Press Releases

Legislature OKs Finney, Barnes’ Veterans Job Assistance Bill

Press Release from Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, and Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams, March 26, 2010:

Legislation would expand hiring benefit to all Tennessee veterans

NASHVILLE – This week the General Assembly passed a bill by Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) and Sen. Tim Barnes (D-Adams) to help Tennessee veterans obtain jobs by expanding preference-points eligibility to all veterans.

“I have watched many great men and women depart for service in some of the most dangerous places in the world,” Finney said. “When our veterans come home after serving our country, they deserve the opportunity to support their families.”

Under the bill (SB3857/HB3819), preference points for civil service position applicants would be expanded to all honorably discharged Tennessee veterans. Preference points are used in civil service hiring to give a leg up to veterans looking for jobs after leaving the armed forces.

Under current law, veterans from only certain conflicts are awarded preference points.

All honorably discharged Tennessee veterans would receive two preference points under the bill, with increased points given to veterans of wars and those with service-connected disabilities. The preference points will be awarded to veterans who are registered Tennessee voters or have been Tennessee residents for at least two years.

Spouses of veterans disabled or killed in the line of duty would also receive preference points under the bill.

The bill would cover veterans of the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars, including members of the 101st Airborne in Clarksville and the 1/230th Air Cavalry Squadron of the Tennessee Army National Guard in Jackson.

“Our veterans have sacrificed everything to serve our country and keep us safe. We must support them in the same way they have supported us,” Barnes said.

The House passed the bill Monday and the Senate followed suit on Wednesday. The bill will go to Gov. Phil Bredesen for his signature next week.

Press Releases

Sens. Finney, Barnes Support Unemployment Benefits For Military Spouces

Press Release from state Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, and Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams, March 9, 2010:

Bill would support veterans’ families

NASHVILLE – Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) and Sen. Tim Barnes (D-Adams) want to help Tennessee military families by extending unemployment benefits to individuals who leave their jobs to accompany their spouses on a military transfer.

“The military families in my district move in and out so much that many spouses are constantly on the job search,” Barnes said. “We must help our military families in those times between jobs, so that they can continue to provide for their children.”

The bill (SB3213/HB3449) would require the state to pay unemployment benefits for those who left their jobs as a result of a spouse’s military transfer. About 2,300 Tennessee military spouses are employed and have to transfer each year.

Kansas enacted a similar law and processed 67 such unemployment claims in 2007. Tennessee would likely see about 100 unemployment claims from military spouses each year, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, resulting in an estimated cost of about $365,400.

“This bill isn’t going to break the bank, and it certainly will mean a lot to military families who already sacrifice so much to serve our state and our country,” Finney said.

The bill passed a Senate committee Tuesday. The House version of the bill is in subcommittee. The text of the bill can be found here.

Press Releases

Sen. Finney Wants Freeze on Lawmakers’ Per Diem

Press Release from Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, March 4, 2010:

Legislators shouldn’t see rates rise as families sacrifice

NASHVILLE – Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) is calling for a freeze on lawmakers’ per diem rate until 2014, saying that legislators shouldn’t receive an increase in per diems until Tennessee’s economy fully recovers.

“Tennessee families are struggling to make ends meet, and lawmakers have no business demanding an increase in taxpayer money for personal use,” Finney said.

Finney’s bill (SB3650) would freeze the current per diem rate until 2014, when Tennessee’s economy is expected to return finally to pre-recession levels, according to presentations to lawmakers by University of Tennessee economist Bill Fox.

Currently Tennessee lawmakers are eligible for $185 per day – one of the highest rates in the country – to cover travel and living expenses. The state faces a tough budget year that could include layoffs and cuts to TennCare.

Tennessee lawmaker per diems are increased automatically when the federal government’s per diem increases, meaning state legislators don’t have to vote on the matter. They can, however, put a freeze on the per diem.

Last October the per diem increased from $171. Under Finney’s bill, the freeze would go into effect Nov. 2010 and would expire in Nov. 2014.

“I hope that my colleagues will join me in supporting this freeze. Families across the state are setting priorities every day,” Finney said. “We should do the same.”

Finney plans to introduce his bill next week in the Senate.

Senator Lowe Finney represents Madison, Carroll and Gibson Counties. Contact him at or (615) 741-1810 or 317 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0027.


Rural Tennessee Unemployment Continues to Soar

While it’s no secret economic times are tough this year all across the Volunteer State, job seekers living in West Tennessee are having an especially difficult time finding and keeping work, according to the latest government unemployment statistics.

As of the end of October, unemployment rates in counties from the Mississippi River to just west of Nashville hovered in the high teens, in some cases pushing 19 percent, according to recent numbers from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

With the exception of Shelby, Montgomery and Dickson Counties, the unemployment rate in every county west of Nashville meets or surpasses the statewide rate of 10.5 percent. Tennessee-wide unemployment was 6.9 percent for the same period last year.

“I think that a lot of the hit that we take has been the erosion of the manufacturing base,” said state Sen. Lowe Finney, a Jackson Democrat.

Several plants have closed or announced layoffs in the past year, including Cub Cadet in Brownsville, a lawn mower plant where 480 full time and seasonal workers lost their jobs when the facility closed in July. Haywood County’s unemployment rate now checks in at 17.9 percent.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate is just above the nation’s 10.2 percent rate for October. Since then, the national numbers dropped to 10 percent in November, though state numbers are not yet available.

Lauderdale County’s unemployment rate was 18.9 percent, the highest in the state and a 4.2 percent increase from October 2008.

Henderson County ranks at 17.6 percent and Carroll County at 17.3 percent.

While each western county struggles with unemployment, those home to larger population centers are faring better, although still significantly worse than the state rates from last year. The rate in Shelby County is 10.2 percent and Madison County is 10.5 percent.

That isn’t to say times are flush for job-hunters in regions east of Nashville. Hancock County unemployment hit 18 percent and Scott County landed at 17.8 percent, and most other counties have unemployment rates in low teens or below.

While Finney said he’s encouraged by the recent drop in the national unemployment rate, he says Tennesseans ought not to expect the picture to brighten anytime soon; the state’s employment numbers tend to lag six months behind.

“If other parts of the country experience good news, hopefully that means a few months from now, Tennessee will experience the same thing,” he said.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, predicts it’ll take even longer than that before unemployment turns around.

A former chairman for the Council of State Governments’ Economic Development Committee for the Southern Legislative Conference, Norris says the stimulus hasn’t yet kicked in the way state officials expected, which he says means it’ll take still more time to see positive changes.

“I would say it’s probably not likely we’ll be able to see any appreciable improvement until the third quarter of 2010 at the earliest,” he said.