Government Relations

The Governmental Relations Council educates the community about The Chamber’s views regarding political issues affecting business through local and state legislation and Congressional action.

JOHNSON CITY-JONESBOROUGH-WASHINGTON COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

POSITIONS ON STATE LEGISLATIVE ISSUES & CONCERNS

Education

  • Public Education:  The Chamber recognizes the importance of public education to the well-being of our community, and we support and will promote quality education, adequate funding for K-12, teacher’s salaries, and early childhood development programs.
  • Out of State Tuition:  We encourage the passage of legislation which will enable any person from a bordering out of state county to attend any state college or university without paying out of state tuition.  The impact on revenue will be more than offset by the dollars these folks spend in our communities.
  • Teacher Compensation:  We encourage equitable pay for teachers based on performance, results, and accountability with a fair formula for all school districts.
  • State Lottery Scholarship:  We support the implementation of the State Lottery, encouraging an increase in the percentage of high school graduates’ participation and retention of adequate funds for the program; inclusion of non-traditional students; first year students can apply with GPA 2.75
  • Higher Education:  We support adequate funding for higher education to ensure that Tennessee remains competitive, as well as meets, the demands from the implementation of the State Lottery Scholarship program.
  • BEP (Basic Education Plan):  We encourage a rethinking of the formula, to ensure equity in funding and reward communities who are willing to fund their fair share.
  • Tennessee Diploma Project:   We encourage alignment of high school standards with post-secondary and workplace expectations, requirement of a college and work ready curriculum, revised tests students take to serve as readiness tests for college and 21st Century jobs and hold high schools/post secondary institutions accountable for student success.

Technology

  • Technology:  We support the continued development and improvement of the technology infrastructure in the region and state.

Transportation

  • Transportation:  We encourage the state to provide sufficient funding to meet the identified need of Tennessee’s transportation system, including an increase in revenue.  We encourage the state to replace the $280 million dollars of lost state funds due to raids on the highway trust fund.

Taxation

  • Property Taxes:  We support a program which would update the value of real property at an interval applicable to all property for tax purposes.  Such a program would enhance fairness among all taxpayers, a few of which are currently subject to an annual re-determination of value.
  • Room Tax:  We are opposed to the imposition of a state-imposed room tax (transit lodging tax), but support allowing localities the option if they deem necessary for the purpose of promoting tourism.
  • Taxation:  We oppose narrow business taxes which impose excessive burdens on specific industries.  If there is conclusive evidence of the need for additional taxes, we urge the state to consider broad-based taxes paid by all facets of the economy – business and individual.
  • Fair Share Business Tax:  Oppose.
  • Streamlined Sales Tax:  We suggest a delay in the implementation of program until a moratorium on internet sales is lifted.
  • State Shared Taxes:  We ask that the restoration of state shared taxes begin in the upcoming budget.
  • FONCE:  We oppose the current proposal Dept. of Revenue Tax Reconciliation bill since if appears to be a “tax” instead of closing a loop hole; many associations oppose this as is currently drafted.

Welfare

  • Welfare:  Positive incentives to remove welfare recipients from tax supported programs should be encouraged.
  • TennCare:  We support quality and affordable health care for eligible Tennessee residents.  We encourage the public accounting of managed care entities who administer this program.  We want to sustain a high level of awareness of the impact this program has on those who deliver health care; i.e. pharmacists, mental health agencies, hospitals, physicians, etc.

Insurance

  • Health Care Costs (2005):  We request the continued study and resolution of rising health care costs and the resulting impact on business.
  • Health Care Costs (2006):  We note, with a sense of urgency, the need for continued study and resolution of the ongoing crisis of rising health care costs and the resulting impact on business.
  • Insurance:  We encourage the State to determine how to provide health services for the uninsured and uninsurable residents.

Human Resources

  • Collective Bargaining:  We do not believe it is in the public interest for government employees to strike or to bargain collectively with a municipality, county, or state.  If such legislation is passed, then the statutes should be permissive rather than mandatory.
  • Right To Work:  We strongly support the individual’s right to work in an unrestricted manner.  Section 14(B) of the Taft-Hartley Law is supported, and any effort to change the law is opposed.
  • Employment Relations:  “Strikers” receiving any form of governmental assistance is opposed.  The use of taxpayers’ monies to subsidize strikes is in opposition to public policy, and is a misuse of public funds.
  • Mandated Benefits:  We oppose legislation that mandates that employers provide benefit plans/programs for their employees.  Mandatory programs will have negative impacts on business performance.  We believe that pay and benefit decisions should be left to individual companies based on their economic situation and their labor market.
  • Strikers Replacement:  We oppose legislation prohibiting permanent replacement workers being hired in the event of a strike.
  • Minimum Wage:  State minimum wage laws which exceed the Federal minimum wage laws are opposed.
  • Unemployment Compensation:  During periods of relatively high unemployment, we urge the state to avoid any further liberalization in the weekly benefit payment schedule length of time or eligibility formula which will lead to early depletion of the reserve fund.
  • Workers Compensation:  We support the continued monitoring of this legislation ensuring that Tennessee remains competitive in the economic development area.  We encourage continued reform until there is a well-defined and fair system in place.

Government Operations

  • Conflict of Interest:  The recognition of conflict of interest situations should be the responsibility of individuals who serve in public office.  Legislation dealing with conflict of interest issues should be limited only to definition.
  • Political Action Committees:  We support corporate political action committee contributions to candidates for state and local offices.  We believe that it is important for employees of corporations to be able to contribute to a committee which in turn can support business oriented candidates.  Labor Union and trade Association PACs are already legally making contributions to state and local candidates.
  • Ethics:  We encourage the Legislature to approach the issue of Ethics with reason and logic, recognizing the balance between business’ right to have confidential relationships and citizens’ right to information.
  • Open Meetings Law:  We support the Open Meetings “Sunshine Law” in order that all issues coming before governing bodies and other public entities will be addressed with the full knowledge of the public.

Consumer

  • Consumer Protection:  The right of an individual to bring action in court is fundamental in our American way of life.  However, reasonable product, malpractice and tort liability limits should be imposed.
  • Tort Reform:  We support medical malpractice tort reform at the local, state, and federal level.

Courts

  • Juvenile Court:  We support the statewide unification of the juvenile courts in Tennessee.  We believe the care and protection of the child coming into the court system is the ultimate goal of the court, and that this goal can best be met in a system that has common and established controls, uniformity in records and dispositions, a high degree of confidentiality, and fairness in sentencing.
  • Cost of Incarceration:  We support legislation which would require prisoners to share in the cost of their incarceration.  This burden should not fall exclusively on the taxpayer.

Environmental

  • Energy (state):  We are opposed to regulation of prices of energy sources when a free market with competitive sources should determine such pricing.  Rationing or allocation of energy sources is opposed except in a national emergency.
  • Environmental Policy:  We support the adoption of reasonable standards which protect the environment and foster business and industrial growth.  We believe regulatory authority should rest with the state, unless it causes redundancy and overlaps with federal authority.
  • Energy (federal):  We support the development of an energy policy that complements the U.S. Chamber of Commerce federal energy policy initiative.
  • Litter:  We support a litter reduction program which emphasizes the use of the free enterprise system to provide for a cleaner environment.  We strongly support all forms of educational programs to reduce litter.

State / Local

  • States Rights:  Wherever possible legislation is supported which will replace federal control with state regulation and control.
  • Unfunded Mandates:  We support legislation to eliminate passage of statewide unfunded mandates without a balanced cost/risk assessment being made.
  • Eminent Domain:  We oppose any bill that makes it difficult to exercise Eminent Domain or that slows down the ability of local governments to condemn property for public projects.

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