The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to release its 2015 state and Metro legislative agendas. Our advocacy work centers on creating an environment where business can prosper, developing the region’s workforce talent, building a great quality of life, and acting regionally to ensure economic prosperity. Each fall, we begin our policy process by surveying our members to see which issues are top of mind. Our members’ feedback then informs the development of an agenda which is approved by our board of directors. Top priorities at the state legislature this year are expanding the number of Tennesseans with health insurance through Gov. Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan and support for rigorous K-12 academic standards accompanied by a new assessment that accurately measures student achievement.
In January 2013, the Nashville Chamber was the first business organization in the state to endorse the expansion of health insurance coverage to working Tennesseans, funded wholly by federal Medicaid dollars through 2016. In our most recent policy survey, our members favored supporting the governor’s Insure Tennessee plan by a two-to-one margin. While Tennessee has not yet joined the growing number of states participating in expanding health insurance to those eligible for Medicaid expansion, Gov. Haslam is submitting a plan to the state legislature and the federal government to expand the number of insured Tennesseans through the private market. The governor’s proposal would provide access to health insurance coverage to more than 200,000 Tennesseans through their employers or through a flexible spending account, leading to a healthier workforce. The governor’s plan would also avert a scenario in which many Tennessee businesses are hit with certain tax penalties unique to states that choose not to expand Medicaid. Additionally, reducing the number of uninsured individuals helps offset the Affordable Care Act’s reimbursement cuts to hospitals and medical providers—an important issue for Nashville’s No. 1 industry.
For the second year in a row, more than 90 percent of our members have expressed support for education standards which set high expectations for students and are designed to focus on college, career and life readiness. While the rigorous Common Core State Standards were adopted by Tennessee in 2010 and implemented in classrooms across the state, Gov. Haslam is currently conducting a review of the state’s academic standards that will continue through spring 2015. To date, the review process has netted more than 40,000 comments through an online portal. The General Assembly has a responsibility to participants who have reviewed and commented on the state’s current standards, now in their fourth year of implementation, and should resist any attempt to modify them before the review process has been completed. The legislature’s action to delay a new assessment last year means that it will be 2016 before teachers, parents and taxpayers know how our students are measuring up to the state’s more rigorous K-12 standards. As representatives of Middle Tennessee’s business community, we believe the continued misalignment between standards and assessments sets our teachers and students up for failure. We urge the legislature to honor the state’s commitment to accountability by supporting the implementation of an assessment aligned to current state standards for the 2015-2016 school year.
In 2015, the Chamber will accomplish our longstanding goal of bringing our state lobbying efforts in-house. Adam Lister, who has been on our staff for three years, has been promoted to vice president of policy and will represent the Chamber’s positions at the state capitol. Adam will also take the lead in supporting our advocacy partnerships with the Rutherford County, Hendersonville Area and Robertson County Chambers of Commerce. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Dan Haskell and Matt Scanlan of Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin for their outstanding service over many years as the Nashville Chamber’s contract lobbyists, which concluded on Dec. 31. We look forward to continuing to work with them both on issues important to Middle Tennessee’s business community.
The Tennessee General Assembly will convene at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 13, for their 2015 legislative session. For the latest information on our legislative priorities, please visit Middle Tennessee Business Voice.