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Tort Reform Law a ‘Tremendous Victory,’ But ‘More to be Done’: TCPR

Press Release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, June 16, 2011:

Lawsuit Abuse Reform Arrives in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, TN – Today Governor Haslam signed the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011. This is a successful first step in one of many necessary to make Tennessee competitive for new jobs, says Justin Owen, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR), a key organization that led the grassroots charge to pass lawsuit abuse reform this legislative session.

“We’re glad that the governor and legislative leadership recognized the importance of making our state more business friendly to attract more jobs, and we’re pleased that lawmakers passed the bill,” said Owen. “Over the next several months, we will be researching how we can build on this significant first step to make Tennessee the number one choice for employers to locate and expand, without offering inconsistent and costly taxpayer handouts.”

Recent government statistics show that Tennessee’s unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, which is higher than the national rate. Unemployment rates range by county from the lowest at 6.6 to the highest at 22.1 percent. With more than 60 of the state’s 95 counties having double-digit unemployment numbers, Owen said lawmakers need to continue to focus on ways to add jobs.

“There has never been a more important time to make job creation our top priority,” said Owen. “While the foundation has been laid for a more predictable and balanced civil justice system that’s critical to quality employers, we want to strengthen that foundation because all states are competing for the same jobs. This is a tremendous victory, yet there is more to be done.”

Owen acknowledged the role that TCPR and its volunteers played in passing lawsuit abuse reform. “First and foremost, our mission is to educate our fellow citizens, and we believe we successfully did that with our campaign to bring about lawsuit abuse reform. We could not have done this without the countless number of people and supporters who tirelessly worked to help us educate, inform and communicate with Tennesseans about the importance of this issue. We also thank the many other individuals and groups that worked to make this job-creating reform a reality.”

Effective October 1, 2011, the Tennessee Civil Justice Act includes several key components that are designed to boost the state’s economy while ensuring that Tennesseans have fair and open access to civil courts. Among the law’s key components are:

  • There is no cap on economic damages such as medical bills, lost wages, job loss, property damage, and rehabilitation costs as a result of a tort action. These damages are considered measurable, provable and objectively quantifiable.
  • Subjective, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, inconvenience, or humiliation, are capped at $750,000 cap per occurrence for medical liability actions and per plaintiff for non-medical actions.
  • There are higher caps in place for catastrophic events such as spinal cord injuries, extensive burn injuries, intent to injure and other specific circumstances.
  • Punitive damages are capped at the greater of $500,000 or twice all other damages. The caps do not apply to specific circumstances such as intent to harm.
  • Unless directly involved in the design and/or manufacturing of a product, sellers are no longer liable for punitive damages.
  • Unless the manufacturer withheld or omitted regulatory information, manufacturers are no longer liable for punitive damages as long as they were in regulatory compliance.

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan think tank committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee. Through research and advocacy, TCPR promotes policy solutions grounded in the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. For more information, visit www.tennesseepolicy.org .

Passage of Haslam’s Tort Reform Means More Jobs, Fewer Lawsuits: TCPR

Press Release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, May 12, 2011:

Lawmakers Agree: Tennessee Needs More Jobs, Not More Lawsuits

NASHVILLE, TN – With bipartisan support, the 107th Tennessee General Assembly agreed that the Volunteer State needs more jobs, not more lawsuits, by passing the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011.

The House voted 72-24 on Monday to pass the bill, and the Senate passed it this morning by a 21-12 vote. Governor Haslam is expected to sign the bill in the coming days, making the law effective October 1, 2011.

“Tennesseans spoke loud and clear to lawmakers that they were more interested in jobs than the status quo and an unpredictable civil justice system,” said Justin Owen, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, the organization that led the grassroots effort for change. “This reform allows for a much more balanced and just system, and one that attracts quality employers with much needed and competitively-paying jobs. The beneficiaries of reform include local economies, under and unemployed Tennesseans, uninsured families, communities underserved by doctors, and the list goes on. We applaud the Legislature for doing what’s right for Tennesseans.”

Highlights of the bill include:

  • There is no cap on economic damages such as medical bills, lost wages, job loss, property damage, and rehabilitation costs as a result of a tort action. These damages are considered measurable, provable and objectively quantifiable.
  • Subjective, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, inconvenience, or humiliation, are capped at $750,000 cap per occurrence for medical liability actions and per plaintiff for non-medical actions.
  • There are higher caps in place for catastrophic events such as spinal cord injuries, extensive burn injuries, intent to injure and other specific circumstances.
  • Punitive damages are capped at the greater of $500,000 or twice all other damages.
  • Unless directly involved in the design and/or manufacturing of a product, sellers are no longer liable for punitive damages.
  • Unless the manufacturer withheld or omitted regulatory information, manufacturers are no longer liable for punitive damages as long as they were in regulatory compliance.

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan think tank committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee. Through research and advocacy, the Center promotes policy solutions grounded in the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. For more information, visit www.tennesseepolicy.org.

TCPR Appreciative of Speaker Harwell Rescuing House Collective Bargaining Bill

Statement from Justin Owen, President of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, March 30, 2011:

This morning, the House Finance Subcommittee voted 7-6 to pass HB130, the bill to limit collective bargaining by teachers’ unions. Speaker Beth Harwell used her prerogative to cast the tie-breaking vote, keeping the measure alive. Tennessee Center for Policy Research president Justin Owen issued the following statement on the issue, which has received a tremendous amount of attention in the past few weeks.

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research has worked since its founding in 2004 to bring about meaningful education reforms in this state that will give parents a seat at the table and children a chance to succeed. As a part of those efforts, since 2009, we have called upon the Tennessee General Assembly to reform our state’s system of teacher collective bargaining, allowing teachers to be paid based on their performance and skills like the professionals they are.

We are therefore grateful for Speaker Beth Harwell’s leadership today in voting to send HB130 to the full House Finance Committee, which ensures that the important discussion of placing limits on collective bargaining continues. But for Speaker Harwell’s tie-breaking vote, we would be talking about the collective bargaining bill that died on the operating table. Fortunately, we still have the opportunity to return control to individual teachers by limiting the teachers union’s ability to stake its claim as the monopoly negotiator in school districts across our state.

This is a very important issue for anyone interested in bucking the status quo that has failed our teachers, our parents, our taxpayers, and most importantly our children, for decades. Collective bargaining is the main weapon used by teachers’ unions to thwart meaningful education reforms in our state. The Tennessee Education Association—the chief lobbying and political arm of the teachers’ unions—has consistently stood in the way of improving our education system.

The TEA has frequently urged lawmakers to press for more “parental involvement” in education. Yet, when a parental choice scholarship bill was proposed just last year to allow parents to choose where to send their children to school, the TEA characterized such measures as “destroying public education,” further attacking school choice advocates like Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, saying they “would be perfectly happy to turn public schools over to some corporation and just let them run them.” This empty rhetoric in defense of the failed status quo has become all too common with the teachers’ unions.

But don’t think the unions oppose every cause on Capitol Hill. While they are always on the wrong side of effective education reforms, the unions believe strongly in other things, such as imposing a state income tax on Tennesseans, a measure they supported during the income tax battle a few years ago. Rather than spend their members’ hard-earned dues on improving education for both teachers and students, they are wasting these resources on a radical political agenda that the vast majority of Tennesseans diametrically oppose.

Our education system is in desperate need of reform, and the collective bargaining legislation voted out of subcommittee today will pave the way for reforms that benefit our teachers, our parents, our taxpayers, and above all, our children. Meaningful education reform should not be left to the whim of one political organization more interested in its own posterity than that of Tennessee’s children.

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research applauds those, including Speaker Harwell, for keeping the education reform dialogue open with their votes today.

– Justin Owen, TCPR President

Ramsey Launches Website Highlighting Government ‘Red Tape’

Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, March 28, 2011:

(Nashville) – Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today introduced TNRedtape.com, a new website dedicated to shining a light on unnecessary government regulation.

TNRedtape.com’s mission is to be a space on the web where regular Tennesseans can have a voice and seek relief from oppressive government red tape. The site offers the opportunity to small business owners to tell their story of overbearing government regulation and how it has affected their lives.

“The best thing that government can do to promote economic growth is stay out of the way of people who create jobs,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. “This website is designed to help highlight and expose the barriers government puts in the way of entrepreneurs trying to put people to work.”

Lt. Gov. Ramsey was joined at the unveiling by the National Federation of Independent Business’ state director, Jim Brown, Justin Owen, President of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research and Josh Helton, Small Business Advocate for the Office of the Comptroller.

The most flagrant examples of government red tape will be highlighted on the TNRedtape.com blog and the site will also aggregate stories of government red tape in the news.

Lt. Gov. Ramsey is a leading voice for economic growth in Tennessee state government. Ramsey believes government must do all it can to stay out of way of entrepreneurs who wish to create jobs.

URL: http://www.tnredtape.com/

TCPR: Tort Reform Means ‘More Jobs, Fewer Lawsuits’

Press Release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, March 24, 2011:

Balance, Predictability Recurring Themes of Lawsuit Abuse Reform Hearing

NASHVILLE, TN – A prevailing theme of predictability and balance seemed to repeat itself during the first public hearing on Governor Haslam’s lawsuit abuse reform package held on Wednesday by the House Judiciary Subcommittee.

While no vote was taken, a packed room that spilled into the hallways of Legislative Plaza indicated strong interest for and against reform in Tennessee’s civil justice system. A significant majority of those in attendance were sporting “More Jobs, Fewer Lawsuits” stickers in favor of reform. From lawyers to business professionals to actors, at least a dozen spoke on the topic.

“The reality is that government is unable to create jobs,” said Herbert Slatery, legal counsel to the Governor, in his opening statement. “However, we can foster an environment to attract new businesses to Tennessee. We know that decision makers for locations, expansions and investments consider factors like taxes, site suitability and risk of litigation.”

Among the highlights of Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011 were:

  • Dozens of counties in Tennessee suffer from high unemployment rates from 15 to 23%.
  • Tennessee has steadily fallen down the list of “good” states in which to do business – from 10 to 22.
  • Compensatory damages are designed to make the plaintiff whole. There are no proposed caps for economic damages; there is a proposed $750,000 per injury for non-economic damages, which are competitive with neighboring states.
  • Punitive damages are to punish and deter; the legislation also proposes a cap on these damages.

Several businesses owners testified at the hearing, including service providers and a construction official whose industry is currently experiencing 22% unemployment rates. All agreed that the purpose of lawsuit abuse reform is to provide greater predictability in the civil justice system and quantification of risk, which will in turn lead to job growth throughout the state.

Former State Sen. Charlie Ross of Mississippi gave a before-and-after look of lawsuit abuse reform in his state, which he argued was the “salvation of the medical community” and led to more job and economic growth, while still preserving citizens’ access to the civil justice system.

Before lawsuit abuse reform:

  • Medical malpractice rates were increasing 25% a year.
  • Businesses were crossing state lines to relocate.
  • No large employers were considering Mississippi as a place to do business.

After lawsuit abuse reform:

  • Medical malpractice rates were 60% less than the exorbitant rates of 2004.
  • Property/casualty rates decreased.
  • Physicians started relocating to the state.
  • Toyota was among several giant employers that considered the state for manufacturing locations.

Sen. Ross concluded by urging Tennessee lawmakers to enact reform before Tennessee becomes a judicial hellhole like his state, saying that “Mississippi waited until the house was burning before calling the fire department.”

“We were very pleased with this first hearing. As we’ve said from the beginning, our goal is to educate Tennesseans about the need for and benefits of lawsuit abuse reform, and nearly everyone agreed that a balanced and fair system would be best for our state,” said Justin Owen, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee is expected to vote on the governor’s legislation next Wednesday, March 30.

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan think tank committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee. Through research and advocacy, the Center promotes policy solutions grounded in the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. For more information, visit www.tennesseepolicy.org .

TCPR Ranks Cities for Business Friendliness

Press Release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, Nov. 22, 2010:

Report scores business climate of Tennessee’s 50 most populous cities

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) today released its annual rankings detailing the business climate in the state’s 50 most populous cities. The report, How Business-Friendly Are Tennessee’s Cities? (pdf), ranks each city in three categories that reflect a commitment to encouraging business success and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit.

Based on its overall score, Mt. Juliet is Tennessee’s Most Business-Friendly City in 2010. The city’s high ranking results from its significant population growth and low tax burden, including the fact that it lacks a local property tax.

“In recent years, Mt. Juliet has shown an unmatched commitment to creating an economic climate that is both welcoming to new business and nourishing to existing enterprise,” said TCPR president Justin Owen. “The city’s inviting tax and regulatory policy has paid off, leading it to the top of the business-friendly rankings in 2010.”

Farragut, Brentwood, Spring Hill, and Franklin round out the top five. The state’s least business-friendly cities include Memphis, Dyersburg, Tullahoma, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge.

The three main categories for this year’s rankings are: Economic Vitality, Business Tax Burden, and Community Allure. Each category is comprised of a number of factors, including property and sales tax rates, job and population growth, median per capita income, cost of living, crime rates, high school graduation rates, and ACT scores.

TCPR culled data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Tennessee Department of Education, the state Comptroller of the Treasury, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among other sources. Each city was then ranked on a 100-point scale, indicating its friendliness to business.

“These rankings represent a reflection of certain cities’ commitment to creating a business-friendly climate free of stifling taxes and restrictive regulatory burdens,” Owen said. “We encourage all Tennessee communities to follow the lead of the cities with the most inviting business environment.”

The full report can be viewed online at www.tennesseepolicy.org or downloaded in PDF format by clicking here.

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan research organization committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee by advancing free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.

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