Upon hearing hearing that two out of three Tennesseans favor the governor’s Insure Tennessee plan in a recent survey, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey turned to his spokesman and asked a question.
“Did you pull that out of the trash can yet?” he said, followed by a laugh.
Ramsey, arguably the most powerful Republican in state government, said he gives little credence to poll results released Wednesday by Vanderbilt University showing that people favor the governor’s embattled plan nearly by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, want an expansion of health care coverage and want the full legislature to vote on it. Vanderbilt is "notoriously wrong in their polling," Ramsey told reporters.
“All I know is I want to try to create the best policy for the state of Tennessee and I’m not going to do it literally based on polling. And I do think there’s all kinds of problems with the basic structure of Obamacare,” said Ramsey, who once straddled the line for support of the governor’s plan before the measure barreled toward two rejections in Senate committees this year.
“I think what we need is to wait until 2016, and I mean this, and we’ll have a Republican-elected president, I hope, and give us a block grant and let us design this to where we aren’t just addressing the 100 percent poverty, the 133 [percent],” he said after a meeting of the State Building Commission Wednesday. “We’re addressing everybody. Everybody should have to pay co-payments, everybody should have to pay deductibles, not just that little group right there and I don’t want to have my hands tied when that time comes. I just think that’s bad policy.”
Insure Tennessee is the governor’s state-specific proposal to expand Medicaid in order to close a coverage gap of people who make less 138 percent of the federal poverty level but don’t currently qualify for TennCare.
In addition to the 64 percent of people surveyed who said they support Insure Tennessee, 78 percent of respondents said the full legislature should vote on the measure. It failed twice this year in legislative committees.
“That wouldn’t have mattered… There was no way it had 17 votes, period,” said Ramsey about the votes needed in the Senate, adding that anyone who was eager to vote on the proposal did in committee.
House Speaker Beth Harwell, who also sits on the State Building Commission, took a phone call after the meeting and did not take questions from media. She was unavailable later in the afternoon, according to her staff.
State Sen. Brian Kelsey is introducing a measure allowing workers to opt out of the mandated post-six-hour meal break.
Meal breaks are under attack in Tennessee. Last week, Sen. Brian Kelsey introduced a measure that would allow hourly employees to surrender their right to a 30-minute unpaid meal break — something now required under state law after an employee works six straight hours.
Employee activists and labor attorneys consider the proposed law, which is sure to pass the Republican supermajority in both chambers, a disappointing setback for workers’ rights and one that will likely stoke additional friction between workforces and employers.
Two years ago, meal-break laws changed in Tennessee for people who work in the restaurant industry in the same way. For servers and others whose hourly wage includes tips, 30-minute unpaid meal breaks can now be waived. Kelsey’s bill attempts to make this the norm for all workers on the clock.
The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Robertson County Chamber of Commerce have agreed to let members of the latter take part in the regional state government advocacy structure set up by the former. The deal builds on a similar partnership with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce that was launched last year.
Robertson County Chamber members will have access to Middle Tennessee Business Voice, an online legislative issues tracking tool run by the Nashville chamber. Robertson businesses also will be able to take part in an annual policy survey that helps shape the Nashville chamber’s legislative agenda.
“Robertson County Chamber members will now be able to stay informed of business-related legislative issues and will have a quick and easy way to communicate with elected officials about policy decisions that could impact their bottom line,” said Robertson County Chamber President and Chief Economic Development Officer Margot Fosnes. “We are excited to be joining the Nashville Area Chamber and Rutherford County Chamber in expanding the region’s business advocacy efforts.”
Combined, the three chambers will represent 4,175 companies on Capitol Hill.
The recently passed rules governing the marketing activities of companies seeking outside investment have the potential to seriously hurt angel investing, says the largest trade group representing angels. According to the Angel Capital Association, the process of accrediting investors will infringe on angels' privacy.
“Not a single angel I have spoken with is willing to provide personal financial information to an issuer who is asking them for investment. This violation of privacy is untenable, especially for the angels who do multiple deals a year. If an issuer has information on total net worth or income of an investor, that provides vast information asymmetry. This would be like having your bank demand to know your net worth before you could open a bank account to put money in, or the stock market demanding to know your net income before you can trade securities.”
The Tennessee chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business has outlined all the bills the Tennessee State Legislature will review this session and that could potentially impact small businesses. It's a lengthy list worth perusing. Check it here.
We're catching up a bit to this note but thought it was interesting to pass along. Remember two years ago when we were all talking about Amazon's is-it-or-isn't-it nexus and rifling through the fine points of Quill v. North Dakota? The tax team at Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz says Department of Revenue officials could be moving to clear up some of the confusion: Part of a recent Court of Appeals ruling cites a New Jersey case that links the licensing of intellectual property to the creation of a nexus.
Speaker Harwell wants some of the House rules changed.
Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) today announced she is recommending changes to the Tennessee House of Representatives internal rules that will make the governmental process more efficient and save taxpayer money. The changes follow an effort two years ago to streamline operations.
"Tennessee taxpayers have entrusted us with the task of governing--something I take very seriously," Harwell stated. "These changes reflect the will of Tennesseans: that state government operates efficiently and effectively while saving money. These changes also reflect the will of the body. After surveying the members of the last General Assembly, we have incorporated some of their suggestions as well. While Congress remains mired in partisan gridlock and continues to waste time, the state legislature is working toward better government."
The changes include:
- Restructuring the committee system to balance the workload of each;
- Adopting the annual ethics resolution into the House Rules which will ensure the body is abiding by an ethics policy from the first day;
- Limiting the number of bills filed to 10 per member annually which will encourage members to prioritize;
- Reaffirming that each member vote for only him or herself;
- And deleting the requirement that every document be printed to reduce the amount of paper used in committee and for floor sessions.
Harwell noted the committee restructuring, bill limits, and paperless measures are among those that will, in the long run, save the Tennessee taxpayer money.
"The new committee system will balance the workloads of each committee, ensuring that they are as efficient as possible. Bill limits will reduce duplication and ensure each member prioritizes their issues. I am seeking to eliminate the requirement that every document we produce as a body be printed in effort for us to adapt to the technology available and reduce the enormous amount of paper used each year. Each of these measures together ensure a more efficient, effective, and accessible government. This will also give us more time for thoughtful, deliberate analysis on each piece of legislation—which is something Tennesseans expect and deserve."
The proposed recommendations will be taken up by the House Rules Committee, which will be appointed by the Speaker in January.
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