Democrats ‘Got Some Good Ideas’ from Jobs Tour

Democrats said their recently concluded week-long “jobs tour” was time and energy well spent — and Tennesseans can expect some practical policy ideas that should attract bipartisan support as a result.

“We’ve talked to a lot of people. Jobs are what’s of concern for Tennesseans,” Craig Fitzhugh, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, said at a stop Saturday in Cookeville. “We’re just trying to get ideas about what we can do as a Legislature to increase the jobs. We’ve got some good ideas.”

Mike Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, said the tour was such a good idea, they may do an encore before the end of the year.

One key thing they learned is there needs to be a better link between Tennessee schools and businesses, said Turner, a firefighter from Old Hickory.

“If we’re not matching them up with the industries out there, then we’re not doing a good job,” Turner said after touring Tennessee Tech University’s Whitson-Hester School of Nursing and the Millard Oakley STEM Center. “I think that’s what we’re trying to do, and I think that’s what the universities are trying to do. But we need to meet the needs of the small business people and businesses that come to this state with the most educated workforce we can put out there.”

Majority Republicans have signaled that a main focus of their 2012 legislative agenda will be detecting and rolling back regulations that unduly or unfairly burden businesses in the state.

But Fitzhugh said that while Democrats indeed heard a noteworthy amount of complaining about regulations, most criticism was aimed at rules being enforced by the feds.

“We heard a lot about the regulatory burden that has come over the years from the federal government,” the Ripley Democrat said. “But frankly…we were pleased that there wasn’t much objection to where we are at the state level, which is our primary concern.”