IMPROVE Act Phases in Fees, Reduces Other Taxes
Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act cleared a hurdle after a key Senate committee voted to pass a revised version – which the governor and legislative sponsors approved - that will reduce and phase in proposed fuel tax increases while cutting other taxes and providing property tax relief to elderly and disabled veterans.
The bill lowered the requested increase to 6 cents on gasoline, phased in over three years beginning at 4 cents, and to 10 cents on diesel fuel, also beginning at 4 cents and phased in over three years.
Sens. Becky Duncan Massey and Richard Briggs both voted in favor of the bill, which the Knoxville Chamber and numerous business coalitions have endorsed as the only sustainable, fair, and fiscally conservative means to fund the state’s transportation needs.
The bill’s next stop in the Senate is the State and Local Government Committee. The bill is pending in the House Transportation Committee.
According to the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, the bill that passed the Senate Transportation Committee amended the governor’s original proposal by removing the indexing component which could have triggered automatic increases, and the rental car surcharge. Tax cuts would occur immediately, including decreasing the Hall income tax from 5 percent to 4 percent and the grocery sales tax from 4.5 percent to 4 percent.
The bill also keeps all 962 projects from the governor’s proposal.
While not perfect, the Knoxville Chamber and other business organizations believe the IMPROVE Act provides the most sustainable and fiscally conservative means to maintain a transportation system that will allow Tennessee’s economy to continue to thrive. The bill assesses fees on those who use roads and bridges most, particularly trucking companies who also support the measure, and captures taxes from those who are passing through the state.
In addition to Sens. Briggs and Massey’s vote of approval, Reps. Bill Dunn and Eddie Smith have also been vocal advocates of not robbing the state’s general fund, which funds education, health, and other state programs, to fund transportation needs.
Please let your legislator know that you support the IMPROVE Act. You can find your legislator and their contact information, here: http://www.knoxvillechamber.com/speakup4biz
City Names Chamber Rep to Advisory Panel
Mayor Madeline Rogero has appointed, and City Council has approved, a 20-person Stakeholder Advisory Committee to provide input on rewriting the city’s zoning ordinance.
Amy Nolan, vice president of public policy at the Knoxville Chamber, will serve on the advisory committee.
Other committee members include: Rick Blackburn, Knox Heritage; Dr. Martha Buchanan, Knox County Health Department; Terrence Carter, Knoxville Area Urban League; Dr. Caroline Cooley, Bike-Walk Knoxville; Mary English, League of Women Voters; Chris Folden, Home Builders Association of Greater Knoxville; Duane Grieve, Knoxville Vice Mayor; Brian Hann, Appalachian Mountain Biking Club; Don Horton, U.S. Green Building Council, East Tennessee chapter; Dave Irwin, University of Tennessee Facilities Services; Amy Midis, Neighborhood Advisory Council; Joy O’Shell, Knoxville Entrepreneurs Center; Joe Petre, Conversion Properties; Patrick Phillips, Metropolitan Planning Commission; Jennifer Roche, Knoxville Association of Realtors; John Sanders, AIA East Tennessee chapter; Jim Staley, CCIM East Tennessee Chapter; Stephanie Welch, Great Schools Partnership; and Brenna Wright, Abbey Fields Farm.
The city has hired Chicago-based consulting firm, Camiros Ltd., to oversee what’s expected to be a two-year process for $280,000. The city adopted its zoning ordinance in the 1960s.
Chamber Members Travel to Nashville for 'Big 4' Legislative Reception
Legislative Agenda OK'd; Regional Event Scheduled for Jan. 27
The Knoxville Chamber’s Board of Directors, at the recommendation of its Government Relations & Public Policy Committee, has approved its state legislative priorities for 2017 as the Tennessee General Assembly prepares to begin work in Nashville.
The Chamber’s State Legislative Agenda is the business membership organization’s statement of principles regarding topics sure to be receiving legislators’ attention including education, health care, transportation funding, economic development, and taxation. Click here to read the Chamber's 2017 agenda.
In addition, the Knoxville Chamber works with its counterparts in Tennessee’s largest cities – Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga – to develop a Big 4 Legislative Agenda. These shared priorities can be viewed here.
This legislative session will make the first in which the Senate will be presided by an East Tennessean.
Sen. Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge resident whose district includes parts of Knoxville, will be honored at the Regional Legislative Breakfast in January. The annual event is hosted this year by the Oak Ridge Chamber, in partnership with the Knoxville and Blount County Chambers of Commerce, and lawmakers from all three counties are invited.
The breakfast will begin at 7:30 a.m. Friday, January 27, at the Calhoun’s-Oak Ridge, 100 Melton Lake Peninsula in Oak Ridge. (Former site of Riverside Grille). Click here to register for the event.
Judge Blocks Overtime Regulation
A Texas judge – at the behest of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others – has granted a preliminary injunction blocking the Department of Labor’s new overtime regulation nationwide.
“We are very pleased that the court agreed with our arguments that the Obama administration’s new overtime rule was unlawful and stopped the rule from taking effect on December 1,” said Randy Johnson, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.
“If the overtime rule had taken effect, it would have resulted in significant new costs – more than $1 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office – and it would have caused many disruptions in how work gets done,” Johnson added. “Furthermore, the rule would have reduced workplace flexibility, remote electronic access to work, and opportunities for career advancement. This is a great result.”
While the injunction is only a temporary measure that suspends the regulation until the judge can issue a ruling on the merits, many said the judge’s language indicated he was likely to strike down the regulation, the New York Times reported.
The Labor Department rule more than doubles the salary threshold – to $47,476 – under which employees qualify for overtime pay, regardless of their job duties.
The U.S. Chamber, leading a broad coalition or pro-business groups, filed a legal challenge to the rule in September. Oral arguments on the lawsuit were held Nov. 16 in Plano, Texas.
The Knoxville Chamber is a member of the U.S. Chamber, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.
Knoxville Chamber to Host Second Workshop on New Overtime Rule
The Knoxville Chamber is hosting a July 12 panel discussion featuring local experts in employment law and human resources who will discuss the U.S. Department of Labor’s new rule that significantly raises the minimum salary for employees to be exempt from overtime pay.
Panelists Catherine Barnes, director of human resources for Shafer HR Solutions, and Chad Hatmaker, an attorney with Woolf McClane, will also take questions from audience members.
Federal officials estimate that 4.2 million workers who earn less than the new salary level of $913 per week will – without some action by their employers - become entitled to overtime pay when the rule takes effect Dec. 1. The rule, an update to the Fair Labor Standards Act, covers the vast majority of employers – private, nonprofit, and government – with few exceptions.
The event is free, but seating is limited and registration is requested at http://www.knoxvillechamber.com/events-calendar. A June workshop on the same topic filled a week prior to the event.
More about the panelists:
Catherine Barnes is human resource director of Shafer HR Solutions/Shafer Insurance Agency. She specializes in law and regulations governing businesses in regard to human resources and regulatory compliance. She is also president-elect of the Tennessee Valley Human Resource Association.
J. Chadwick Hatmaker, a member of Woolf, McClane, Bright, Allen & Carpenter, practices in primarily in employment and labor law, commercial litigation, and general civil litigation. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell in the areas of Labor, Employment and Torts and listed in The Best Lawyers in America© in Employment Law – Management and Litigation – Labor and Employment.
Check out this video to see why local and state elected officials enjoy the chance to mix and mingle with the Knoxville business community every summer at the Chamber's Peelin', Eatin', and Politickin' Shrimp Boil!
Knoxville Chamber to Host Workshop on New Overtime Rule
Eighth Annual Shrimp Boil
The Knoxville Chamber will host the eighth Annual Peelin’, Eatin’, and Politickin’ Shrimp Boil on June 16 at Jackson Terminal.
The casual event, presented by Verizon, gives business and community leaders the chance to enjoy cold drinks, great food, and music while mingling with local and state elected officials. Last year’s event drew more than 300 people to the World’s Fair Park Amphitheater.
“The Chamber offers several events through the year for members to hear and interact with elected officials, particularly state legislators,” said Amy Nolan, vice president of public policy for the Chamber. “Shrimp Boil provides that opportunity in a much more informal setting, and is also a way to show our gratitude to individuals who are willing to serve our community as elected officials.”
Admission for the event is $30 for Chamber members and $40 for non-members. To register for the event, please visit the events page.
2016 Legislative Briefings
The Knoxville Chamber held three Legislative Briefings during the 109th General Assembly. The 8 a.m. events were sponsored by AT&T.
Transportation & Infrastructure (Feb. 26) - featuring Reps. Jimmy Matlock and Rep. Eddie Smith, House Transportation Committee chairman and member, respectively, gave Chamber members an update and were joined by Steve Borden, regional director of TDOT, and Jeff Welch, director of the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization.
Education (March 11) - featuring Reps. Bill Dunn, Harry Brooks and Roger Kane.
Legislative Session Recap (April 1) - featuring Sens. Becky Duncan Massey and Richard Briggs, along with Rep. Jason Zachary.
Watch videos from any of the 2016 breifings on the Chamber's YouTube channel.