The Tennessee Chamber is the preeminent voice for business in the halls of our Capitol. Since 1912 the Tennessee Chamber has engaged business leaders across our state to impact public policy in the Tennessee General Assembly. There is no issue that we are not involved in, if it impacts business we engage to oppose, support or modify the proposal so it does not harm our members or Tennessee’s economic growth.
Despite the unexpected and abrupt halt in the session during the week of March 16, the Tennessee Chamber made significant headway in advocacy efforts, advancing all of its 2020 legislative agenda (eligible for consideration) and defeating a number of anti-business bills. Here is short summary of our successes.
Headlining the Chamber’s revised 2020 legislative agenda was critical legislation to provide liability protections to businesses, schools, hospitals, and other entities who may be subject to frivolous COVID-19 related lawsuits. Beginning in April, the Chamber led efforts to enact liability protection policies as it became clearer that unwarrant-ed actions may be taken against members of the Tennessee business community. Leading up to the June legislative session, the Chamber organized one of the broadest coalitions the state has seen to tackle the issue of safe harbor protections. While legislation did not pass during the legislature’s June session, Governor Bill Lee and legislative leaders, called legislative members back to Nashville for a special session. The move came following the strong urging and effort of the Chamber and advocacy from Chamber members. The call by Governor Bill Lee, Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton was unprecedented and showed their support and commitment to business recovery. Nearly 75% of House and Senate members voted to pass liability protections and on August 18th, Governor Bill Lee signed the legislation into law, creating Public Chapter 1 of Second Extraordi-nary Session.
Throughout the pandemic, a myriad of states have added or attempted to create a rebuttable presumption for access to Worker’s Compensation benefits for those who believe they contracted the virus during work activities or those whose employment requires them to work outside of their home. Efforts to add COVID-19 as a presumption under Tennessee’s Worker’s Compensation laws were attempted during the August special session and were handily de-feated as a result of efforts by the Chamber.
Beginning in October of 2020, Public Chapter 646 requires marketplace facilitators to collect and remit sales tax on behalf of third party marketplace sellers. This will ensure that significant previously uncollected sales tax revenue will now be remitted to the state of Tennessee, leveling the playing field for businesses. It is likely already having a significant impact on voluntary compliance as sales and use collections in Tennessee in the catalogue and internet category show significant increase. Public Chapter 759 is the result of legislation from the June legislative session which lowers the tax collection threshold for marketplace facilitators on remote sellers from $500,000 to $100,000. Combined, all marketplace facilitator related legislation from all 2020 sessions is projected to produce nearly $200 million in new revenues.
A constitutional resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 648) to allow citizens to vote to embed the right-to-work into the state constitution was passed on June 17th and signed by both speakers. The 112th General Assembly will now be required to adopt an identical resolution before the constitutional initiative is placed on Tennessee ballots in 2022.
The Chamber shepherded the enactment of Public Chapter 712 which clarifies the regulatory status of soil, an issue that can have a significant impact on urban development. Because of the imminent creation of a regulatory scheme by the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Senate recognized the urgency of this issue and advanced the bill.
The Chamber played a significant role in ensuring that an attempt to ban the use of single-use plastic and paper bags by retail, grocery, and food service establishments failed to become law. Instead, lawmakers voted to discuss the issue in more detail in the form of a summer study. At the time of this publication, no summer study has yet been scheduled.
The Tennessee Chamber worked to either amend or defeat a number of other mandate bills that, if enacted, would have significantly impacted businesses in Tennessee. These bills include several employer mandates that would have increased cost and regulation in a number of areas. These bills along with several related to Human Resources, can be found at tnchamber.org.
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The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry is the unified voice of business and premier advocacy
organization in the state. The Tennessee Chamber creates prosperity for all Tennesseans through
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