Tennessee 2012 Proactive Legislative Agenda
Unemployment Reform – Small business overwhelmingly supports substantive reforms to our state’s administrative review process for unemployment claims. Specifically, NFIB members support a stronger misconduct definition that addresses chronic absenteeism and theft, as well as a defined work search requirement for recertifying beneficiaries. Importantly, employers are subject to a costly 0.6% unemployment tax surcharge until our Unemployment Trust Fund reaches $650 million, so every effort to reduce fraud and abuse and help workers return to work sooner will stimulate hiring and investment.
Regulatory reform – Our members support greater transparency, accountability and involvement in the regulatory process. We support a requirement for certain boards to enable licensees to receive notification via e-mail of the overseeing board’s proposed agenda. Small businesses would like greater ease and opportunity to offer critical feedback of proposed fee increases and rules that directly impact their ability to grow their businesses and make long-term plans. Too often under the current process, they learn of new rules or fee increases after their adoption. In addition, we will support efforts to repeal unnecessary licensure procedures and protectionist laws and rules.
Budget and Tax Reform – Our members appreciate the improved budget process, which includes the ending of the so-called ‘technical corrections” process, and our state’s conservative fiscal approach. We strongly support repeal/phase out of the state’s onerous inheritance tax, which hurts multi-generational businesses and farmers. We support the restoration of vendors’ compensation, which prior to 2000 allowed businesses to retain a percentage of sales taxes collected as compensation for incurred costs and time. We will continue to review proposals that hinder our members’ ability to own, operate and grow their businesses.
Tort reform – We are evaluating specific tort reform proposals that protect employers from excessive litigation costs and liability exposure. We will communicate our positions on bills as they are introduced this session.
Workers’ Comp – Our members strongly support the administration’s effort to identify workers’ comp challenges that are inhibiting job growth and putting Tennessee significantly behind neighboring states. Tennessee employers and employees complain that the time to adjudicate claims is lengthy and delays return to work and payment of claims. According to the Oregon Department of Labor’s 2010 study of workers’ comp costs by state, Tennessee ranks No. 31, well behind Arkansas (No. 2) and Virginia (No. 4) and trailing Mississippi (No. 20), Georgia (No. 27) and North Carolina (No. 28). We are studying various proposals, including moving to a commission-based review system. Our members strongly support addressing decades of adverse case law and enacting a stronger workplace injury definition, and look forward to advancing meaningful reform in the months and years ahead.
Defeat Bad Business Bills – We expect the usual introduction of bad business bills, including well intended but costly mandates, misguided union efforts and similar proposals that inhibit free enterprise in Tennessee. We will continue to inform elected officials about the detrimental effects of these efforts.