UPPER CUMBERLAND – You heard it here first. Local legislators and candidates alike ID’d several top business trends in 2014, from jobs – which is a seemingly regular on any needs assessment list – to the possible revival of the guns in trunks bill, it might prove to be quite the interesting year on Capitol Hill.
Pretty self-explanatory. The Upper Cumberland – like many places – is in dire need of high-quality jobs. Of the 18 so-called “distressed” counties in Tennessee for 2013, a measurement based on three-year average unemployment, per capita market income or poverty rate, seven were in the UC (Clay, Fentress, Jackson, Pickett, Van Buren, Warren, White). But Cookeville also hit a new low – besides its placement on two not-so-nice lists (one for being among the poorest cities in America (Credit.com) and another as a city where poverty is soaring (Yahoo.com) – it was also considered a distressed county in July. That is a first in recent memory.
The continuum of the Affordable Care Act
Yes, state legislators realize the health care reform law is a federal issue. But it’s still the single-most talked about topic facing business today. And, naturally, that leaves many people wondering, “what can or will the state do this session?” In January, in an effort led by local Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Mark Pody, a bill was introduced to stop the Obamacare law by discouraging use of www.healthcare.gov. Medicaid expansion is also a hot button issue. Tennessee, at this point, is not expanding TennCare but some lawmakers are still pushing for that cause.
Meth = death
Another year, another meth-related round of legislation. This year’s proposal, made recently by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, would require a prescription to obtain more than a 20-day supply of the drug pseudoephedrine, aka Sudafed, a key medicine used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association – as well as some local Haslam party-aligned legislators – think the rule would impose unnecessary burdens on both individuals and businesses.
Junk in the trunk
Get ready for another battle royale over the same guns-in-trunks legislation that made high-reaching headlines last year. Tennesseans with a handgun carry permit can now store a firearm in their car while at work, but the state’s Attorney General has poked some holes in the law. The legislature may revisit the issue to search for a fix, although they’ll have to beat back Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey to do so.
Wine in grocery stores
They say this year is finally the year wine in grocery stores could get the OK on Capitol Hill. The latest version of the bill would allow counties that have previously passed referendums to permit the sale of liquor the option to hold another referendum to see if voters favor wine being sold in grocery stores. But the measure would maintain the vino ban at convenience stores and big-box retailers like Wal-Mart or Target. As a consolation, liquor stores may be able to sell T-shirts, cigarettes, crackers and cheese, ice, etc.
Further reduction of taxes like franchise/excise
The idea is a pretty simple one: reduce the franchise and excise tax and let businesses keep more of their money, reinvest and improve their technology and infrastructure.
In no particular order: Workforce development; the state budget shortfall; school vouchers; guns in parks.