General Assembly Productive for Tennessee's Small Businesses

Date: April 21, 2014

Related Content: News State Tennessee

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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