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NFIB-TN Study Shows State Members ‘Wary’ of Insure Tennessee Plan

Press release from the Tennessee Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business; January 23, 2015:

NFIB/Tennessee Members Seeking More Answers about Plan Operability, Projections

State members of the National Federation of Independent Business are wary of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal according to a statewide member survey, said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB/Tennessee, the state’s leading small business association.

Sixty-five percent oppose the current proposal, 22 percent favor and 13 percent are undecided.

“Many small business owners have reservations about the proposal, as currently structured,” Brown said. “They’re concerned with more federal borrowing, how the plan will operate, likely loopholes and a lack of benchmarks. Members appreciate core principles in the governor’s plan, but most aren’t convinced yet it would operate effectively enough and believe taxpayers would be pressured to foot any cost overruns.”

Specifically, members expressed the following concerns in the survey:

  • 87 percent say not establishing measurable outcomes and tying them to any continuance of the plan is troublesome; members are suspicious of relying on continuance of federal and/or state funding.
  • 80 percent believe the General Assembly should have more authority to terminate any unsound plan.
  • 71 percent believe our existing Medicaid plan should be reformed before considering expansion.

NFIB also has engaged the administration about other concerns being expressed, including how many Tennesseans would be eligible and how many employees might switch from their current employer-sponsored insurance.

Also, some members have concerns that co-pays would be at the discretion of the provider and not required, so some or many enrollees wouldn’t necessarily have “skin in the game,” while enrollees with unpaid premiums and removed from the plan would be eligible to reenroll immediately.

“NFIB members believe the governor deserves credit for taking on an issue that impacts hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans,” said Brown, noting NFIB’s past support for programs like Cover TN that expanded insurance to the working poor.

“Medicaid spending is straining Tennessee’s budget and is nearly back to 2005 levels, which impacts other important initiatives and programs,” he said.

“We will continue to encourage federal and state leaders to fix the broken Medicaid model and keep an open mind to any developments, including negotiations between the administration and the legislature.”

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Education Featured NewsTracker

Quality of State’s Workforce Questioned

One of the messages that came out of Gov. Bill Haslam’s education summit last week was a complaint from employers that’s not entirely new: It’s hard to find good help these days.

Amid discussion about the state’s education system, a few attendees said issues preventing a labor-ready workforce ran a little deeper than what the reforms of the past few years have been getting at. In a nutshell, there’s a significant element of Volunteer State’s workforce, especially at the entry levels, that can’t do basic high school math, don’t communicate or take directions very well, have trouble passing drug tests and oftentimes exhibit a general aversion to hard work.

Greg Martz, a Tennessee Chamber of Commerce board member and plant manager at DuPont, said the problems facing employers are fairly straightforward. The younger generation, in particular, lacks “interpersonal skills,” which he in part blames on their overuse of texting and other modern phone technology. And they also tend to have trouble solving real-world problems, which he theorized might have something to do with an overemphasis in public-school classrooms on rote memorization rather than critical thinking.

Ken Gough of Accurate Machine Products in Johnson City agreed.

“Math skills are very weak, analytical skills are very weak, the ability to solve problems, very weak. Drug testing? It’s a real problem with the entire workforce,” said Gough, a voice for Tennessee’s small business community at the governor’s “Progress of the Past Present an Future” conference. “Just the understanding that they have to show up every day for work, on time and ready to go to work, those are things that quite literally have to be taught.”

He added that while some of these problems are “not primarily a school problem,” schools could help provide solutions.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, a Chattanooga Republican, said he’s heard it all before. A year ago, Gardenhire told the crowd of conference attendees, he made inquiries among representatives of Japanese-owned companies doing business in the Southeast as to what could be done to encourage the hiring of more Tennesseans.

While he had expected to hear issues with infrastructure and taxes, Gardenhire said it came to a “unanimous three things” that weren’t those at all.

“Number 1 was your workforce can’t do ninth grade math. Second, your workforce can’t pass drug tests. And third, your workforce won’t work. They don’t have a work ethic,” Gardenhire said he was told.

Gardenhire said all those are components of what he’s telling kids around Chattanooga when he goes on local motivational-speaking tours. He said he informs students that what they need to do to achieve success in life is “learn math, stay off drugs and show up on time for work.”

The invitation-only education forum was called by Haslam and the Republican speakers of the General Assembly, and featured several presentations on the reforms enacted over the past several years and discussion of the state’s education system by all of the major stakeholders in education, including lawmakers, teachers, administrators, parents and business leaders.

Haslam said that the plan was not to come out with some statement from the group at the summit, but that this was just the “beginning of a discussion” about what issues face Tennessee, how we got to where we are and what some “potential paths” are for the future of the state’s education system.

During one of the summit’s discussion periods, Randy Boyd, chairman of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, emphasized the need to focus on “talking about K to J, not K to 12,” in order to “be at the point where high school graduation equals college readiness.”

“Our alignment needs to be aligned with the workforce needs, not necessarily with anything else,” Boyd said.

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Press Releases

NFIB Picks Favorite Incumbents to Support In August Primary

Press Release from the National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee Chapter; July 6, 2012: 

NFIB Endorses Candidates in 5 Senate, 20 House Primaries

NASHVILLE, July 6, 2012 – The National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee’s leading small business association, today said it has endorsed candidates in 25 state legislative primary races. The endorsements were made by NFIB/Tennessee SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members. State primaries are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 2, with early voting beginning July 13 and ending July 28. NFIB expects to announce general election endorsements later this summer. The general election will be held Nov. 6.

“NFIB supports candidates who understand how important it is to reduce burdens on small business,” said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB/Tennessee. “These candidates have consistently supported less taxation and have worked diligently to improve our unemployment and workers’ comp systems.”

Endorsements by Senate and House Districts (NFIB members bolded)

Senate District, Name

2, Doug Overbey

14, Jim Tracy

18, Ferrell Haile

28, Joey Hensley

32, Mark Norris

House District Name

2, Tony Shipley

5, David Hawk

6, Dale Ford

8, Art Swann

10, Don Miller

11, Jeremy Faison

12, Richard Montgomery

20, Bob Ramsey

22, Eric Watson

24, Kevin Brooks

27, Richard Floyd

31, Jim Cobb

45, Debra Maggart

48, Joe Carr

61, Charles Sargent

66, Joshua Evans

71, Vance Dennis

90, John DeBerry

96, Steve McManus

99, Ron Lollar

NFIB’s endorsement is critical to these campaigns. Small business owners and their employees vote in high numbers and are known for actively recruiting friends, family members and acquaintances to go to the polls. NFIB has pledged it will activate its grassroots network on behalf of these campaigns. NFIB’s political support is based on the candidates’ positions and records on small business issues.

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Featured NewsTracker

Ramsey Rolls Out ‘Red Tape’ Website

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey said he hopes to create a “megaphone” for Tennessee small businesses by launching a website that will give them a place to air their grievances with state government.

He says the site, TNRedTape.com, which stands for “Ridiculous Employee Decisions That Affect People Every Day” will collect complaints about dealing with Tennessee government bureaucracy.

“Tell me how government red tape has affected your life. I’ll help you cut it,” Ramsey said via Twitter moments after he announced the website Monday in a press conference at Capitol Hill.

His staff will manage the website and chase down submitted complaints, such as problems applying for a business license, and try to rectify the problems.

Ramsey, who is titled the “chief red tape cutter” on the website, doesn’t know how much maintaining the website and following up on complaints will cost the state of Tennessee, he said. But “this will be best money that has ever been spent in the state of Tennessee” if they ease headaches for small businesses.

The site was applauded by representatives from the National Federation of Independent Business and the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a free-market think tank.

“The regulatory environment in our country and in our state is crushing free enterprise and job creation,” said Jim Brown, state director of the NFIB.. “A lot of folks have been talking about jobs bills. Where’s the jobs bills? And, in our minds, this is part of a jobs bill.”