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Just what did legislature do for business?


Monday, Aug 1, 2011

The Tennessee General Assembly completed its work earlier this year, tackling many issues, including those related to business.

The Cumberland Business Journal sent questionnaires to the 13 state representatives and senators who represent at least a portion of the Upper Cumberland region. Two responses were received back, from Rep. Ryan Williams and Rep. Cameron Sexton. Following are their responses.

1. How would you grade the recent legislative session when it comes to business and why?

Rep. Ryan Williams, District 42 — This was an excellent session in the General Assembly. I would give it an A+. In this session, we made our state friendlier for business growth and business expansion. We passed tort reforms to create a consistent environment for business while passing a balanced budget that reduces spending by $1.2 billion with no tax increases. Also, we passed several education reforms that will help with long-term job development. Additionally, we reduced the size of government and saved taxpayers over a million dollars with common sense reforms to our state government.

Rep. Cameron Sexton, District 25 — The first half of the 107th General Assembly was a success. We took giant steps in making our state friendlier for business growth and business expansion. We passed much-needed tort reform to create a consistent environment for business which will spur an additional 120,000 jobs and billions of dollars in new investments in Tennessee. We passed a balanced budget that reduced spending by $1.2 billion with no tax increases, and we passed education reforms for long-term job development. We reduced the size of government and saved taxpayers millions of dollars with common sense reforms to how government operates.

2. Are there one or two specific laws which were passed that you think are especially advantageous to the business community?

Williams — Easily, the tort reform package we passed will have both an immediate and long-term positive impact for Tennessee's business community. We also worked with Gov. Haslam to ensure all departments will conduct top-to-bottom reviews to streamline their operations and more efficiently serve the needs of the business community.

Sexton — I sponsored and passed legislation to give relief to our seniors on the Hall Income Tax. Our seniors should be rewarded for saving and investing in their future. Increasing the income threshold allows thousands of Tennessee seniors to lessen the burden of this tax and become income tax free like the majority of Tennesseans. The tort reform package which is now law, will have both immediate and long range positive effects for Tennessee businesses and medical community. We also are working with Gov. Haslam to ensure all departments will conduct top-to-bottom reviews to streamline their operations and more efficiently serve the needs to the business community in the coming budget year. We peeled back layers of unnecessary bureaucracy that have been a barrier to business growth.

3. Were there any laws you feel are a disadvantage to the business community?

Williams — Items such as an income tax, a 10-cent increase of the gas and diesel tax, and expensive energy audits for business owners — essentially an unfunded mandate on Tennesseans —were proposed by a few lawmakers. Thankfully, all were swiftly and soundly defeated. Instead, we focused on passing business-friendly measures, such as tort reform, that I believe will help economic growth both in the short- and long-term. The key to business development is limiting government interference so our small businesses and corporations can grow.

Sexton — The General Assembly and the governor were very focused on making Tennessee more business friendly. The focus was on passing pro-business measures that we believe will help economic growth both in the short- and long-term. The key to business development is limiting government interference so our small businesses and corporations can grow unencumbered.

4. Overall, are you pleased with the session when it comes to improving the business climate in Tennessee? If yes or no, please explain.

Williams — Yes, I am very pleased with the work we were able to accomplish. I truly believe this will go down as one of the most pro-business sessions in legislative history. The reforms we made this year will have lasting, beneficial effects on our business environment.

Sexton — Yes. The reforms we made this year will have lasting, beneficial effects on our business environment and I believe will be viewed as historic as time passes. We are focused both on attracting new companies to our state and helping existing businesses expand. We will continue working with the chamber of commerce, small businesses owners and NFIB to ensure that Tennessee is aiding our business owners not hindering.

5. How do you feel about the new direction which is being taken regarding the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development?

Williams — The governor and our majority communicated a clear vision last fall that would limit government and enhance the private sector. I believe that with the new regional approach to ECD it will allow for the state to build relationships with the businesses of our great state and assist them at their places of business where their needs are. This relational approach will ensure that all businesses get the help they need to be successful.

Sexton — I am extremely encouraged and supportive of the new direction of ECD. Tennessee is a diverse state with a number of different regions within the Three Grand Divisions that deserve particular attention. Here on the Cumberland Plateau, we are a growing community and by working together our future looks very promising. With the governor's new vision for ECD and the Legislature's commitment to positive business reforms, we will now receive the support we need from the state.
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