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Here's a look at some of NFIB/Tennessee's victories in recent General Assemblies

Date: May 13, 2013

Here's a look at some of NFIB/Tennessee's victories in recent General Assemblies: 
 

Workers’ comp reform

This year, NFIB worked closely with Gov. Bill Haslam and lawmakers to pass bipartisan legislation that completely overhauls our broken workers’ compensation system. Effective July 1, 2014, cases must be settled in a new streamlined administrative system that effectively eliminates the use of lawsuits as a bargaining tool and sharpens participants’ focus to settle a claim promptly.
 
The new law ensures an even-handed application of the workers’ compensation law favoring neither party, clarifies the injury causation definition so fewer non-work related injury claims are filed and paid, and helps injured workers receive disability benefits more quickly by making them more automatic and easier to determine.
 
Premiums are expected to drop significantly the next few years, though it is too early to tell how much. Mod rates should improve with the expected decline in frivolous and non-work related claims. A highly subjective system will now look reasonable and objective to all parties.
 
In 2010, NFIB helped pass a comprehensive workers’ comp reform law, which enables qualified small construction subcontractors to opt out of the Public Chapter 1041 mandate passed in 2008. The law works to ensure fair bidding, protects general contractors from picking up injured workers on their policies, protects workers who are intentionally being misclassified, and increases enforcement. The law is saving qualified subcontractors from significant workers’ comp premiums; NFIB members are reporting savings between $2,000 and $25,000 a year (premiums they would have had to pay under the 2008 law). ?
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Unemployment reform
NFIB again led the charge on unemployment reform, helping reverse 2009 unemployment stimulus provisions introduced by the Obama administration. Many of these costly benefits, including dependent payments, proved to be fraudulent submissions because they were too difficult to track. After federal monies ($141 million) were exhausted, NFIB alerted leaders our state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund would be on the hook for at least $50 million annually. 
 
The Legislature acted to protect the trust fund, eliminating certain benefits. In addition, they further strengthened the unemployment misconduct definition (including dishonesty during employment), provided for reconsideration of benefits up to one year if a claimant is subsequently convicted of a misdemeanor or felony related to the separation from the employer, mandated departmental training of unemployment hearing officers and increased the number of audits.
 
Tennessee’s UI Trust Fund continues to recover faster than other states. Tax rates are expected to continue to decline, and officials predict the elimination of a 0.6 percent surcharge in summer 2013.
 
In 2012, Tennessee adopted a requirement for beneficiaries to search more aggressively for work and a declining payout scale for those who declined job offers. Reforms were designed to lessen the high tax burden on employers and incentivize return to work sooner.
 
Death tax phase out and repeal, gift tax elimination
The phasing out of Tennessee’s harmful death tax continues, with a current taxable estate threshold of $1.25 million in 2013, $2 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015. In 2016, the tax will be fully repealed, a savings of up to 9.5% on the estates of many family-run businesses and farms. In 2012, NFIB also supported permanent elimination of the gift tax.
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Healthcare reform
Following results from our 2013 Tennessee Member Ballot, NFIB successfully opposed the expansion of Medicaid in 2013. NFIB was the only business group in Tennessee to oppose this well-intended but harmful policy, which would have exposed your business to a plea for higher taxes after the certain decline or elimination of federal monies.
 
NFIB continues its active opposition to new mandates that add significant cost (hundreds of dollars a year for very small businesses and thousands of dollars for mid-sized to larger small businesses) to your healthcare plans. These mandates eventually force thousands of small businesses to abandon coverage. We will support efforts to repeal several of Tennessee’s 42 healthcare mandates, third highest in the Southeast. ??
 
Labor reform
A new law strongly supported by NFIB members prohibits local government mandates relating to wages, wage theft, healthcare and leave. This significant protection will help our members from operating under costly, time-consuming patchwork regulations.
 
In addition, the prevailing wage on state construction projects has been eliminated. Our members believe prevailing wage laws drive up costs on construction projects for taxpayers and businesses, reduce the number of competitive bids on many projects, and reduce productivity and flexibility of the construction workforce. Experts believe costs on these projects should drop about 10 percent.
 
Tort reform
Tennessee continues to pass aggressive tort reform to protect your business, including The Innocent Employer Act (IEA) and codification of awards’ fault standard fair to small business.
 
Under the IEA, punitive damages, which are designed to deter similar egregious actions in the future, will never be used to punish an innocent employer of the wrongdoer. Passage of another bill ensures Tennessee will not use a joint and several liability standard but use the current modified comparative fault standard. Small business owners are now assured they are protected from paying a greater percentage of damages then the assigned fault percentage, in most instances. 
 
In 2012, Tennessee adopted a modified “loser pays” provision, allowing for reasonable and necessary attorney fees up to $10,000 to be paid to a prevailing party, when a trial court grants or denies a motion to dismiss for an invalid claim. This should cause some plaintiffs to think twice before filing a lawsuit with no basis in Tennessee law.
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These victories come on the heels of major tort reform legislation passed in 2011, which includes caps on punitive and non-economic damages and creates a more level playing field for small businesses when it comes to product liability lawsuits and where cases are tried. That year, NFIB also led the charge to overturn a state Supreme Court decision that shifted the burden from the employee to the employer in summary judgment motions in employment discrimination and retaliatory discharge claims. That huge win is saving affected small businesses thousands of dollars in legal fees.
 
Regulatory reform
The Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation that sets up an expedited process for contested case hearings within the Department of Environment & Conservation. The new law is designed to eliminate lengthy delays for regulatory approvals.
 
In 2012,NFIB worked to ensurelicensees have an option to “opt in” to be alerted via e-mail 45 days in advance of an overseeing board’s proposal to adopt a fee increase or rule change. Too many times only after the fact, our members have learned of fee increases of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

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