Press Releases

Haslam Appoints 152 Tennesseans to 58 State Boards, Commissions

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; December 28, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of 152 Tennesseans to 58 state boards and commissions.

“I appreciate the willingness to serve the state and the commitment of these men and women,” Haslam said. “Tennessee will be well-represented on these boards and commissions, and I look forward to continuing our review to make sure Tennesseans have a government responsive to them.”

The governor continues his review of the state’s complete range of boards and commissions to determine other potential reforms that might be made to improve efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.

Appointment terms are varied due to differing statutory requirements or term limits determined by specific qualifications. The appointments are:

Advisory Committee for the Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Disabled

  • Robert Duvall, Antioch

Air Pollution Control Board

  • J. Ronald Bailey, Chattanooga
  • Karen Cisler, Nashville
  • Shawn Hawkins, Knoxville
  • Larry Waters, Gatlinburg

Architects and Engineers Board of Examiners

  • Jerome Headly, Tullahoma
  • Paul William Lockwood, Brentwood
  • Frank Wagster, Jackson
  • Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities
  • Betty Hodge, Bristol

Board of Appeals

  • Barbara Clark, Knoxville
  • James Crumlin, Brentwood
  • LeeAnn Foster, Knoxville
  • James Hamilton, Dyersburg
  • Laura Holland, Lascassas
  • Bland Justis, Greeneville
  • Brian Ragan, Dickson
  • Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson, Ooltewah

Board of Boiler Rules

  • David Baughman, Murfreesboro

Board of Communication Disorders

  • Terri Philpott-Flynn, Lawrenceburg

Board of Dietitian and Nutritionist Examiners

  • Kim Pryor, Knoxville

Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators

  • Russell Caughron, Murfreesboro

Board of Examiners in Psychology

  • Melissa Gay, Hendersonville

Board of Nursing

  • Brent Earwood, Jackson
  • Lisa Heaton, Elizabethton
  • Marithia Silvers, Calhoun
  • Mark Young, Mount Juliet

Board of Occupational Therapy

  • Donna Carron, Adams
  • Ruth Ford, Franklin

Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners

  • Kim Johnson, Franklin
  • Roland Federico, Chattanooga

Commission on Aging and Disability

  • Margaret Seay, Kingsport

Committee on Physician Assistants

  • James Montag, Telford

Council for Licensing Hearing Instrument Specialists

  • Jerry Hall, Cleveland
  • Fredrick Rayne, Cookeville

Doe Mountain Recreation Authority

  • Carolyn Hawkins, Mountain City
  • Gabrielle Lynch, Trade
  • Terry Maughon, Elizabethon
  • Richard Strang, Kingsport

Douglas Henry State Museum Commission

  • Mary Ann Clark, Jackson
  • Charles Cook, Jr., Nashville
  • Deborah DiPietro, Knoxville
  • Deannie Parker, Memphis
  • Jan Simek, Seymour
  • Tom Smith, Nashville

Elevator and Amusement Device Safety Board

  • Larry Moore II, Kingsport
  • David Hale, Lebanon

Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health

  • Rose Grindstaff, Brentwood

Heritage Conservation Trust Fund Board

  • Earl Worsham, Gatlinburg

Homeland Security Council

  • Mark Sirois, Johnson City

Information Systems Council

  • Donald Enfinger, Fairview

Interagency Coordinating Council

  • Janet Coscarelli, Nashville
  • Catherine Knowles, Nashville

Keep Tennessee Beautiful Advisory Council

  • Michael Dumont, Linden
  • Sandra Ennis, Tullahoma
  • Terry Griffin, Clarksville
  • Ann Johnson, Franklin
  • Georgette Johnson, Memphis
  • Sara Ladd, Nashville
  • Larry Potter, Cordova
  • Ganelle Roberts, Memphis
  • Kelsey Ross, Franklin
  • Cindi Smith-Walters, Murfreesboro

Local Government Planning Advisory Council

  • Ernest Burgess, Murfreesboro
  • Dan Eldridge, Jonesborough
  • John Gentry, Athens
  • Brent Greer, Paris

Pest Control Board

  • Kenny Crenshaw, Millington
  • Frank Hale, Franklin

Polysomnography Professional Standards Committee

  • Donald Samples, Johnson City

Sam Davis Memorial Association Board of Trustees

  • John Bratcher, Murfreesboro
  • Shirley Davis, Franklin
  • Jerry Oxsher, Smyrna
  • Richard Thomas, Smyrna

Star Quality Advisory Council

  • Karen Baker, Kingsport
  • Karen Grandfield, Soddy Daisy
  • Renee Hauge, Knoxville
  • Merlean Hill, Memphis
  • Patty Kelly, Clarksville
  • Patti Ricossa, Cordova
  • Bridgett Stanfill, Clarksville
  • Harriet Wilson, Knoxville

State Board of Cosmetology

  • Pearl Walker, Memphis

State Board of Pharmacy

  • Kevin Eidson, White House

State Rehabilitation Council

  • Floyd Stewart, Whites Creek

State Textbook Commission

  • Jason Robinson, Cleveland

Statewide Independent Living Council

  • Jill Hindman, Hixson
  • Cynthia Martin, Tullahoma
  • Connie Robinson, Germantown
  • Dorothea Thompson, Murfreesboro
  • Wanda Willis, Nashville

TennCare Pharmacy Advisory Committee

  • Carol Minor, Nashville
  • Joel Phares, Arrington

Tennessee Board of Water Quality, Oil, and Gas

  • James Cameron III, Franklin
  • Jill Davis, Englewood
  • Kevin Davis, Savannah
  • Frank McGinley, Savannah
  • Derek Gernt, Allardt
  • John Guoynes, Oak Ridge
  • Monty Halcomb, Wartrace
  • Charlie Johnson, Sevierville
  • David Anthony Robinson, Kingsport

Tennessee Collection Services Board

  • Steve Harb, Knoxville

Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth

  • Brenda Davis, Chairman, Franklin
  • Jennie Harlan, Columbia
  • Raquel Hatter, Nashville
  • Gary Houston, Union City

Tennessee Consolidated Retirements System Board of Trustees

  • Alfred Laney, Nashville

Tennessee Community Services Agency Statewide Board of Directors

  • Tommy Hooper, Brownsville

Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control

  • Jeff Brown, Crossville
  • Armando Fontes, Newport
  • Dan Hughes, Lexington
  • Deborah Newman, Murfreesboro
  • Bill Oldham, Memphis

Tennessee Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  • Robert Baldwin, Memphis

Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities

  • Roger Gibbens, Chattanooga
  • Elizabeth Ritchie, Knoxville

Tennessee Economic Council on Women

  • Veronica Johnson, Nashville
  • Miriam Barnard, Nashville

Tennessee Ethics Commission

  • George Jaynes, Limestone

Tennessee Forestry Commission

  • Johnny Heard, Collinwood

Tennessee Historical Commission

  • Kathie Fuston, Columbia

Tennessee Human Rights Commission

  • Crystal Horne, Signal Mountain
  • Ralph White, Memphis

Tennessee Massage Licensure Board

  • Marvis Burke, Harrison
  • Bethann Easterly, Nashville

Tennessee Medical Examiner Advisory Council

  • Michael Dunavant, Ripley
  • Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan, Knoxville
  • Samuel Smith, Brentwood

Tennessee Private Investigation and Polygraph Commission

  • Minnie Lane, Knoxville

Tennessee Real Estate Appraiser Commission

  • Rosemarie Johnson, Paris
  • Mark Johnstone, Jackson

Tennessee Registry of Election Finance

  • Patricia Heim, Nashville
  • Norma Lester, Memphis

Tennessee Suicide Prevention Advisory Council

  • Nancy Badger, Chattanooga
  • Kathy Benedetto, Johnson City

Underground Storage Tanks and Solid Waste Disposal Control Board

  • Warren Anderson, Murfreesboro
  • Marty Calloway, Maryville
  • Stacey Cothran, Lewisburg
  • Kenneth Donaldson, Columbia
  • George Hyfantis, Seymour
  • Bhag Kanwar, Franklin
  • Jared Lynn, Smyrna
  • David Martin, Hermitage
  • Beverly Philpot, Lawrenceburg
  • DeAnne Redman, Greenbrier
  • Franklin Smith, III, Brownsville
  • Mark Williams, Manchester
  • Viticulture Advisory Board
  • Carl O’Cain, Jackson
  • Connie Perrin, Corryton
  • Michael Reedy, Kingsport
  • Kip Summers, Brentwood

Water and Wastewater Operators Certification Board

  • Randall Braker, Manchester
Press Releases

Romney Revving Up TN Campaign — Haslam to Chair

Press Release from the Campaign of Mitt Romney for President, February 14, 2012:

Mitt Romney Announces Governor Bill Haslam as State Chairman and Full Slate of Tennessee Delegates

Boston, MA – Mitt Romney today announced that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will serve as State Chairman of Romney’s presidential campaign in Tennessee.

Romney also announced that his is the only presidential campaign to have assembled a full slate of delegate candidates to join him on the Tennessee ballot. Romney’s delegate team is led by former Tennessee Governor Winfield Dunn, a number of state legislators, and other top GOP leaders, state executive committee members and leading business, civic and political leaders from across the Volunteer State.

“I’m pleased to have so much support in Tennessee,” said Mitt Romney. “Voters in the Volunteer State have been hit hard by the Obama economy. I look forward to spreading my message of a ‘Simpler, Smaller, and Smarter’ federal government across the state in the months to come and the support of these leaders will be crucial.”

“This slate of delegates represents the strong support Mitt has from Memphis to Mountain City,” Haslam said. “He is committed to job growth across our state and nation, and his common-sense approach is resonating with Tennessee voters. He has the experience to lead, and this country needs a true leader.”

Romney’s Slate Of At-Large Delegate Candidates Includes:

Rob Ailey, Seymour

Steve Allbrooks, Franklin

Randal Boyd, Knoxville

Josh Brown, Franklin

Steve Buttry, Knoxville

Beth Campbell, Nashville

John Crisp, Brentwood

John Wayne Cropp, Hixson

Winfield Dunn, Nashville

Ruth B. Hagerty, Gallatin

Julia Hurley, Lenoir City

Jim Looney, Lawrenceburg

Wendell Moore, Brentwood

Justin Pitt, Franklin

Susan Richardson Williams, Knoxville

Mark White, Memphis

Romney’s Slate Of Congressional District Delegate Candidates Includes:

First District:

David Golden, Kingsport

Warren Jones, Johnson City

Alicia Mumpower, Bristol

Second District:

Russell Barber, Knoxville

Richard Barnes, Knoxville

Ryan Haynes, Knoxville

Third District:

Emily Beaty, Cleveland

Oscar Brock, Lookout Mountain

Jennifer Inman Little, Bean Station

Hobart L. Rice, Dandridge

Fourth District:

David French, Columbia

Nancy French, Columbia

Jason Whatley, Columbia

Fifth District:

Shiri Anderson, Antioch

Chrissy Hagerty, Nashville

John Patrick Shorter, Nashville

George B. Stadler, Nashville

Sixth District:

Debra K. Copass, Mount Juliet

Beth Cox, Hendersonville

Randy Stamps, Hendersonville

Chad White, Murfreesboro

Seventh District:

Mary Kate Brown, Franklin

Barrett Rich, Eads

Ammon Smartt, Brentwood

Eighth District:

Bob D. Anderson, Paris

Betty Anderson, Paris

Steve Maroney, Jackson

Oneida Wagoner, Mansfield

Ninth District:

Paul Boyd, Memphis

Frank Colvett, Jr., Memphis

Kelly Hankins, Memphis

Dennis Patrick Hawkins, Memphis


Press Releases

Haslam Emphasizes Job Growth, Education, Gov’t Efficiency

Press Release from the Governor’s Office; Jan. 30, 2012:

Governor delivers State of the State Address and Unveils Balanced Budget Proposal

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam tonight delivered his 2012 State of the State address before a joint session of the General Assembly in which he shared his vision for the state and called upon those watching and listening to “believe in better.”

“We can believe in better for how state government serves Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “We can believe in better when it comes to the education of our children, and we can believe in better when we talk about a stronger, healthier economy for our state.”

During his speech, the governor emphasized the importance of Tennessee job growth, a continued focus on improving education, public safety, a more customer-focused, efficient and effective state government and keeping taxes low.

“Our role in state government is to provide services that Tennesseans aren’t able to get on their own – we build roads, offer higher education options, guard prisoners, help families adopt children, care for the mentally ill, patrol highways, serve veterans and perform hundreds of other services,” Haslam said. “My job as governor is to make sure we are providing those services in a customer-focused and effective way.”

Haslam also outlined his Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget proposal, which reflects his priorities and includes strategic investments, necessary reductions and savings for the future.

Highlights of the budget include:

• Restoration of more than $100 million of the $160 million “core services” funding that was designated two years ago to be cut such as:

  • The Coordinated School Health program
  • Extended teacher contracts;
  • Alcohol and abuse treatment programs;
  • Juvenile justice grants;
  • Diabetes prevention;
  • And matching dollars for state employee 401k programs.

• Full funding for the Basic Education Program.

• Nearly $264 million to fund long-deferred capital outlay projects in higher education including:

  • A new science building at Middle Tennessee State University;
  • A science lab at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville;
  • A new patient diagnostic center at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis;
  • And planning money for new buildings at Nashville State Community College, Northeast State Community College, the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga.

• A 2.5 percent pay increase for state employees.

• $50 million to the Rainy Day Fund bringing it up to $356 million.

• A continued commitment to the West Tennessee Megasite with $25 million.

• More than $23 million to fund a new veterans home in Bradley County.

The budget also includes funding for the governor’s legislative proposals announced earlier in the month that include:

• Tougher sentences for certain gang-related crimes and for gun possession by those with prior violent felony convictions along with mandatory incarceration for repeat domestic violence offenders;

• Raising the exemption level on the estate tax in Tennessee from $1 million to $1.25 million to lower the tax burden on family farmers and family business owners;

• And lowering the state portion of the sales tax on food from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent with the goal of lowering it to 5 percent during the next three years.

“I promise to be relentless when it comes to providing the very best service to our taxpayers for the very lowest price. They deserve it,” Haslam said. “And on issue or policy, our administration will always work to get to the right answer, not just our own answer…Working together, we are going to achieve better for Tennessee.”

The complete text of the governor’s speech and an archived video of his speech are available at

Press Releases

House GOP Leadership: Expect ‘Sound Fiscal Policy and Common Sense’ from Republicans

Press Release from the Republican Caucus of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Jan. 10, 2012:

Tennessee Takes Number One Ranking for Low Taxes and Business Regulation

Recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Report Cites the Volunteer State as Model for Rest of the Nation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the Tennessee Legislature readies to gavel in session later today, top Republican lawmakers are touting the results of a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that says Tennessee is a leading “Enterprise State” for its remarkable environment of low taxes and navigable regulations.

The Chamber report, available here, notes “Tennessee’s low cost of living, fourth lowest state and local tax burden and manageable budget gap place it first in this year’s tax and regulation ranking.” The State moved up two places from last year’s ranking.

The report also cites the “business-friendly Legislature” and the fact the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development and the Commissioner of Revenue work together to ensure there is a “no surprise” regulatory environment in Tennessee. Additionally, in profiling the State, the Chamber highlights Governor Bill Haslam’s Jobs4TN initiative that utilizes “existing economic development assets to identify and prioritize growth-ready industry clusters, establish nine regional ‘jobs base camps’…and reduce regulations that get in the way of business and job growth.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R—Nashville), House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R—Chattanooga) and House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart (R—Hendersonville) believe Tennesseans can expect a continued focus on sound fiscal policy and common sense reforms to regulations in the new legislative session.

Speaker Harwell stated, “We are proud Tennessee has, once again, been recognized as a top State for businesses and families. I look forward to a successful session that will further Tennessee’s unmatched record of accomplishment by keeping taxes low and further reducing the State’s regulatory burden.”

“Tennessee is on solid footing when it comes to tax and regulatory policy. That said, I believe we can do more. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Haslam, we have a guiding vision for transforming Tennessee into a truly competitive State that will be an engine for growth in the coming years,” stated McCormick.

Maggart added, “This session will be a model for future legislative sessions. We are focused on how to best pave the way for job creation in the private sector, removing government barriers to business growth, and maintaining our State’s low tax reputation. Tennesseans expect government to serve them and their priorities and we are going to do just that.”

The 2nd session of the 107th General Assembly begins today at noon central time.

Press Releases

Haslam Picks Rep. Eldridge for Workforce Development Board

Press Release from the House GOP Caucus, Dec. 13, 2011:

Jackson Representative Called a “Reliable Voice for Small Business and Job Creators on Capitol Hill”

NASHVILLE, TENN. – In a recent announcement, Governor Bill Haslam announced he has selected Representative Jimmy Eldridge (R—Jackson) to serve as a member of the Tennessee Workforce Development Board.

The appointment is evidence that Rep. Eldridge, who chairs the House Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee, is seen as a reliable voice for small businesses and job creators on Capitol Hill. Nominations for membership on this board are solicited from various sources including labor organizations, business organizations, community-based organizations, and elected officials.

“I am grateful to Governor Haslam for appointing me to this position,” stated Rep. Eldridge. “I will use this platform as an opportunity to articulate and advance some common sense proposals to get Tennesseans back to work.”

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 was enacted by Congress to consolidate, coordinate, and improve employment, training, literacy, and vocational rehabilitation programs in the United States within statewide and local workforce investment systems. The WIA required the establishment of workforce boards, such as this one, to assist in the development of a state’s plans to increase the employment, retention, and earnings of participants, and increase occupational skill attainment by participants. As a result, the boards aim to improve the quality of the workforce, reduce welfare dependency, and enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the nation.

As members are appointed by the Governor, all efforts are made to conform to the WIA membership requirements. Private sector appointments to the board are representative of the state’s business community, and include appointments representing small businesses. These business members are owners of or chief executives of businesses that reflect employment opportunities in Tennessee. The board includes members of local workforce boards. Members have policymaking authority within their organizations, agencies, or entities. Additionally, the Governor considers minority, gender, and geographical representation when making appointments to the board.

Eldridge concluded, “I look forward to working with some of the brightest minds from around Tennessee’s business community. This is the type of partnership that can ultimately develop policy initiatives that will pay dividends for all Tennesseans.”

The Board is made up of 30% Business and Industry, 30% State Legislature /State Agencies and Organizations/Local Government/Local Education, 30% Organized Labor/Community-based Organizations, and 10% from the General Public.

Press Releases

Alliance for Main Street Fairness Not Happy With TN’s New Amazon Agreement

Press Release from Alliance for Main Street Fairness, Oct. 6 2011:

Special Deal For Amazon Still Leaves Main Street Businesses At Competitive Disadvantage; Government Picking Winners & Losers Is Bad Policy

Nashville, TN – The Alliance for Main Street Fairness (AMSF) today criticized the deal struck with by Governor Bill Haslam that still gives the online giant an unfair competitive advantage over existing Tennessee businesses. The deal would give Amazon more than two years – and three critical holiday shopping seasons – of special treatment before they begin collecting sales taxes like every other retailer in the state.

“If Amazon can agree to start collecting the sales tax in one year in California, why should we have to wait one day longer in Tennessee,” asked Mike Cohen, spokesperson for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness (AMSF) in Tennessee. “How many Tennessee jobs are lost, how many Tennessee businesses will close because the state grants Amazon a huge price advantage by not having to charge sales taxes?”

An Economic Impact Study commissioned by AMSF and based on the definitive national online sales tax study conducted by the University of Tennessee, said the annual losses from the lack of online sales tax collection from companies including Amazon, totaled almost 7,000 jobs and more than $400-million in tax revenue.

“In difficult economic times, this deal could put almost 8,500 Tennesseans out of work,” continued Cohen. “How can that possibly be anything but bad policy? Our state government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers. This is the same failed policy we’re getting from Washington, and it’s not something we ought to emulate in Tennessee. Every business should be treated the same.”

The deal will require legislative approval, but that action is not expected until 2012. As Amazon opens its facility this year, it remains unclear how they can operate without collecting sales taxes given the opinion issued by Tennessee’s attorney general earlier this week.

“Lawmakers can expect to hear from their constituents, businesses they will put at a huge disadvantage and employers that do pay the sales tax every day. It’s time for government to stop meddling in the free market by giving companies like Amazon special treatment,” concluded Cohen.

Press Releases

TNDP Criticizes Economic Priorities of Haslam, Ramsey in Wake of NYC Bond-Rating Trip

Press Release from the Democratic Party of Tennessee, Sept. 14, 2011: 

Tennessee’s unemployed not impressed by the Haslam-Ramsey ‘bond rating dog-and-pony show’

NASHVILLE — State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester urged Tennessee’s top Republicans to consider a jobs plan to keep the state’s fiscal house in order.

“The surest way to strengthen our state’s fiscal house is to put 300,000 Tennesseans back to work. If Ron Ramsey and Governor Bill Haslam put half the effort they expend wooing corporate campaign donations into a common sense jobs plan, Tennessee would get there a lot faster.”

Forrester pressed Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey for action on the state’s job crisis in statement Wednesday following the Republicans’ meeting with Wall Street bond rating agencies. At 9.8 percent, Tennessee’s unemployment rate remains well beyond the national average.

“This bond rating dog and pony show for Wall Street executives looks obnoxious to the 300,000 Tennesseans who are struggling to find work and provide for their families,” Forrester said. “They’d like to see a day when the numbers we brag about are Tennessee’s low unemployment rate and high economic output.

“There’s no doubt Wall Street was impressed with Governor Haslam’s contingency plan to fire 5,000 workers and eliminate crucial services that keep families healthy, children educated and the disabled properly cared for. However, Tennesseans who’ve seen this extreme plan are not so enthusiastic,” Chip Forrester said. “Haslam’s slash-and-burn budget would send our state into an even more severe economic tailspin and prompt a societal crisis that would diminish the quality of life for every Tennessean.”

This summer Gov. Haslam instructed state department heads to plan for 30 percent budget cuts to be enacted if Tennessee receives less federal funding.

Press Releases

Haslam Signs ‘HOPE’ Scholarship Legislation

Press Release from the Office of Bill Haslam, Governor of Tennessee, June 8, 2011:

The new law will continue education reform in Tennessee

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 2010/SB 1529 into law today, allowing students to use the HOPE Scholarship for summer courses.

“The HOPE scholarships retain the best and brightest students in the state, and working to ensure we have a highly-trained and educated workforce is the most important step we can take to attracting high quality jobs to Tennessee,” Haslam said.

Last year, the General Assembly passed the Complete College Tennessee ACT (CCTA) with the goal of raising educational attainment rates in our state by promoting and incentivizing college completion.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett), sponsored the legislation that passed the Senate in a vote of 27 to 1 and the House 96 to 0.

This new law will bring the state’s largest financial aid program into alignment with the goals of the CCTA in terms of degree efficiency and productivity.

“Extending summer eligibility makes the scholarship more user-friendly for students while allowing higher education institutions to better utilize their buildings and campuses throughout the course of the year,” Haslam added. “We worked hard to make this legislation as student-friendly and fiscally responsible while making sure we created the right incentives to improve time-to-completion and to graduate more Tennesseans.”

This law also provides for a 120-hour cap on the number of hours a student can use the scholarship money, excepting certain majors. It also applies to students who enrolled in the fall of 2009 but does not affect students enrolled before that time.

Press Releases

Ramsey Expects New Hall Tax Relief Exemption for Seniors to Win Approval

Press Release from the Office of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, May 16, 2011:

Tax relief for seniors set for smooth passage

(Nashville) – The fight to protect seniors’ retirement savings has passed an important hurdle with the announcement that legislation sponsored by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and Sen. Ken Yager (R-Harriman) to raise the standard exemption on the Hall Tax has been included in Governor Bill Haslam’s budget. The Hall Tax relief included in the budget applies to Tennesseans age 65 and older. Of the individuals who pay the Hall Tax, 48 percent are age 65 and older.

“We tell middle class folks to save and invest for their retirement and then we punish them for it by taxing their nest egg,” said Ramsey. “Working men and women of modest means who have saved wisely should not have to see their hard-earned dollars taxed. This exemption will aid middle class people who live modestly get a break on their hard earned savings.”

“I am delighted Governor Haslam has included Hall Tax relief for senior citizens in his supplemental budget plan,” said Senator Yager. “This was part of my platform when I ran for State Senate; therefore, I am very pleased that it was included in the Governor’s budget. This puts the bill in excellent shape moving into the final days of this legislative session and making this tax relief closer to reality for many senior citizens across Tennessee.”

Currently, persons over 65 with total income less than $16,200 for a single filer or $27,000 for a joint filer are exempt. Senate Bill 261 increases, beginning with tax year 2012, the annual Hall Income Tax standard income exemption for taxpayers 65 years of age or older from $16,200 to $26,200 for single filers and from $27,000 to $37,000 for joint filers.

The exemption has not been revised in over a decade.

Press Releases

Senate GOP Legislative Update, May 9-13

Press Release from the Republican Caucus of the Tennessee Senate, May 12, 2011:

State Senate passes Civil Justice Reform and other Major Bills as General Assembly works toward adjournment

(NASHVILLE, TN), May 12, 2011 – The Tennessee General Assembly worked in marathon floor and committee sessions this week towards the conclusion of the 2011 legislative session. Among major legislation approved by the State Senate is a civil justice law to help create jobs in Tennessee, several measures cracking down on child sex offenders and those who engage in human trafficking, and state’s rights legislation, to name a few.

The Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), was approved in the State Senate by a vote of 21 to 12. The legislation is included in Governor Bill Haslam’s legislative package. It is designed to provide certainty and predictability for businesses, while ensuring that injured plaintiffs receive all of the economic, quantifiable damages they suffer.

Norris said Tennessee’s current civil justice law puts the state at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new businesses and jobs, especially since it is one of the few in the Southeast which has yet to reign in lawsuit abuse through tort reform.

“This is very important legislation,” said Senator Norris. “It is much more than tort reform, as we must be competitive with other states. The state of Tennessee has always been on the cutting edge of tort reform. We must remain competitive, not just in then South or in a regional economy, but in the global context. This bill is designed to put us on a level playing field so we have predictability and certainty for businesses which look to locate or expand their operations in Tennessee.”

“The uncertainties of life command that we balance the need to quantify the risk with our compassion,” he added. “This will strengthen our judicial system and our state as a whole.”

“Our current civil justice system threatens Tennessee’s business climate and hampers our ability to create jobs,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey (R-Blountville). “Unlimited exposure to costly litigation drives up business costs and drives away new jobs. Every citizen should have access to the courts but it is critical that damage awards do not spin out of control and hurt our ability to grow jobs in Tennessee.”

“The legislation will provide certainty and predictability for businesses that want to locate in Tennessee,” said Senator Kelsey. “When we attract businesses, we attract jobs. Without this law, Tennessee is the only state in the Southeast that has no limits on possible punitive damage awards. With this law, Tennessee can become the number one state in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

Key provisions of Senate Bill 1522 include:

• The bill limits the maximum appeal bond amount from $75 million to $25 million or 125 percent of the judgment amount.

• It defines two components of compensatory damages: economic and non-

economic damages.

• The measure places a cap on non-economic damages, which are subjective damages like pain and suffering, at $750,000 per injured plaintiff for both healthcare liability action and other personal injury actions. However, if the harm suffered is intentional, the caps would not apply.

• As amended, the bill raises the cap to $1.0 million if the plaintiff becomes a paraplegic or quadriplegic because of spinal cord injury, sustains third degree burns over 40 percent or more of his or her body or face, has an amputation of a hand or foot, or wrongfully dies leaving one or more minor children.

• There is no cap, under the measure, on economic damages and any damages that can be objectively quantified may be recovered.

• Caps punitive damages, which must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, at two times compensatory damage or $500,000, whichever is greater unless the defendant intended to injure the plaintiff, was under then influence of drugs or alcohol, or intentionally falsified records to avoid liability.

• Prevents punitive damages in products liability actions, unless the seller had substantial control over the design or manufacturing of the product or had actual knowledge of the defect in the product at the time it was sold.

 Norris pointed to the success of the 2008 medical tort reform law which he sponsored and that has been successful in reducing lawsuits since its implementation. The law has resulted in a reduction in non-meritorious claims by 50 percent.

The bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for approval of an amendment before it is sent to the governor for his signature. It will take effect October 1, 2011, and apply to all liability actions for injuries after that date.

Legislation cracks down on the growing problem of human trafficking in Tennessee

Legislation sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) designed to attack the growing problem of child prostitution and human trafficking in Tennessee was approved Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 64 would enhance penalties against those who patronize or promote the illegal act, as well as gives law enforcement powers to impound a vehicle used in the commission of the offense.

Approval of the bill came only days after a joint operation between the FBI and the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department resulted in the arrest of nine individuals for human trafficking. According to law enforcement, the women were lured from Mexico to East Tennessee with the promise of employment, but were forced into prostitution. In November, federal authorities broke up a human trafficking ring that provided underage prostitutes involving 29 Somali men and women with ties to gangs. According to the indictment, one of the intentions of those involved was to identify, recruit and obtain girls under age 14 for prostitution. The ring operated in Nashville, Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio.

“These predators and criminal gangs target children because of their vulnerability, as well as the market demand for these young victims,” added Overbey. “That is why it is so important to strengthen penalties against those who exploit them. It is intolerable that in 2011, this crime is growing rather than decreasing. We must continue to take the steps needed to address it.”

Currently, patronizing prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor in Tennessee, unless the crimes are committed within 100 feet of a church or 1.5 miles of a school, which is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor. The legislation would make patronizing prostitution from a person who is younger than 18 years of age or has an intellectual disability a Class E felony. Penalties for promoting prostitution would be increased from a Class E to a Class D felony when a minor is involved, under the bill. Additionally, the proposal specifies that if it is determined that a person charged with prostitution is under age 18, they would be immune from prosecution for prostitution and would be released to a parent or guardian after receiving information regarding resources available to put them on the right track.

In following, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved two other bills, Senate Bill 604 and Senate Bill 605, to provide a comprehensive statewide approach to deal with the problem of human trafficking in Tennessee. The first bill sets up an Anti-humanbTrafficking Fund within the Department of Finance and Administration to provide grants to not-for-profit or tax exempt groups that provide services to the victims. The bill also expands the list of items subject to judicial forfeiture for those convicted of this crime, with funds to be partially used for this purpose. The other bill requires the posting of a Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline in places where victims are more likely to be found so they can access help earlier.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Margie Quinn told Judiciary Committee members that it is a widespread problem with 78 of the 95 counties in Tennessee reporting the presence of human sex trafficking during the last 24 months. The TBI has just completed a study of the matter. She said there is more human sex trafficking in the urban areas in Shelby County, Davidson County, Coffee County, Knox County, all which reported in excess of 100 cases of human sex trafficking in the last 24 months.

“Sixty-two of those same counties reported the presence of minor human sex trafficking,” Quinn said. “It is a significant problem when you compare it to the number of counties in 2009 that advised they had the presence of gangs in their counties. There are more counties affected by human sex trafficking than there are by the presence of gangs in our state.”

Bills passed in Committee and on the Floor of the Senate strengthen Tennessee’s sex offender laws

Several bills were approved this week with aim to strengthen Tennessee’s sex offender laws, including legislation passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee to clarify a Court may increase the sentence for rape of a child above the mandatory 25 years when appropriate. Currently, there has been confusion concerning additional punishment above the 25-year mandatory sentence for the crime. Senate Bill 755, sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), clears up any ambiguity. It spells out that rape of a child is a Class A felony and that punishment is subject to a minimum sentence of 25 years; however, the Court may increase the time when appropriate and in cases where the defendant’s prior history warrants an enhanced sentence of up to 60 years for the most egregious circumstances.

Likewise, the full Senate has approved Senate Bill 1938, sponsored by Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), which adds aggravated rape of a child and statutory rape by an authority figure to the list of offenses requiring HIV testing of the alleged perpetrator. Under present law, when a person is initially arrested for allegedly committing the offense of rape, aggravated rape, statutory rape, or rape of a child, that person must undergo HIV testing immediately. This bill specifies that testing must be performed no later than 48 hours after the presentment of the information or indictment and that it must be performed with or without the request of the victim.

The full Senate also approved Senate Bill 1051, sponsored by Senator Mike Bell (R- Riceville), which requires registered sexual offenders to notify their registering law enforcement agency before they leave the country and upon re-entering. This is the last part of the Adam Walsh Act Tennessee must pass to be in compliance with the federal law protecting children from child sexual predators. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation interacts with Interpol to notify the other country regarding the travel of an offender.

Finally, the full Senate has approved Senate Bill 1051, sponsored by Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), to ensure that convicted of sex offenders cannot contact their victim while they are in prison. The bill closes a loophole in the law which bans contact of a victim by the perpetrator upon release from prison, but does not clarify that communication cannot occur while the offender is jailed in prison.

Ballot bill would strengthen integrity of elections in Tennessee

The Legislature has approved and sent to Governor Bill Haslam legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to strengthen the integrity of elections in Tennessee. The bill requires the Coordinator of Elections to compare the statewide voter registration database with the Department of Safety’s motor vehicle database to ensure non-United States citizens are not registered to vote in this state.

“This is the result of several years of efforts for us to abide by the constitutional requirement that only citizens of this country vote in this state,” said Senator Norris. “Other states have used this system with success.”

Under Senate Bill 352, if evidence exists that a registered voter is not a citizen, the Coordinator shall notify the county election commission who will send a notice to the voter inquiring about his or her eligibility to vote. The voter will then have 30 days to provide documentation regarding their citizenship. If the voter does not provide evidence of citizenship, that person would be purged from the voter registration database. The voter may appeal to the State Election Commission if they want to challenge the decision.

The U.S. Constitution already requires citizenship to vote. In addition, federal law makes it a crime knowingly to make a false statement or claim regarding citizenship upon registering to vote.

The bill, which also passed the House of Representatives, now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature.

Minor parties — In other action, the State Senate approved legislation to make it easier for minor political parties to receive statewide recognition in order to place a slate of candidates on the ballot and hold a primary election. The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), allows for voters to sign the petition to place a minor party on the ballot, regardless of whether they proclaim to be a member of that party. It reverses over 25 years of Democrat-led resistance to allowing more statewide parties on the Tennessee ballot.

“This bill eases the current qualification requirements for minor parties to be recognized,” said Senator Norris. “It eases requirements for those signing the petition and simplifies the timeline required. This eases the burden and extends the franchise to more Tennesseans.”

Prior to passage of SB 935, Tennessee law required a minor party to gain the signatures equivalent to 2.5 percent of the total number of those voting in the most recent race for governor. The law required those signing the petition to declare their party membership. The legislation changes that so any voter may sign the petition, regardless of association with the minor party.

The bill also gives a minor party wishing to gain recognition an additional 30 days to return their petition to the State Coordinator of Elections for their slate of candidates to be placed on the ballot. Currently, a minor party’s petition must be submitted 30 days before the two major parties filing deadline. The bill allows minor parties to simultaneously submit their petition to be recognized as a party on the filing deadline set for major parties, which is the first Thursday in April.

Finally, the bill gives the State Election Coordinator’s office 30 days to verify that the 2.5 percent is a valid number for recognition. If verified, the minor party would be allowed to have a primary in August. If there are not enough valid signatures, those individuals associated with the minor party revert back to independent status, and are listed on the ballot as an independent.

“This legislation gives minor party candidates more opportunities than any time in recent state history to be placed on the ballot and properly recognized,” added Norris. “I am pleased this legislation has been approved by the House and Senate.

The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

Bill stiffens punishment against looters who take advantage of storm victims

The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a timely measure in response to reports of looting taking place following the recent storms that tore through Tennessee. Senate Bill 1095, sponsored by Senator Steve Southerland (R-Morristown), provides a new offense whereby courts may require a criminal to perform public service at a disaster site as a result of looting. The bill authorizes judges to sentence a convicted looter who takes advantage of a natural disaster, like the recent storms, to public service work in addition to any fine or other punishment assessed by the court.

“We are talking about people who are victimized twice – once by the storms and then by criminals who take advantage of an already horrible situation,” said Senator Southerland. “This is a despicable crime when looters pick through the remainder of any items not already ravaged by the storm to steal. We must take additional steps to protect families who are already hurting and should not be subjected to this kind of criminal behavior. Hopefully, it will also help the criminal see the suffering associated with their crime. At the same time, this legislation will help our communities in cleaning up in the aftermath of the storms.”

The bill applies to looting which occurs during or within 30 days of the disaster and within the area affected, if the owner is unable to properly guard his or her property due to the destruction. The legislation also says that the person who violates the law under these circumstances shall be required to perform debris removal, clean-up, restoration or other necessary physical labor at the location of the disaster for a period of not less than 30 days or more than the maximum sentence authorized for the class of theft committed.

Additional counties declared federal disaster areas — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced this week that President Obama granted a request to declare 15 Tennessee counties as federal disaster areas due to a series of severe storms, straight-line winds, flash flooding and the record flooding of the Mississippi River, beginning on April 19, 2011. Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henderson, Henry, Houston, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, Montgomery, Obion, Shelby and Stewart were added to receive assistance for record river flooding

Senate Finance Committee approves McNally Resolution asking Congress to end unfunded mandates to states

The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation, sponsored by Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), asking Congress to submit to the states for ratification an amendment to stop the practice of passing unfunded mandates and programs to the states.

“States are struggling right now,” McNally added. “We cannot continue to fund federal programs or mandates without making substantial cuts to critical programs like education. Hopefully, this resolution will send Washington a message that states need stability in budgeting, rather than more federal mandates.”

The proposed amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 118, would ban unfunded mandates, except in a situation of financial emergency as declared by a two-thirds vote of theirnmembership. It would also prohibit the federal government from authorizing state participation in federal programs or services unless funding is guaranteed by the federal government for the full duration of the programs or services. If federal funds are not appropriated for the program or service, the law enacted or regulation promulgated would become null and void.

In Brief….

DUI / Blood Alcohol Testing — Legislation has advanced in the Senate Judiciary Committee which requires the testing of a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level in cases where the driver has previously been convicted of a DUI or when there is a child present in the vehicle. Tennessee’s DUI law already requires BAC testing when there is serious bodily injury to a victim or death. Senate Bill 1270, sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), simply puts these two additional conditions into the law when testing must be performed, whether or not the driver consents. The test results may be offered into evidence, subject to the rules of evidence.

Fallen officers — The State Senate stood in a moment of silence on Thursday for the late State Trooper Andy Wall of Dickson, Tennessee who died last weekend in the line of duty. The Senate observed the passing of Trooper Wall and stood in a moment of prayer for his family at the request of State Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson).

Last week, the State Senate stood in prayer for the passing of Wartburg Police Captain, Ralph Braden, who was also killed recently in the line of duty. That recognition was done at the request of Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman). This week marks Police Week, a nationwide observance in which May 15th has been designated as Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor fallen officers.

Adventure Tourism / Rural Job Creation — The Senate Finance Committee has approved legislation to enact the Tennessee Adventure Tourism and Rural Development Act. The objective is to establish a plan for Tennessee to promote outdoor recreational opportunities in rural, high-employment areas of the state to create jobs. Senate Bill 1205, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman), would direct the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Conservation and Environment to perform a study and create a plan to promote adventure tourism and other recreational and economic development activities in rural areas.

No state income tax resolution — A “No State Income Tax” amendment resolution was approved by the Senate Finance Committee and was read on the first of three required readings before the full Senate. The proposal would clarify that an income tax and a payroll tax are prohibited by the Tennessee Constitution if voters agree to amend the Constitution in a vote in 2014. Senate Joint Resolution 221, sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Collierville) specifies that the legislature as well as Tennessee counties and cities shall be prohibited from passing either an income tax or payroll tax, which is a tax on employers measured by the wages they pay their workers. In order for a constitutional amendment to pass, it must first be approved by a simple majority in both the House and the Senate this year. Then, it must be approved by a two-thirds vote in each chamber during the next General Assembly in 2013-2014 before it goes to voters for final consideration.

Cyberbullying — Two separate bills sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), strengthening Tennessee’s law against bullying and cyberbullying through the use of electronic devices, received approval in the State Senate this week. The action comes after several highly publicized cases of cyberbullying nationwide. The first measure, Senate Bill 488, clarifies that Tennessee’s elementary and secondary school laws dealing with harassment, intimidation, bullying and cyberbullying applies to after-school activities that create a hostile educational environment. The second bill, Senate Bill 487, calls for those convicted of using electronic devices to bully to serve up to 30 hours of community service work for transmitting or displaying an offensive image where there is a reasonable expectation the victim will see it. It would apply in cases where there is a malicious intent by a juvenile to frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to the victim.

Foreign Refugees / Resettlement – The full Senate voted this week to require any entity or agency that administers the state’s refugee program to submit quarterly reports to state and local governments and appropriate legislative committees regarding certain resettlement information. Senate Bill 1670, sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy (R- Shelbyville), is designed to give city, county and state authorities information to help them plan for a variety of needs, including any demands on the education system or emergency services. Refugees are located as part of a federal government program to resettle those who have left their home country due to political or religious persecution. Last year about 1,800 refugees from 14 different countries were moved into Tennessee, with the same amount predicted this year. It does allow cities of counties to send a letter of request to the placement agency and the U.S. State Department regarding a particular resettlement within their boundaries.

Illegal Immigration / Government Benefits – The Senate State and Local Government Committee has approved Senate Bill 1325, sponsored by Senator Jack Johnson (R- Franklin), that authorizes state departments or agencies to verify the lawful status of an alien in Tennessee. Under the “Eligibility Verification for Entitlements Act,” the agency could then prohibit an unlawful alien who is an adult from receiving any “non- emergency” taxpayer-provided benefits in Tennessee.

Meth vehicles – The Senate voted 33 to 0 this week to require notice must be given on the title of a vehicle in cases where it has been impounded due to the manufacture of methamphetamines. The notification must be made within 30 days of the impoundment. Senate Bill 266, sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), applies when meth has been manufactured on or within the vehicle. Under the legislation, the Department of Revenue would be required to issue a new title denoting that it has been used in the manufacture of meth, in the same way that notification is given for flooded vehicles, so citizens have adequate notice.

Voting machines – The full Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 1203 to allow cash- strapped Tennessee counties determine whether or not to replace their voting machines under the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act. The vote came after both Democrat and Republican county mayors from across the state expressed strong support for flexibility regarding the law due to the costs to taxpayers and the fact that the machines will have to be replaced again in the next ten years to comply with new standards from Washington. Statewide, administrators estimate it would cost Tennessee taxpayers a combined $11.7 million for storage, printing and transporting the paper ballots. The bill, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman), allows counties who so choose to replace their equipment to tap into HAVA (Help America Vote Act) funds to assist them with the purchase, and relieves Tennessee taxpayers in cash-strapped counties from a mandate to purchase new voting machines immediately if they are not financially ready. More than $25 million in taxpayer dollars have been spent on purchasing DRE voting machines since 2005 which include an audit trail and have been deemed reliable by federal authorities and state courts.

Emergency Response – The Governor announced this week that the Department of Military, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment & Conservation, Department of Health (EMS), Department of Human Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Safety, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Civil Air Patrol, American Red Cross and Tennessee Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters are responding to the current flooding emergency and providing protective services to help local efforts. Heavy snow-pack melting and above average rainfall in the Midwest raised the Mississippi River to record lood levels along Tennessee’s western border at the end of April. The rising Mississippi River added to flooding already occurring in many middle and west Tennessee counties due to severe storms and tornadoes in mid-April. Additional information about state and federal assistance for affected counties will be released as details become available. For more updates regarding the state’s response, visit the TEMA website at

Revenue Collections — Tennessee revenue collections continued a very modest positive growth trend in April. Overall April revenues were $1.264 billion, which is $600,000 more than the state budgeted. Sales tax collections recorded the 13th consecutive month of positive growth dating back to April of 2010. The general fund was under collected by $6.9 million, and the four other funds were over collected by $7.5 million. Sales tax collections were $22.8 million more than the budgeted estimate for April. The April growth rate was positive 3.52%. For nine months revenues are over collected by $140.6 million. The year-to-date growth rate for nine months was positive 4.34%.

New Leader for Tennessee’s Achievement School District — The Tennessee Department of Education announced Chris Barbic, founder and chief executive officer of YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, Texas, as Superintendent of Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD). Barbic will lead the state’s groundbreaking efforts to turn around the State’s lowest performing schools in order to ensure that all Tennessee students have the chance to receive a high quality public education that will prepare them to be college and career-ready. The newly created Achievement School District was set up under the “First to the Top” legislation passed during the General Assembly’s Special Session on Education in January 2010.

Local Ordinances / Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act — The full Senate approved legislation, sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), to provide that no local government can impose on any business or person, other than its own employees, any personnel practice, definition or provision relating to discrimination that deviates from the requirements of state law. Senate Bill 632 also makes null and void any nonconforming requirements imposed prior to its effective date.