards and commissions, and cutting red tape for job creation.
“The Tennessee Regulatory Authority (which regulates utilities across the state) replaces four full-time directors with part time members (and one full-time executive director to manage the day to day operations),” he said.
He also stated that legislation was passed to allow nursing homes to directly hire a physician. Legislation that strengthens penalties for domestic violence also passed, including a measure that prescribes mandatory jail time and enhanced fines for repeat offenders.
Legislation was also passed that amends current law to reflect Tennessee’s waiver from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Felons with guns legislation would increase penalties in some cases.
The General Assembly also reduced the state sales tax on grocery food from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent.
Chamber President Paul Latture said the breakfast program is finishing its third year. “Our membership is engaged with the legislative process,” Latture said before the final connection section.
“We wanted to create a dialogue between our delegation and our membership. We try to focus it on business because we represent the business community.”