General Assembly Productive for Tennessee’s Small Businesses

Date: April 21, 2014

Small business again fared well this legislative session in Tennessee, scoring key victories in the areas of employment law reform, taxpayer rights and requiring the federal government to balance its books. NFIB closely tracked hundreds of bills this year on behalf of our 8,200 Tennessee members, some of which are highlighted below.


Employment Law Reform Adopted

NFIB led the charge to reform cumbersome employment law that is driving up costs for employers and making it harder to settle discrimination and retaliation cases in the workplace. According to NFIB/Tennessee’s 2014 Member Ballot, 90 percent of our members said Tennessee should cap compensatory damages for violations of the state’s Human Rights Act and limit such lawsuits to one venue, either state or federal.

Senate Bill 2126/House Bill 1954 does just that, as well as putting federal and state law into better conformity by reining in certain plaintiffs’ attorney tactics that are not recognized under federal law or that needed clarity. For a complete recap of this key reform, read here.

NFIB thanks sponsors Sen. Jack Johnson (Franklin) and Reps. Vance Dennis (Savannah) and Glen Casada (Franklin) for their hard work on this important legislation, which is headed to the governor’s desk.


Taxpayer Rights Strengthened

The Legislature overwhelmingly passed legislation that ensures greater transparency, fairness and consistency during state tax hearings. In particular, the legislation accomplishes the following:

  • Informal conference decisions shall not be considered as precedent.
  • Ex parte” communications (unless ministerial or administrative) between hearing and audit staff is prohibited.
  • Tax assessments will be issued in a proposed status, which will allow taxpayers to contest any adjustments made before their assessment becomes final.
  • Interest on tax deficiencies will be stopped after the conference is held until the final assessment is issued.
  • The Department of Revenue has agreed to initiate a process to issue public guidance to taxpayers, practitioners and auditors regarding conference decisions, without making them precedent.
  • The Department has also agreed to include refund claims in the conference process. 

NFIB thanks the department for working with our tax experts to pass Senate Bill 1635/House Bill 1431, as well as sponsors Sen. Mark Norris (Collierville) and Rep. Ryan Haynes (Knoxville).


Tennessee Becomes 22nd State to Pass Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution

NFIB was the only business group advocating for a resolution that authorizes Tennessee’s participation in a limited convention of the states for the purpose of proposing a balanced budget amendment.  Such action is authorized under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. Currently, 23 states have authorized participation, with 34 needed for a call of the convention; 38 states must ratify any proposed amendment.

NFIB members are deeply concerned that soaring federal spending and lack of entitlement reforms are contributing to slowing GDP and soaring debt and interest on the debt, all serious threats to our national economy.  They believe states must act now, given the unwillingness of Congress to address this crisis.  

NFIB thanks sponsor Rep. Dennis Powers (Jacksboro) for his strong grassroots work on HJR 548, as well as Sens. Brian Kelsey (Germantown) and Randy McNally (Oak Ridge). Read more here.


Bad Bills Defeated

Several bills emerged that would have had a profoundly negative impact on our members. NFIB worked to defeat or amend the following bills: 

  • Medicaid expansion: NFIB/Tennessee members strongly oppose the expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee, according to 2013 Member Ballot results. Proponents and opponents debated the issue the entire session, with at least four proposals, such as House Bills 1723 and 2096, discussed in committees. Of note, NFIB worked to amend House Bill 937, which as originally drafted would have prohibited discussion to reform Tennessee’s broken Medicaid program, something many of our members would like considered. Not reforming TennCare will continue to pressure Tennessee’s budget and could lead to calls for potential tax increases down the road. In short, NFIB worked to oppose Medicaid expansion, while ensuring the state retains the option to reform TennCare, our state Medicaid program.
  • Proton therapy mandate: NFIB strongly opposed a new healthcare mandate, House Bill 264, which not only was very expensive but also would have set new precedents to avoid standard medical necessity review and bypass contractual arrangements between insurers and providers. Two autism expansion mandates – House Bills 1265 and 1137 – also were defeated.
  • Coaching profession protected: A bill that would have put executive and life coaches under the purview of a state regulatory board, thereby subjecting them to stringent, costly licensing and educational requirements, was amended. If passed as drafted, House Bill 2441 would have been put many if not most of these coaches out of business. NFIB led the charge to protect these entrepreneurs, working closely with both bill sponsors, who did a great job reworking the bill to protect these small business owners. Grassroots activism from the coaching community was critical in this process.
  • Minimum wage blocked: Various minimum wage proposals like House Bill 1694 and House Bill 1962 again were defeated. Tennessee does not have a minimum wage, which is an entry-level wage primarily for young workers between the ages of 18-25.

 PHOTO: Ichabod/Wikipedia


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