Tennessee continues to lead in several categories of job growth as Governor and lawmakers join in major Nissan announcement
Job creation in Tennessee set new records last year, according to Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd, who appeared before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. The presentation was made just hours before Boyd, Governor Bill Haslam, legislators and county officials joined Nissan North America to make a major job announcement that the company will invest $160 million to build a new supplier park at their Smyrna vehicle assembly plant. The project will support more than 1,000 newly created supplier jobs.
Nissan’s Smyrna plant has been noted as being the most productive automotive manufacturing plant in North America, as it produces almost 650,000 vehicles each year, including the Maxima, Rogue and Altima.
Boyd said Tennessee finished first in the Southeast in new manufacturing jobs created since 2011. The state was also second in the Southeast for manufacturing jobs growth, which is something he said Tennessee has been targeting. Other job creation accolades cited by Boyd include being first in the nation for jobs created from foreign direct investment, first for certified sites, and first for overall infrastructure. Tennessee was also named 2014 and 2013 “State of the Year” for economic development by Business Facilities magazine.
Expansion of Tennessee companies is another key reason for the state’s economic development success, with 75 percent of jobs created by existing businesses. Boyd said the department will continue its emphasis in partnering with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth.
An area where the department plans to put more emphasis is rural economic development. Finally, Boyd said the department will continue its efforts to align higher education with economic development.
In 2013, the General Assembly passed model legislation that laid the foundation for the cooperative effort of government, higher education and businesses looking for skilled workers by providing on-the-job training. The Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) works with the state’s Complete College Tennessee Act and the “Drive to 55” initiative to raise the percentage of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees from 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025. The goal is to bring new industry to the state and give students the skills they need to compete for jobs in an increasingly global economy.
Boyd also announced the 2014 Economic Impact and Reinvestment Statistics from 28 Tennessee Main Street communities for activities occurring between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014. These Main Street communities created more than 1,500 new jobs and generated more than $95 million of public/private investment in 2014, while continuing to be a vital part of the state’s economic and cultural identity.
Tennessee’s Veterans Affairs Department works to serve state’s veterans with a wide variety of services
Tennessee is working hard to serve veterans in various capacities according to State Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder, who appeared before the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The department, which has focused primarily on claims and burials in the past, is now engaged in helping veterans receive a college education, job opportunities and a wide variety of other services.
The department’s wide array of services is the impetus behind legislation to change the name to the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services, an action which will also separate it from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which mainly handles claims. Senate Bill 116 has passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives and is on its way to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature. Last year the department secured $1.9 billion tax-free federal dollars for veterans and families.
The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs has been nationally recognized several times for their claims assistance. The department has reduced the average amount of time processing a veteran’s claim from a week or more to one day with their electronic filing system.
Grinder said Gulf War veterans have increased by 25,000 in Tennessee over the last couple of years. “This year, they are going to surpass Vietnam veterans to be the largest cohort of veterans in our state,” she said.
In 2013, the number of veterans in private and public institutions in Tennessee increased by 200 percent, but the department found that schools were not fully equipped to help in the transition. They found that veterans were enrolling but not graduating at the rate that they should.
The state veterans’ homes are another priority for the department. U.S. News and World Report, which rated more than 16,000 nursing homes using data research on nursing home safety, health inspection and staffing, recently rated Tennessee’s veterans’ homes among the top in the nation. In 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued five star ratings to the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro, the W.D. “Bill” Manning Tennessee State Veterans Home in Humboldt and the Senator Ben Atchley Tennessee State Veterans Home in Knoxville.
Resolution Opposes Federal Intervention in Education – Senate Joint Resolution 107 which opposes a national school board, has passed the full Senate. The resolution urges Congress to stop “what amounts to the imposition of a national school board and to end the decades of federal intrusion in state and local education policy decisions.”
The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reserves to the States all “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution.” Federal law establishing the U.S. Department of Education in 1979 prohibited the U.S. Secretary of Education or any other officer of the department from exercising “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system.”
Good Samaritans – Legislation which encourages good Samaritans to volunteer to transport senior citizens to places such as doctor appointments, the grocery store or the pharmacy has received final Senate approval. The Protection of Volunteer-Insured Drivers of the Elderly (PROVIDE) Act would help non-profit Human Resource Agencies and charitable organizations by giving transportation volunteers civil immunity as they seek to provide these citizens the help they need to remain independent.
Tennessee law protects volunteer drivers who are volunteering with a government agency, but not through a charitable organization or human service agency. Senate Bill 117extends volunteer driver protection to any person volunteering through a charitable organization or human service agency as long as the volunteer driver does not commit gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct and the sponsoring organization maintains liability insurance with limits at least equal to the limits set forth in the Governmental Tort Liability Act.
Elder – The State Senate has passed legislation which gives law enforcement agencies and the Department of Human Services authority, during the course of an elder abuse investigation, to require medical examination of the person if the agency is not sure if the elderly person is in imminent danger. Under current law, a law enforcement agency is not listed as being able to seek an order for an elderly person who is in imminent danger or lacks capacity to consent, to be examined by a physician, or a psychologist in consultation with the physician, or psychiatrist under certain circumstances. Senate Bill 457 would allow law enforcement agencies as well as the Department of Human Services to seek such an order.
Identity Theft – The State Senate has approved a bill that aims to help guard against consumer identity theft. Currently, Tennessee has no restrictions that prevent businesses or individuals from requesting or requiring that a customer provides their social security number on a personal check before it is accepted. Senate Bill 336 prohibits the printing of social security numbers on checks in order to receive a benefit, good, service or other value, unless the person provides written permission or the disclosure is required by the state or federal law.
County Road Relief Act – Legislation which changes the way Tennessee currently manages its State Aid Road Grant Program to make it easier for counties to access state funds to upgrade, repair and improve roads has received final approval. Currently, to receive funding through the State Highway Aid System, a 25 percent local match must be made by local governments. Senate Bill 1005 would allow a county to use state highway aid for a project, as long as the county contributes at least two percent of the approved project cost or provide in-kind work as approved by the Department of Transportation.
Veterans – Final approval was given to legislation updating the state’s laws pursuant to the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. Senate Bill 976 would add spouses and dependent children as parties eligible for in-state tuition rates. Since a veteran can assign their benefits to a spouse or children, they would also qualify for these tuition and fee rates. It would also shift the period of eligibility after discharge for in-state tuition rates from two years to three years. In addition, it requires the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to convene the University of Tennessee (UT) and Tennessee Board of Regents systems to review processes related to awarding academic credit to veterans. This is known as “PLA” or “prior learning assessment'” and ensures that veteran students receive as much academic credit as possible for training or skills obtained during their service.
Promoting Prostitution / Statute of Limitations – The statute of limitations for promoting prostitution would be extended under a bill approved by State Senators this week. Often times, minors do not realize they have been a victim of this crime until well after they are 18. Senate Bill 373 extends the statute of limitations from 10 years to 25 years after the victim becomes 18 years of age to give victims more time to address the issue and prosecutors more time to prosecute offenders who are promoting prostitution.
Teacher Protection Act – The full Senate gave approval to legislation that would automatically provide teachers and student teachers with professional liability insurance. “The Educator Protection Act of 2015” would provide insurance coverage to about 78,000 full- and/or part-time teachers and 9,000 student teachers at no cost to the educators, so they do not have to worry about the liability of lawsuits during the course of their employment. Currently, teachers must find their own coverage if they are not protected by professional liability insurance provided by their local school system. Senate Bill 604 creates a special account within Tennessee Department of Treasury that would be invested by the Treasurer and administered by the state’s Board of Claims to provide liability coverage. Governor Haslam has provided $5 million in the state’s budget proposal to pay for the program.
Fees / Physician Assistants – Senate Bill 54 that prohibits a health insurance company from charging a higher co-payment fee for services rendered by a physician assistant than that charged for similar services rendered by a physician has been given final approval by the State Senate.
Beer Permits / Lawful Residents – Legislation has been approved by the full Senate which requires a beer permit holder to be a lawful resident of the United States. Senate Bill 185 helps to ensure that counties can do the appropriate background check of the applicant before issuing a beer permit.
First Responders / Hepatitis C – The full Senate has approved Senate Bill 20 that expands the presumption statute currently in state law to include Hepatitis C as being presumed to have been acquired in the line of duty in all cases involving emergency rescue workers. Currently that burden is on the first responder to prove they got the disease on the job.
Students / Cystic Fibrosis – State Senators voted to approve Senate Bill 724 that allows students with Cystic Fibrosis, with a care plan, to take their medications in the classroom and at meal time. Children with the disease are typically very susceptible to infections and may have to take certain enzymes to aid in digestion. The students must currently go to the nurses’ station to have these enzymes administered, where they could be exposed to children with contagious conditions. The association that helps families of Cystic Fibrosis children claim that these children are completely competent to take their medications on their own.
Regulation Freedom Amendment – A resolution that aims to force Congress to pass a “Regulation Freedom” Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has received final approval in the State Senate. Senate Joint Resolution 2 calls upon Congress to require that, whenever one quarter of the members of the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate transmit to the President their written declaration of opposition to a proposed federal regulation; a majority vote of the House and Senate is necessary to adopt it.
And Back in the District
I’m excited to announce that several amazing Knoxville artists have agreed to participate in my first Knoxville art on display in my Nashville Senate office. I really appreciate their willingness to share their art with our visitors in Nashville. It’s great to show off their talent and also our Knoxville landmarks. I will be featuring a different artist and their work in my newsletter.
Joe Parrott has loaned his Oil on canvas, “Market Square in the Morning.”
Joe was born and lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. He earned a BS degree in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee in 1967 and is a self-taught artist. He worked in the graphic arts industry for 43 years while continuing to pursue his artistic aspirations. He currently paints full-time and is dedicated to a lifelong pursuit of creative evolution and exploration. Influences include Edward Hopper, Van Gogh and printmaker Martin Lewis.