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Press Releases

GOP Lawmakers Propose New Gov’t Office Charged with Shrinking Gov’t

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; February 5, 2013:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) – Representative Glen Casada (R-Franklin) and Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) today unveiled a new measure aimed at cutting the size of Tennessee government. The initiative, referred to as the Office of the Repealer, follows through on a Republican promise to streamline state government, save taxpayer dollars, and make the legislative process more transparent to the general public.

The Office of the Repealer will be a one-time, four-year position with the sole responsibility of making recommendations to the legislature in areas of government waste, duplication, and out-of-date regulations that should be removed from the law books.

In addition, the Office of the Repealer will take recommendations directly from the public, basing its decisions on input received from business-owners, educators, activists, and concerned citizens from across the state.

“While Washington is out of control, Tennessee is getting it right. We understand that the less laws we have on the books that regulate the lives of Tennesseans, the better,” said Rep. Casada. “While others around the country have simply talked about cutting the size of government, this program is guaranteed to achieve that goal.”

The Office of the Repealer will be housed under the Secretary of State and will be implemented using funding previously approved for a now obsolete staff position, thus costing no additional money to Tennessee taxpayers.

“Reducing the size of government is the cornerstone of the Republican Party platform and I am excited to see this program come to life,” continued Senator Johnson. “As promised, Republicans in our state are committed to cutting government waste, increasing legislative transparency, and putting more hard-earned money back in the pockets of all Tennesseans.”

Glen Casada serves as Chairman of the Tennessee House Republican Caucus. Jack Johnson serves as Chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Both legislators represent Williamson County in the Tennessee General Assembly.

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NewsTracker Tax and Budget

TDOT Taking ‘Ford Fiesta’ Approach to Road Projects

Tennessee transportation officials say they want to put more emphasis on improving existing roadways, rather than building new projects that entail costly land acquisition and environmental reviews.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said during a state budget hearing Wednesday that an agency focus on “right-sizing” will save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.

“We’re going to the very beginning and saying, OK, what’s the minimum we can do to fix this project?” Schroer said. “And it might not be ‘A,’ it might not be ‘B,’ it might be ‘C,’ but before we just go all the way to ‘X’ and say that’s what we’re going to build and everybody’s happy so we build a Cadillac, we might be building a Ford Fiesta.”

Schroer said the department is proposing to increase its budget next year by $61.4 million, based on increased federal funding, which makes up more than half the agency’s budget. State funding is projected to decrease, he said. The department’s projected budget for fiscal year 2014 is $1.8 billion.

The public can view state budget hearings, which continue next week, at TN.gov.

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Press Releases

Transparency in Tennessee: Assessing the 107th General Assembly

Commentary by Kent Flanagan, Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, May 3, 2012:

Secrecy seemed to be a common thread running through the session of the Tennessee Legislature that ended May 1. The latest “secret” revealed is that key members of the Legislature met on April 23 at a Nashville restaurant of the session to work out deals on amendments to the governor’s $34.1 billion state budget proposal.

The secret session was revealed in an Associated Press story filed the following day. No one in the Legislature or the governor’s office seemed upset that the meeting was held or revealed in news stories. But a representative of Gov. Bill Haslam did take care to note that no one from the governor’s office participated in the weekend meeting.

Tennessee political reporters and observer s know that this happens near the end of every legislative session in Tennessee. And it’s the reason the State Integrity Investigation, a national project to determine the potential for corruption in all 50 states, gave Tennessee a score of 0 out of a possible 100 on whether the “state budgetary process is conducted in a transparent manner.”

“There have been secret meetings, I’m not going to deny,” House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick told the AP. “There’s been a lot of secrecy for 200 years. I don’t think it’s any worse than it’s always been.”

Despite a flare-up between Senate and House members over so-called pork barrel projects and efforts by the minority Democrats, the budget passed largely as hammered out during that weekend meeting.

Over all, State Integrity gave Tennessee a C+ for receiving 79 points out of 100 for the transparency of its budgeting process even with that big fat 0.

Secrecy was the major sticking point in another bill presented by Gov. Haslam’s Department of Economic and Community Development, which wants to give incentive grants to private companies to bring jobs to the state. In order to perform the department’s due diligence in checking out privately held companies, the state wanted to keep confidential the companies’ identity and all proprietary information. The administration and legislators were unable to reach agreement on confidentiality and the measure did not pass.

On the other hand, public teacher evaluation scores, under a new system developed last year, will remain confidential under legislation negotiated between the governor and Legislature with the Tennessee Education Association.

The bill to amend the public records act was passed quickly and with little fanfare through the use of a “caption” bill, which was passed largely unnoticed in a Senate committee before open government activists had a chance to oppose it. The only relevant element on the caption bill was the reference to “public records” before the rest of the caption was rewritten to keep teacher evaluation scores secret.

Still another bill brought by the administration would keep secret the names of all applicants for the top job at Tennessee’s universities and colleges except for the finalists. The amended bill called for finalists’ names to be announced at least 15 days before the appointment is made and required that officials publicly name at least three finalists for each post.

To find out more about issues of transparency in Tennessee, visit the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

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Press Releases

State Government Offering $2,500 Electric Vehicle-Purchase Subsidies

State of Tennessee Press Release, September 8, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today announced the state of Tennessee, through its participation in the national Electric Vehicle (EV) Project, will offer a $2,500 rebate on the first 1,000 electric vehicles purchased in Tennessee. The state rebate will complement a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for the purchase of electric vehicles.

“We’ve worked hard in Tennessee to become a leader in driving clean energy solutions and creating clean energy jobs,” Bredesen said. “We’re already seeing additional jobs being created as a result of those efforts, and our participation in the Electric Vehicle project is another indication that Tennessee is leading the way to the future of clean energy and alternative fuels.”

The Governor announced the rebate program today during a lunch time address in Nashville at the TVA Fuel Solutions Forum, which focused on using electricity as a transportation fuel.

Tennessee is one of six states and the District of Columbia selected to participate in the EV project, which is funded through a $100 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The EV project is the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in U.S. history.

The $2.5 million in state funding for the rebate program was approved in last year’s state budget and draws from the petroleum violation escrow (PVE) account, which are funds collected by the federal government from oil companies. PVE dollars can only be used for approved energy-related activities.

The rebate program will be administered by the Department of Revenue, which will offer the rebate to consumers through Nissan’s network of automotive dealerships in Tennessee. The rebate will be applied at the time the vehicle is purchased.

In May of this year, Bredesen joined Nissan officials in breaking ground for the 1.3 million square foot facility that will produce the lithium-ion batteries that will power the Nissan LEAF, an all-electric vehicle that produces no emissions. The battery facility is expected to create 1,300 additional jobs in Smyrna. The Nissan LEAF will also be manufactured in Smyrna and will begin rolling off the production lines in late 2012.

Consumers interested in purchasing the Nissan LEAF can learn more about the registration process by visiting www.nissanusa.com.