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2019 Legislative Recap

Tennessee Chamber Recaps 2019 Legislative Session for Business & Manufacturing

TN Chamber Touts Pro-Growth Session  

The 2019 Legislative Session for Business & Manufacturing was a fast-paced affair with a new Governor and administration and a record number of new legislators that worked to keep their campaign pledges to vote pro-business and enhance our business climate.

As a private not for profit, our business members across Tennessee are the Chamber's most important asset, and we appreciate the work you do to improve Tennessee’s business climate.  The Legislative Session, which adjourned on May 2nd, is one of our most important focuses, and with over 1,500 bill filings impacting all areas of business operations it is our commitment to you, our members, that we work to ensure no legislation is enacted that harms our business climate and there is a proactive focus on  legislation that actually enhances your operations.   

Overall, our persistence prevailed and resulted in a positive session for business and economic growth in Tennessee.  Most importantly, no major legislation that was outright opposed by the Tennessee Chamber and Manufacturers Association was approved. Stay tuned the Tennessee Chamber will be releasing our comprehensive bill analysis in the coming weeks.  

  • Business Regulations and Mandates- We identified and worked against over 20 proposed bills, that if enacted, would have drastically imposed additional operational and compliance burdens on Tennessee businesses and manufacturers. Included in these proposals are overly burdensome and arbitrary legal provisions that invite litigation on employers and mandate increase wage and leave provisions that would have required substantial reporting obligations. Unlike Tennessee, a number of other states have opted to enact many of these requirements that harm their economic growth and business climate.
  • Workforce Development and Education – Governor Bill Lee’s election put a new and welcomed focus on technical education aligning with the agenda of Tennessee’s business community. Connecting workforce initiatives to other areas, Governor Lee is putting $24 million toward criminal justice reforms and enhancing partnerships with not for profits to prepare nontraditional employees. A number of new and recurring initiatives were approved that totaled $37 million to boost technical education. These initiatives offer an opportunity for the business community and chambers of commerce to partner with educational institutions to link technical education efforts and outcomes. In particular, the Tennessee Chamber Foundation was awarded approximately $700,000 to advance K-12 career awareness partnerships that engage local industry and school systems. Also, Governor Lee’s GIVE grants totaling $25 million will allow the Tennessee Chamber to utilize our local chamber networks to promote the application of those grants aimed to help the development and improvement of local workforce pipeline projects of students choosing technical careers. The administration also provided $500,000 in funding for high school students to take career readiness exams to allow for an easier transition into technical education opportunities. 
  • For Taxes and our Economy - Tennessee continues to experience strong economic growth that resulted in $576 million in available state revenue (primarily from growth in sales and use taxes) to fund government programs in the 2019/20 budget that will begin on July 1, 2019.  The Tennessee Chamber was successful in seeking approval of further decoupling of certain tax provisions from our franchise and excise base which will end up saving businesses $9 million. In addition, the legislature officially recognized the collection of internet sales and use tax that is due from vendors who sell in Tennessee resulting in a revenue enhancement of approximately $44 million.  This is not a new tax, with the recent Wayfair Supreme Court decision paving the way for Tennessee to collect sales tax from all internet sales. The legislature also was able to enhance portions of our Medicaid system for children with severe disabilities and cut $22 million for approximately 15 occupations subject to Tennessee’s professional privilege tax.  Efforts to repeal Tennessee’s industrial machinery sales and use tax exemption, which if enacted would have devastated existing business operations, was defeated due to strong opposition from the Chamber and business community.
  • Economic Development / Rural Initiatives - Approximately $70 million was approved this year in additional FastTrack grant dollars for new and expanding businesses. Despite a tumultuous year scrutinizing economic development policy, no legislation passed that will harm Tennessee’s economic development efforts. Rural initiatives gained favor, and Governor Lee was successful in gaining support for $35 million in additional expenditures that will go toward various grants and rural initiatives to enhance business growth and start-ups in distressed areas. The Comptroller of the Treasury in Tennessee reports in the 2018 CAFR report that “over the next ten years, TNECD forecasts these projects will increase Tennessee’s economic output by nearly $51 billion and generate almost $11.8 billion in new salaries.”

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