2016 Tennessee Chamber Agenda

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry is proud to present our annual Legislative and Policy agenda. Serving the interests of small, medium and large businesses across the state, the Tennessee State Chamber also serves as the Tennessee Manufacturers Association. We boast a vast and representative statewide network of local chamber and member companies in legislative districts all across our great state. We are dedicated to promoting policies that reduce employer costs, provide economic opportunities for all Tennesseans, and make Tennessee the best state in the nation in which to do business.

Our 2016 agenda is developed with input from the Chamber Board of Directors, business leaders across our state, and input from local chambers, our grassroots partners. Throughout our legislative agenda, the Tennessee Chamber’s core principles of free enterprise and removing obstacles that impede job creation and slow economic growth are reiterated. Our members provided input on policy and legislative strategy through workgroup conference calls and surveys on taxes, human resources, health care, legal reform, education & workforce development, and environmental and energy policy issues. Throughout our process business leaders from across the state have shared their concerns, and we are confident that the 2016 Legislative Agenda is reflective of those views.

Education and Workforce

Labor, Education, Alignment Program (LEAP) funding – Business responses to chamber surveys identify workforce concerns as a major impediment to existing and future economic growth. The Chamber supports enhanced funding for the LEAP program and believes local workforce programs are one of the most effective tools for improving Tennessee’s workforce. For Tennessee employers, the LEAP program is showing results from a number of local workforce partnerships that include local chambers, economic development agencies and higher education institutions working to align the local workforce needs of employers.

Tennessee Ready Standards – Chamber members note strong support for uniform education assessment efforts aligned with curriculum and ensured accountability in our schools. This is especially crucial to ensure Tennessee students are prepared for both post-secondary education and the workforce.

Business Taxes and the Economy

Reform Tennessee’s Franchise & Excise tax estimated payment system – Fluctuations in business tax collections over the last several years point to the need for improving the method by which Tennessee Businesses estimate and pay F&E taxes. In addition, our current system is difficult and costly for businesses to comply with as Tennessee is one of the only southeastern states that does not allow annualized estimated payment system for F&E taxes. This volatility makes it difficult for the legislature to accurately anticipate funds as well. The Chamber is supporting legislation to remedy this situation.

Revenue Accountability Program (RAP) – The Chamber will be partnerint with other business groups to fix the expanded RAP program enacted in 2015. Chamber research shows few other states have gone as far as Tennessee in approving this type of expanded reporting requirement and collection programs. We will work to fix it. 

Business Tax collections - Legislative efforts to defeat anti-business legislation and enact pro-business legislation is paying off. Recent Franchise & Excise (F&E) collection growth is mostly attributed to economic growth fueled by business. The Chamber encourages the legislature to utilize these overcollections in ways that will ensure future business growth. The Chamber recognizes a number of options that include business tax reductions, reducing government regulation, investing in our rainy day fund and targeted investment in programs that correlate to business growth which will result in continued growth in the business sector.

Single Sales Factor Apportionment- As many other states adjust their tax structure to encourage growth in their respective state, Tennessee must remain competitive. Other states have enacted single sales factor apportionment for determining the counterpart to F&E tax liability. This change encourages a strong and stable tax structure within which existing and relocating companies may thrive. The Chamber supports the single sale factor formula for manufacturing and headquartered companies in Tennessee.

Transportation and Infrastructure – Survey responses show clear business support to improve our road and infrastructure system. To ensure conservative business principles, the Chamber believes that any funding increase must come with accountability measures that include local business input into road projects, Tennessee remaining a pay as you go state, no toll roads, and equitable treatment of all transportation companies paying fuel taxes.

Business Regulation / Legal

Tort and Medical Malpractice- Following our support and grassroots engagement to enact tort reform in 2012, the Chamber is aligned with other groups in supporting efforts to ensure courts do not deem that caps approved by the legislature are ruled unconstitutional.

Asbestos Fund parity – The Chamber is supportive of legislation that will ensure employer asbestos funds established to compensate workers for injuries are not abused and used for their intended purposes.

Workers’ Compensation improvements – The Chamber is supporting legislation that will make a number of important adjustments to Tennessee’s workers’ compensation laws and ensure that Tennessee’s Drug Free Workplace act is more easily used by Tennessee employers to reduce the abuse of alcohol and drugs at the workplace.

Small Business Protection from Litigation – The Chamber and other business groups will be advocating for legislation that will protect employers with eight or less employees from frivolous lawsuits involving Tennessee’s whistleblower employment statute.

State legislation addressing local for hire proposals – Tennessee business expects consistent application of employment regulations that include wage and hiring practices. The Chamber will support legislation establishing that all hiring related directives should be approved through state legislation rather than a patchwork of local ordinances. 

Unmanned Aircraft use over business- The Chamger is supporting legislation that will prohibit flying drone aircraft over power generating infrastructure, chemical and petroleum manufacturing and storage facilities. The Chamber wants to ensure businesses are protected from acts that can pose a safety and privacy risk.

Environment and Energy – The Chamber has been deeply engaged to fight against a myriad of recent EPA rules in the areas of water and air regulation that will stifle commerce and raise compliance cost for all business. We applaud the work of the legislature to fight against these efforts.  The Chamber will continue to oppose these efforts and work to fight against undue regulation in these areas, engaging with both TDEC and the legislature.

Seed labeling- The Tennessee Chamber supports legislation to ensure uniform standards for seeds sold in Tennessee are established and enforced by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Broadband – The Chamber recognizes that availability to quality broadband is needed for Tennessee’s overall economic growth. We support market based incentives to achieve increased utilization and access to broadband across Tennessee.