NFIB urges vote against COVID-19 bill, warns it will score support in ratings

Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) attend an NFIB meeting in Nashville on Feb. 21, 2019). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Voting in favor of the omnibus bill seeking to clamp down on COVID-19 mandates will negatively affect lawmakers’ ratings by the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, according to a letter sent to each member on Friday morning.

Votes on the bill are scheduled for later in the day.

Here’s the full NFIB letter:

Good morning, Members of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly.

NFIB asks for your vote of NO on HB 9077/SB 9014.  NFIB plans to include this vote in our 2021-2022 Voting Record report to NFIB members.

NFIB is strongly opposed to any new causes of action, which are in the amendments to HB 9077/SB 9014. This would be a very inopportune time for small businesses, who are dealing with a severe labor shortage, rising inflation and significant supply chain issues, to face potential litigation. NFIB is concerned several COVID-19 mitigation measures by an employer could be grounds for a private right of action. We understand the views from all sides on this issue, particularly with potential pending federal overreach (please read our letter to USDOL Labor Secretary here). However, we oppose HB 9077/SB 9014, which is consistent with our previous positions on new private rights of action.  Our previously shared letter is attached.

NFIB also is concerned with Section 14-6-101 in both amendments under Chapter 6-Miscellaneous.  NFIB shares the concerns of our Department of Workforce & Labor Development and other groups that if the legislation passes as drafted, the federal government would soon take over regulatory enforcement of various labor laws in Tennessee. Specifically, as Commissioner McCord testified, OSHA would take over TOSHA.  For background, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 authorizes states to establish their own occupational safety and health plans and preempt standards established and enforced by Fed OSHA. OSHA must approve state plans if they are “at least as effective” as OSHA’s standards and enforcement. Currently, 22 states have plans under this system, including Tennessee. Over the last decade, NFIB has received almost no complaints from our members regarding TOSHA overreach.  If HB 9077/SB 9014 were to pass, as drafted, NFIB is concerned many OSHA fines will double and a more adversarial system would result for Tennessee’s small businesses, again at an inopportune time.

Thank you for you support of small business, and please contact me directly with any questions.  Jim    

Jim Brown

Tennessee State Director

NFIB urges lawmakers to reject bills clearing way for more lawsuits

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to the National Federation of Independent Business at the Cordell Hull building in Nashville on Feb. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business is urging lawmakers not to pass legislation seeking to create “a new cause of action against private employers” during this week’s special session on COVID-19 mandates.

“Our most vulnerable businesses in Tennessee are struggling to keep their doors open and our communities thriving,” NFIB state director Jim Brown writes in the letter. “The legislature should be looking at legislation to help them recover, not to hinder their very survival.”

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Members of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly,

Thank you for all you have done to make Tennessee the great state it is in which to own, operate and grow a business. As you know, the last 18 months have been exceedingly challenging for many independent businesses, with the severe, persistent labor shortage, along with rising inflation and supply chain disruptions. Fifty-one percent of small business owners report job openings that cannot be filled – a 48-year record high for the third consecutive month. Their livelihoods are at stake, and uncertainty is at an all-time high.  As you enter the third extraordinary session of 2021, we ask you to consider what small businesses are facing before enacting any new laws.

NFIB has always strongly opposed any legislation, ordinance or policy that creates a new cause of action against private employers. Our review shows several bills would do just that, including HB 1643/SB 9001, HB9001/SB 9004, HB 9004, HB 9006, HB 9011, HB 9019, HB 9021 and HB 9026. Some expand the scope of the Tennessee Human Rights Act, which NFIB has opposed over a long period of time and in recent years. The last thing businesses need right now is the added cost and distraction of unnecessary legal actions. Of note, “Cost and Availability of Liability Insurance” was identified by NFIB members through our 2020 Research Center Problems and Priority report as one of the top ten biggest concerns.

Our most vulnerable businesses in Tennessee are struggling to keep their doors open and our communities thriving. The legislature should be looking at legislation to help them recover, not to hinder their very survival.

On behalf of NFIB’s 6,500 members in Tennessee, I respectfully ask you to oppose all legislation that would create new causes of action against Tennessee employers.  


Jim Brown

State Director, NFIB

Buttigeig endorses Bradshaw, Harris

Pete Buttigeig (Photo credit: Win the Era)

Former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigeig is endorsing Tennessee Democratic candidates Marquita Bradshaw for U.S. Senate and Torrey Harris for state House.

Bradshaw was the surprise winner of the Democratic nomination in August over Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee favorite James Mackler, who ended up finishing third.

According to a Buttigeig statement posted by his Win the Era organization:

Marquita Bradshaw has spent her career advocating for her community and connecting with people around shared policy outcomes. These efforts are now the cornerstone of her groundbreaking, inspiring campaign. She knows first hand that policy should reflect the lived experiences of the people they are designed to help. She will bring this same perspective to the halls of the Senate and I’m excited to support Marquita in her historic run to represent the hard-working people of Tennessee.

Harris won the House District 90 nomination in Memphis after the state Democratic Party booted longtime state Rep. John DeBerry from its primary ballot due to his propensity of voting with Republicans on issues ranging from abortion to school vouchers.

Here’s what Buttigeig had to say about him:

Through Torrey Harris’ tireless work as a community advocate, he has modeled a willingness to listen, empower, and serve. That is exactly the type of leadership this moment demands and I’m proud to support his campaign.

Meanwhile, DeBerry was endorsed by the Americans for Prosperity and Republican U.S. Senate Bill Hagerty got the nod from the National Federation of Independent Business.

According to NFIB National Political Director Sharon Sussin:

Bill Hagerty has a true understanding of the challenges our members are facing. We have no doubt that he will be an excellent champion for them in the Senate, and we are pleased to endorse him”

Sponsor denounces ‘misinformation’ on property assessment bill, withdraws measure from vote

Sen. Kerry Roberts blasted opponents of his bill to change property assessment appeals in comments on the Senate floor, but the Springfield Republican then withdrew the measure from a scheduled vote before the General Assembly goes into recess amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Business groups like the state Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independence Business had taken issue with effort to ram the bill through while the Capitol complex has been closed to lobbyists and advocates.

“For the past 24 hours there’s been tremendous amount of misinformation sent to members about this bill, claiming it would result in a tax increase,” Roberts said. “I want every member in this body to know exactly what they’re voting for, so I’m going to make a motion in a minute to send it back to Calendar, because I do anticipate we’re going to be back in session a little bit later in the year..

“As an inactive certified public accountant, I can tell you this is a very complicated issue, but there’s also a very good explanation and a very good reason for this,” he said. “And I want to have the opportunity to talk to each and every one of you, so when you cast your vote, you will fully understand that this issue is trying to solve.”

Report: Hill pressed ‘kill lists’ on committee chairmen

Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis), right, and Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) attend an NFIB event in Nashville on Feb. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Matthew Hill, a Jonesborough Republican who wants to succeed resigning Glen Casada as House speaker, pressed “kill lists” on committee chairman to try to control the flow of legislation through the chamber this year, the Daily MemphianSam Stockard reports.

Education Chairman Mark White (R-Memphis) says Hill would give him a list of bills that House leadership wanted to “survive” or “not survive” in his committee.

Hill “handed those to me, yeah. I don’t know where it came from there,” White told the publication. Hill would explain “leadership said these bills are not good for us,” he said.

“I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. I’m saying that did happen,” White said, adding that most of the instructions would be delivered during pre-meetings run by Hill and not attended by the general public.

Hill in a statement didn’t deny the existence of “kill lists.”

“The Speaker’s office would examine legislation in order to determine whether it was beneficial or harmful to Tennessee. While some of these initiatives were deemed harmful and were ultimately defeated in their respective committees, other advanced,” Hill told the Daily Memphian.

White said he declined to try to influence the votes of his colleagues.

“I left that up to each individual member, and I would judge each bill on its own merit,” he said.

Read the full report here.



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