February 8, 2013

Shown from left to right are: DSCC President Dr. Karen Bowyer, TN State Representative Debra Moody, Chris Davis, Miranda Davis, Shanna Holloway, Jarred Holloway, TN State Senator Mark Norris and DSCC PTK Chapter Advisor Dr. Dave Strong

DSCC Students Chosen for 2013 All-Tennessee Academic Team

Miranda Davis and Jarred Holloway, current students at Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC), were recently chosen as members of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) All-Tennessee Academic Team. They were among other academic team members representing two-year colleges from across Tennessee who were recently honored at the All-Tennessee Academic Luncheon held at the Doubletree Hotel in Nashville, TN on February 5, 2013.

Senate Judiciary approves legislation to protect second amendment rights of gun carry permit holders

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8 to 0 this week in favor of legislation that protects the Second Amendment rights of legal gun permit holders while traveling to and from their workplace. Action on Senate Bill 142 comes after Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey worked with property rights advocates and Second Amendment rights groups last fall to forge a compromise on the matter.

Senator Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Lt. Governor Ramsey, told committee members the legislation “clarifies an employer may require employees who have a permit to keep their weapon out of sight and securely locked in their automobile while their vehicle is in their employer’s parking lot.” The bill allows business owners to continue to post prohibitions against firearms on their property but gun permit holders who keep their firearms in their locked car would be exempt. Additionally, the bill grants property owners broad premise liability against damage or injury caused by firearms properly stored.

“I was pleased to see the Judiciary Committee vote nearly unanimously on a bipartisan basis to allow gun permit holders to keep their firearms securely locked in their vehicles while at work,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “This bill ensures that private property rights are respected while gun owners are protected. I look forward to its quick passage so that this General Assembly can focus on limiting government, creating jobs and making Tennessee an even better place to raise a family.”

Approximately 5% of Tennesseans have a handgun permit.

“This bill is fairly simple,” said Senator Johnson. “We have 370,000 plus law abiding citizens who have gone through the necessary process to obtain this handgun carry permit. If they are denied the right to have that weapon in their vehicle, then they are denied the right to self protection on the way to and from work.”

“No State Income Tax” Amendment set for final consideration by full Senate after receiving approval of the Senate Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee gave their approval to the “No State Income Tax” constitutional amendment this week, clearing the way for final consideration by the full State Senate. The resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 1, is sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and would clarify a prohibition in the Tennessee Constitution against an income tax and a payroll tax.

The resolution must be approved by a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives this year upon the third reading of the measure. The resolution was approved in the Senate last year by a vote of 26-4 and in the House by a vote of 73-17-3.

Tennesseans will have the final say on the matter in November 2014 when the amendment is put on the statewide ballot.

The resolution specifies that the state legislature as well as Tennessee cities and counties shall be prohibited from passing either an income tax or a payroll tax, which is a tax on employers that is measured by the wages they pay their workers. A payroll tax has been proposed in recent years by elected officials in Shelby County as a way around an income tax.

“Forever barring a state income tax in Tennessee sends a clear message to prospective businesses that we are serious about creating and retaining high quality jobs,” said Senator Kelsey.

Testimony reveals mixed news on state’s finances

Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue Richard Roberts and Comptroller Justin Wilson gave members of the Senate Finance Committee updates regarding the state of Tennessee’s finances this week. The latest report revealed mixed news regarding revenue collections and what is on the horizon for Tennessee.

“The good news is that in the fiscal year completed June 30, 2012, Tennessee collected record revenues of $11.38 billion,” said Roberts. “We did this in the face of significant headwind from the general economy as well as the world economy. We are continuing to see a drag on the economy — a lot of which is based on uncertainty generated from Washington and the changes we see going on there. Our outlook assumes Washington will continue to avoid the worst case scenario, but will unlikely reach a scenario that will encourage strong growth.”

Tennessee lost over $1 billion during the recession that began in late 2007 and early 2008, as well as $300 to $400 million the state had received each year in revenue growth.

Roberts reported that for the first five months of the current fiscal year sales tax revenues have been weak and are 6% below budgeted estimates. Corporate tax collections, however, have over-performed projections by 15.5% during the first five months of the current fiscal year, keeping the state ahead of its budgeted estimates.

Overall, Commissioner Roberts estimates the 2013 fiscal year revenues at $11.67 billion, a growth of 2.6% over the 2012 collections. He expects continued growth in the 2014 fiscal year, projecting revenue collections will grow by 3.42% over the 2013 estimate to total $12.07 billion.

Wilson, likewise, gave lawmakers a mixed report on the state’s finances. Among good news, Wilson cited recent accomplishments by the legislature to pass a balanced budget, cut taxes, reduce the size of government, savings of $60 million by refunding debt and improved timeliness of financial reporting.

“Tennessee’s current financial state is attributable to the willingness of the General Assembly to enact budgets that have foregone, reduced or eliminated expenses and services,” said Wilson. He also attributed financial success to the ability of the Haslam administration to create efficiencies in operations.

Wilson cautioned lawmakers to be careful about future spending plans saying that even with the significant revenue growth experienced , the cost of program increases projected exceed optimistic revenue estimates.

“Costs of funding projected increases in state programs and potential federal mandates, such as President Obama’s healthcare plan, exceed even optimistic revenue projections,” Wilson said. “The General Assembly needs to continue to reduce expenses and the administration needs to continue to increase the efficiency of operations.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is expected to cost the state up to $1.4 billion in its first 5½ years without an expansion of the Medicaid eligible population, which would entail additional costs.

In Brief…

New Commissioner of Children’s Services — Tennessee’s new Interim Commissioner of Children’s Services, Jim Henry, appeared before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this week to brief members on his plans to improve services to children in state custody. Henry told the Committee that one-fourth of all females in Tennessee and 50% of those with intellectual or developmental disabilities have been sexually abused. The Commissioner also cited parental drug addition as a primary factor for children coming into state custody. Henry told the committee that he will vigorously attack problems facing the Department. “We will strive for excellence and accept nothing less,” he said. Commissioner Henry will also continue to lead the state’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Neuroscience / Promoting Student Achievement — The Senate Education Committee approved two measures this week to authorize and encourage coursework in neurological or brain science as part of teacher training programs at the state’s public colleges and universities. Research shows remarkable new information regarding the brain’s function during various phases of adolescence. Education experts agree that knowledge about the brain is essential for educators at all grade levels as an important part of understanding how students learn. Senate Bill 59 and Senate Joint Resolution 17, sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, also promote coordination between educators and neuroscientists in Tennessee.

Privacy Rights / Online Commenters — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill this week that would protect the privacy rights of readers who choose to comment on online news articles. Senate Bill 106, sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey, R- Germantown, shields news organizations or other individuals who post news online from having to reveal any identifying information about readers who post comments. The legislation comes after the Shelby County Commission filed a subpoena in federal court asking for the identities of all online commenters in the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s stories about suburban plans to create their own school districts.

Good news on jobs front — Tennessee has created nearly 80,000 new jobs since 2011 according to Governor Bill Haslam. The Governor made the announcement during his State of the State address to the General Assembly on Monday night. Tennessee ranks first in the Southeast in new manufacturing jobs created in 2012.

State finances ranked top in the nation – Governor Haslam touted Tennessee’s top rankings in his State of the State Address on Monday saying, “Barron’s Magazine has named us the third best managed state in the country. We are ranked among the lowest when it comes to the state and local tax burden on our citizens as well as the debt per capita. We are a triple-A rated state, and our most recent bond sale was done at the lowest interest rates in recorded history. The unemployment rate continues to fall, and family incomes continue to rise. CNBC ranks us fourth in America for transportation and infrastructure and second in cost of living. And we’ve been ranked the best place in the country to retire.”

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