Press Releases

Alexander: Guns Could ‘Actually’ Be Confiscated Under Obama Administration Ivory Regulations

Press release from U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; July 24, 2014:

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“For those of us who are concerned that this administration is trying to take away our guns, this regulation could actually do that. If this regulation is approved, when you decide to sell a gun, a guitar or anything else across state lines that contains [legal] African elephant ivory, the government would actually take them away.” – Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2014 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) yesterday spoke on the Senate floor on legislation he has introduced that prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from prohibiting the interstate commerce of legal ivory, and products that contain legal ivory, such as firearms, musical instruments, antiques, and family heirlooms.

“For those of us who are concerned that this administration is trying to take away our guns, this regulation could actually do that,” Alexander said. “If this regulation is approved, when you decide to sell a gun, a guitar or anything else across state lines that contains [legal] African elephant ivory, the government would actually take them away – even if you inherited them or bought them at a time when the sale of ivory was not illegal.”

Alexander continued, “I support stopping poachers, and I support stopping the trade of illegal ivory. What I don’t support is treating Tennessee musicians, antique shops, and firearms sellers like illegal ivory smugglers… This legislation will stop the administration from taking away our legal guns, guitars, and other items that contain legal ivory if we try to sell them across state lines.”

Alexander introduced S. 2587, the Lawful Ivory Protection Act of 2014, in response to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s announced plan to prohibit interstate commerce of African elephant ivory as part of President Obama’s National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trade. Restricting interstate commerce of ivory would affect whether an item containing ivory can be sold across state lines within the United States, as well as whether it can legally re-enter the United States if carried abroad during travel.

Alexander’s bill would “stop this misguided policy from going forward” and prohibit the Fish and Wildlife Service from implementing any new rule, order, or standard that wasn’t in place prior to Feb. 25, 2014. Alexander also introduced this month the same proposal as an amendment to the Sportsmen’s Act (which the Senate failed to vote on).

Press Releases

Hauling Larger Hay Loads OK’d on State Roads

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture; July, 11, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced an executive order in response to drought conditions and extreme heat impacting Tennessee farmers that allows haulers of hay to carry larger loads as long as they observe other safety requirements.

The order allows for an increase in gross vehicle weight to 95,000 pounds, not exceeding 20,000 pounds per axle load, for semi-truck/trailers. The order also increases the height of trailer loads to 13 feet, 6 inches and the width to a maximum of 14 feet during daylight hours. The increase in width allows haulers to transport standard six- to seven-foot round hay bales side by side, increasing the capacity being hauled per truck without a permit.

The order is valid for 60 days and expires on September 8, 2012. A copy of Executive Order No. 14 is attached.

“What started out as a very promising year has quickly turned devastating for many farmers, who are facing a short supply of hay due to the drought,” Haslam said. “This order will help ensure that hay can be shipped safely and without delay across the state as needed.”

Tennessee is a major producer of hay, which is used to support the state’s $1.3 billion livestock industry. In 2011, Tennessee farmers produced an estimated 3.9 million tons of hay valued at more than $332 million. Hay cutting began earlier than normal this year due to the warm spring, but many farmers have reported reduced hay yields in areas where rainfall has been inadequate.

“With hay stocks low and spring cuttings below normal, many farmers are heading into the fall with less than half the hay they’ll need for the winter,” state Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “The governor’s order will help farmers move hay to where it’s needed at a time when they are already feeding hay because of dried up pastures.”

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has joined with the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation in making the 2012 Tennessee Hay Directory available to help farmers source locally produced hay. A link to the directory and to the University of Tennessee Extension’s Drought and Extreme Heat website for farmers can be found on TDA’s website:

A link to USDA’s latest Crop Progress and Condition Report for Tennessee can also be found on TDA’s website at The report is made available each Monday after 3 p.m. central time April through November.


Business and Economy Featured News

E-Verify Law Gets Mixed Reaction from Businesses

Tennesseans taking jobs in both the private and public sectors must now prove their citizenship to their new employers thanks to a new state immigration law that took effect this month.

So far, business advocates say they’ve gotten a variety of feedback from employers about the new requirements which came at the hands of a Legislature that originally sought to impose a bundle of illegal immigration reforms before settling on the new hiring regulations.

Some larger companies have opted to continue using their current system of record keeping to satisfy the new law while some small businesses have said they like the idea behind the regulation but using the E-Verify system to weed out undocumented immigrants is cumbersome.

“It’s kind of a mixture,” said Deb Woolley, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who added most businesses have had trouble navigating the electronic E-Verify system at first. “But once you got there and got familiar with it, it was pretty good. I guess it was a learning curve.”

Under the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act that kicked in Jan. 1, businesses and governments are required to either verify their new hires’ citizenship through the federal E-Verify system or maintain records like driver’s licenses or birth certificates that show the employees are lawfully in the country.

The new mandate comes in phases. Beginning this month, companies with at least 500 employees and state and local governments must either use the E-Verify system or maintain their own records.

Businesses with more than 200 employees will join those ranks beginning July 1, and small companies with more than six employees must adhere to the new requirements by Jan. 1, 2013.

The Department of Human Resources is also “strongly encouraging” all state agencies to use E-Verify in the new year instead of opting to collect employee documents, according to the department’s spokesman.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate is down to 9.1 percent but is still higher than the nation’s 8.6 percent unemployment rate.

Jim Brown, state director of the Tennessee chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, said he’s also hearing a variety of feedback from his members about the new law. But by and large, members of his organization won’t be required to follow the procedures until next year.

“We feel like when we get to 2013, we’re going to get a lot more phone calls: ‘What do we need to be doing?’” said Brown, who advocated against early versions of law as it made its way through Capitol Hill last year where it passed almost unanimously. “We’ve said all along the illegal immigration problem needs to be addressed.”

Organizations violating the new law can be fined between $500 and $2,500 for each unverified worker, depending on the number of violations the Department of Labor issues to that company.

Business and Economy Featured News Tax and Budget

Harwell Forecasts Cuts to Budget, Business Regulations in 2012

With four months to go before she gavels the House of Representatives back into session, Speaker Beth Harwell says she expects the Legislature to spend next year reining in the state budget and easing regulations on small businesses.

Earlier this week, the Haslam administration finished drafting a contingency plan of $4.5 billion in budget cuts the state could make if federal funds to Tennessee were reduced by as much as 30 percent.

“They’re never pleasant. I don’t want to see them come, but everybody’s got to step up to the plate,” said Harwell, R-Nashville. “They do give us that opportunity to take a critical look at what we’re doing with our money, with the taxpayers’ money.”

Gov. Bill Haslam will use the contingency plan to make the case to the three major credit bureaus that the state can weather federal budget reductions and should keep a high bond rating.

The plan outlines scenarios for 15 percent and 30 percent reductions in federal funding. A Congressional “super committee” is brainstorming ways to save $1.2 trillion over 10 years, with a deadline of Nov. 23.

The state’s contingency plan “will give us some idea of what we could rein back in,” Harwell said, although she added she does not have any specific cuts above and beyond the anticipated federal reductions in mind.

Hal Rounds, an active member of the Tea Party movement, says reductions are a great idea, but the state should be careful to ween itself off of current spending.

“Whenever you cut spending, somebody was getting that money, and that’s going to hurt some people,” said Rounds, who lives in Fayette County. “You can’t just assassinate what things are being spent on.”

The Legislature is also expected to focus on rolling back unnecessary or duplicative government regulations that hamper operations or the possibility of job-creation at small businesses — a recurring theme at the governor’s roundtable chats with business leaders. State officials are also expecting Congressional hearings on federal regulations to be held in Tennessee later this year.

The Haslam administration hopes to finalize a list of business regulations to target later this fall. Last week Haslam said it was too early to say what would make the list, but that he’s heard a lot of complaints about the state’s regulations on worker’s compensation.

Harwell, who leaned on the governor’s goal of making the state the best in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, said reducing regulations needs to be part of that effort.

“I think this Legislature is dedicated to reviewing what regulations we currently have in place on our small businesses to make sure that all of them are absolutely necessary,” Harwell said.

Press Releases

Ramsey Wants Obama to Oppose Internet Regulation

Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville; July 8, 2010:

(Nashville) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today urged President Obama to oppose a Federal Communications Commission plan to classify broadband as a common-carrier service, allowing much heavier regulation of the Internet. Three of the five members of the FCC, including its Chairman, are Obama appointees.

“The Internet has seen remarkable growth over the past decade, creating a transformative information medium that has dramatically changed the way Tennesseans work, live and learn,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “Driven by private enterprise and billions of dollars in private sector investment, the deployment of fast and reliable broadband networks has also created thousand of good jobs and brought economic benefits for local economies and Tennessee families.”

FCC Chairman and Obama appointee Julius Genachowski recently announced the plan to reclassify broadband from an unregulated information service to a regulated common-carriers service. The announcement comes after a U.S. Court of Appeals decision which said the FCC did not have the authority to enforce informal network neutrality principles against Comcast. Lt. Governor Ramsey’s letter to Obama outlines why the FCC should not subject the Internet to the Communications Act of 1934.

“That the FCC now seeks first-time regulations on this engine for growth and job creation is cause for great concern,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “Now is not the time to burden our economy—and the telecommunications sector in particular—with new and unnecessary federal regulations.

Lt. Governor Ramsey provided the lead signature on a recent bi-partisan letter to the FCC, signed jointly by 115 members of the Tennessee General Assembly, which strongly urged the FCC to refrain from imposing the regulations under consideration.

On the web:

Business and Economy Environment and Natural Resources Liberty and Justice News

GOP Candidates Taking on Environmental Regs, Red Tape

Tennessee’s rolling rural landscapes often seem to exemplify pastoral tranquility. But environmental protection could become a roiling political issue as the 2010 gubernatorial campaign heats up.

Global warming, mountaintop removal, water quality and stream-bank protections, they’ve all been thrown into a political firestorm in ways that will test how the next governor’s administration handles regulatory authority.

Congressman Zach Wamp, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, all Republican gubernatorial candidates, lashed out at environmental regulations in the state at a recent forum in Brentwood, and environmental activists have responded with their own criticisms of the candidates’ remarks and policy priorities.

Ramsey proclaimed the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation “out of control.” Wamp said both TDEC and the Tennessee Department of Transportation “need an overhaul.” Gibbons spoke of state-governmental red tape tying up Tennesseans trying to start new businesses.

Environmental debates have often been cast, for better or worse, as a battle between natural resource preservationists and advocates of economic growth. The Bredesen administration says that’s actually a false reflection of what Tennesseans truly “expect and deserve,” which is “clean air, land and water” and a vibrant economy made up of businesses that wish to protect those things as well.

“To suggest that environmental stewardship is at odds with recruiting business to Tennessee or the successful design and completion of transportation projects is simply out of touch with current reality,” said Tisha Calabrese-Benton, communications director for the Tennessee Deptarment of Environment and Conservation. “Our experience has been that the leading businesses in Tennessee embrace responsible environmental management within their organizations.”

But GOP candidates say they’re concerned about increasingly oppressive regulations at all levels of government, and they worry some state agencies seem more interested in taking policy cues from the feds than in developing programs and protections that seek to balance the legitimate interests of all Tennesseans.

“I frankly think Gov. Bredesen has done a very good job on a lot of things. But I think there are two agencies that are not pro-growth, and they’ve let outside influences, some of which are from Washington, go overboard,” Wamp said, referring to TDEC and TDOT.

Increasingly, the topic of environmental protection is merging with the growing national debate over to what extent states are entitled to pursue their own policy objectives, free of interference from the United States government. In political clashes over the environment, the arguments more and more are revolving around which level of government, federal or state, should be taking the lead in setting the priorities and enforcing the regulations landowners must abide by.

Wamp said he’s becoming alarmed that it seems the federal Environmental Protection Agency is “all over our state.”

“They’re fining our small growers and producers,” he said. “In dairy farming, these people can’t pay their bills, and here comes the federal government with a $15,000-$25,000 fine.”

Wamp said he has seen such issues handled in better ways in the past, and he complimented the performance of Justin Wilson, who served as TDEC commissioner in the administration of Gov. Don Sundquist. Wilson is currently the state comptroller.

“(Wilson) knew the influence the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation had, and he negotiated with the federal government,” said Wamp. “He knew how to use the arm of state government known as TDEC to keep the federal government from overregulating our state.”

Wamp suggested an ideological adjustment of the agencies’ bureaucratic attitudes is currently in order.

“We need a balance of regulation, and frankly I think TDEC has been taken over by the federal bureaucrats, based on policy, and TDOT as well,” he said. “They need new management, in both those agencies, that is sensitive to local government issues.”

County and city officials across Tennessee “will tell you TDEC and TDOT are not cooperative with local governments’ needs on approving things, (like) quickly allowing them to build roads and develop infrastructure.”

Wamp called for a fresh start at the agencies. “It is bureaucratic. It is onerous. They need a new culture at TDEC and TDOT. I don’t know the personalities. I just know we need to start over.”

Gibbons said he didn’t want to identify any individual “red tape” cases, but he perceives a widespread problem for Tennessee businesses seeking various agency approvals as “a lack of movement on things, and bureaucracy sitting on matters for months and months.”

“It’s just a slow-moving bureaucracy where you can’t get the necessary permits to move forward,” he said.

Ramsey brought up streams, including blue-line streams, which refers to streams that flow consistently and are usually designated on maps with blue lines.

“There was a time when the waters were regulated in the state of Tennessee based on what are called blue line streams. I’m a licensed surveyor. I’ve been dealing with this for 20 years,” Ramsey said.

“Now it seems like TDEC has overstepped their bounds in what they’re regulating, that if two raindrops fall together suddenly they have the right to regulate it,” he added. “We’ve got to step back and look at that. We want to protect our waters, but at the same time make sure we’re using good science when we’re doing this.”

After Ramsey’s remarks on mountaintop removal, environmentalists responded, including a Christian organization known as LEAF, for Lindquist-Environmental Appalachian Fellowship. Lindquist refers to Kathy Lindquist, an environmental activist from Knoxville who died in 2005.

LEAF calls mountaintop removal “the most radical and destructive mining method known.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center says the process involves tons of explosives where coal companies destroy mountaintops, resulting in the loss of forest habitat and destruction of streams.

Last year, coal miners in other states called for boycotting Tennessee as a tourist destination in protest of legislation aimed at banning mountaintop removal.

Press Releases

TCPR: An Idea a Day to Keep Big Government at Bay

Press release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, 12 Jan. 2010:

Forty-five legislative ideas for a prosperous Tennessee

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Center for Policy Research today made available in electronic version its most recent publication, An Idea a Day: 45 Ideas for a Prosperous Tennessee. The pamphlet offers one innovative free market idea for each remaining legislative day of the 106th General Assembly. Each idea is surmised in one brief sentence, followed by a link to original work published by TCPR on the issue.

Hardcopies of the pamphlet were provided to each member of the General Assembly last week. The electronic is now available to members and their staff as the Legislature embarks on the second session of the 106th General Assembly.

“When lawmakers look for solutions that will expand individual liberty, return taxpayers’ hard-earned money to their pockets, and reduce the size and scope of government, they now have a place to turn,” said Justin Owen, Director of Policy at TCPR. “We hope members of the General Assembly utilize this simple, concise resource as they conduct the people’s business.”

The pamphlet offers solutions in each of the following policy areas:

  • Budget
  • Education
  • Government Reform
  • Government Waste
  • Healthcare
  • Property Rights
  • Regulation
  • Taxation
  • Technology
  • Transparency
  • Transportation

The electronic version of An Idea a Day, complete with links to original TCPR work on the ideas offered, can be viewed by clicking here.

Business and Economy Liberty and Justice

State’s Regulatory Boards Don’t Handle Complaints Well, Comptroller Reports

A report released Tuesday by state auditors suggests some professional- and occupational-licensing boards aren’t doing a very good job of processing complaints filed against the business owners and service-providers they’re supposed to be overseeing.

“There are still few procedures requiring boards to document and record specific complaint information in a standardized format,” according to the performance audit (pdf) of the Division of Regulatory Boards.

The Comptroller of the Treasury’s report also noted that studies conducted in both 1999 and 2005 found similar problems. The Division of Regulatory Boards, which operates under the Department of Commerce and Insurance, has still “not developed the tools to provide themselves with the data needed to efficiently and effectively manage complaints.”

Many boards also don’t investigate license applicants for criminal histories, even though regulations require them “to be of good moral character, honest, and/or trustworthy and free of criminal convictions,” the report stated.

“We generally concur with the finding and did concur before the audit began,” said Mary Moody, deputy director of the Commerce and Insurance Department.

Nothing in the report came as a surprise to her department, Moody told the Labor and Transportation Subcommittee of the Joint Government Operations Committee on Tuesday.

A lot of the government’s problems boiled down to not having enough attorneys, Moody said.

The auditors added that “attorney workloads and board meeting frequency…may play a significant role in the timely resolution of complaints.”

“Complaint files show that boards’ administrative staff spend relatively little time on complaint intake and closure tasks. Most of the time a complaint is open occurs between the time the staff attorney receives the complaint file and when the board makes its final decision,” according to the report.

There are 11 professional regulatory boards scheduled to terminate at the end of June if the Legislature doesn’t extend their operating mandate. They included licensing-oversight authorities for auctioneers, barbers, collection agents, cosmetologists, funeral directors, security guards, land surveyors, private investigators, polygraph technicians and real estate appraisers and agents.

More than half the complaints currently under review or investigation by boards that oversee barbers (71 cases), cosmetologists (311), land surveyors (16), private investigators (45) and security guards (315), have gone unresolved for more than 180 days. The committee that oversees security guards hasn’t met since 2006, according to the audit.

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt.Juliet, who chairs the Joint Government Operations Committee, said she doesn’t foresee lawmakers refusing to reissue statutory approval for the boards this year.

However, Lynn said she’d like to see the state initiate a thoroughgoing examination of whether Tennessee’s consumers and economy might be better served in absence of some of the licensing boards and requirements.

“I’m not a fan of occupational licensure unless it directly serves to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens, since the purpose of government is to secure those rights,” said Lynn.

Last year Lynn and Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, sponsored an “Economic Civil Rights Act,” which called for eliminating any occupational board that in reality tends to function more as a protectionist barrier against new competition than as a safeguard against legitimate threats to citizens’ safety, health or rights.

“If you’re doing something that is potentially a danger to somebody else, then the state should have the power to regulate,” said Lynn. “If not, then a license requirement is often just an attempt to force people to jump through hoops. There are a lot of regulations like that which are meant for achieving good, but which really end up only hurting people economically.”

According to the free-market Tennessee Center for Policy Research, only nine other states have as strict or stricter regulatory burdens on entrepreneurs, merchants and service-sellers as the Volunteer State.

“While generally sold as a means to protect the public interest, regulations often exist merely to protect a chosen class,” wrote TCPR staffers in a statement delivered to a House committee looking into the bill last session. “This smothers competition and preserves a government-endorsed monopoly, thereby increasing the costs of goods and services to consumers. Reduced competition also makes it more difficult for consumers to receive the quality of goods and services they demand.”

Environment and Natural Resources Liberty and Justice Tax and Budget

Time to Talk About Wine Again

A joint legislative study group is set to uncork another round of discussion Tuesday on changing Tennessee law to allow wine sales in grocery stores.

Leading the committee is Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who said that just as in the group’s first hearing in late October, he’ll allot mic time to both advocates and opponents of the proposed legislation leftover from last year.

But Ketron, a supporter of the wine-in-grocery-stores bills, said he’s also asked a “neutral party” to corroborate published estimates  — challenged by some who oppose legalizing wine sales outside liquor stores — that as much or more than $17 million dollars in additional state tax revenue could be pressed annually from the private sector if grocery store wine sales were permitted.

For three years now, proponents of bringing Tennessee’s retail wine laws in line with 33 other states have been pushing the issue in the Legislature. For three years they’ve come up empty.

Largely responsible thus far for vanquishing vino drinkers’ visions of greater choice are the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, who’ve lobbied heavily against allowing supermarkets to compete in the retail wine market.

“The future of 550 independent Tennessee-owned small businesses, and their over 3,000 employees, are being threatened,” Chip Christianson, a Nashville liquor store owner and board member for the TWSRA, told the study group during its last meeting.

“How many lost jobs and lost Tennessee businesses are worth a little more convenience for a very few?” he asked.

Christianson also suggested during the hearing that grocery store employees are not reliably capable of determining if customers seeking to purchase “high-proof alcohol products” are of legal age.

One strategy Ketron and his allies are employing to try and cobble together more political support this time around is to invite some of the traditional foes of grocery store wine sales to belly up to the bargaining table.

Retail liquor store owners tend to labor under some pretty onerous restrictions themselves, said Ketron, so it’s probably time to consider reforming a whole range of the state’s three-quarters-of-a-century-old booze-business laws.

Today’s hearing will include discussions about problematic regulatory issues that hinder them as well, he said.

For example, state laws prohibits liquor stores from selling products like ice, beer and non-alcoholic drink mixers and proprietors are banned from owning more than one outlet. Ketron, who also chairs the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said he’d like to see those rules relaxed, too.

Basically, Tennessee’s business regulations that govern the sale of alcohol are antiquated and in need of updating across the board, he said.

“Many of (the laws) go back to the early 1930s, around the time Prohibition was repealed,” said Ketron. “They’ve become convoluted…and it’s basically led to the jumbled mess that we have today.”

The hearing starts this afternoon at 1:30 (agenda-pdf). Watch it online here.