NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Democratic Party launched Wednesday an online petition drive opposing Governor Bill Haslam’s proposal to eliminate average class size requirements at public schools. Chairman Chip Forrester released this statement to accompany the petition:
“Parents and teachers know first hand what a difference small class sizes make [...]
Democrats announce first phase of jobs package to put Tennesseans back to work.
Plan includes $15 million investment in state technology centers
NASHVILLE – Tennessee House and Senate Democrats announced the first phase of their job creation plan Thursday, which includes calling for $15 million for new equipment and program expansion at the state’s 27 technology centers.
“We heard about the success of our skills training across the state during our jobs tour, but the one thing we heard again and again was the need for more skilled workers,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “This investment would enable our technology centers to train more workers faster and get them a good education with an even better job.”
The state’s technology centers’ average completion rate is 75 percent, and the job placement rate is 85 percent. They have been recognized as a national model, but currently only 4 percent of all higher education students in Tennessee attend a technology center.
“The thousands of manufacturing jobs that have come back to Tennessee need a highly skilled workforce. We have the structure to provide that workforce, but we must provide the resources to meet the capacity needs,” said House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh. Now is the time to make this investment, because it will pay dividends for our workers and our state for a generation.”
Other legislation discussed by Democrats Thursday included:
The creation of a commercial properties database for prospective employers to quickly identify potential areas for relocation and expansion;
Doubling the capacity of the West Tennessee solar farm by 2013 to keep up with national competition;
Providing small businesses a sales tax holiday of up to $5,000 for equipment purchases and upgrades;
Fully funding the West Tennessee megasite, in order to give the Grand Division the same opportunities afforded Chattanooga with Volkswagen and Clarksville with Hemlock;
Providing a New Entrepreneur Tax Credit for new business owners to recover startup and expansion costs; and
A program modeled after the Georgia Works initiative that allows employers to train Tennesseans receiving unemployment benefits, with the goal of providing trainees expanded job opportunities and the potential for a full-time job.
Democrats noted that the initiatives discussed Thursday were only the first phase of an ongoing, bipartisan process to identify ways state government can play a role in job creation.
“We are in a jobs crisis right now, and we need all hands on deck to help sail the ship through these choppy waters,” said Senate Democratic Chairman Lowe Finney. “It’s going to take all of us working together to put Tennesseans back to work.”
NASHVILLE — State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester urged Tennessee’s top Republicans to consider a jobs plan to keep the state’s fiscal house in order. “The surest way to strengthen our state’s fiscal house is to put 300,000 Tennesseans back to work. If Ron Ramsey and Governor Bill Haslam put half the effort they expend wooing big corporate donations into a common sense jobs plan, Tennessee would get there a lot faster.” Forrester pressed Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey for action on the state’s job crisis in statement Wednesday following the Republicans’ meeting with Wall Street bond rating agencies. “This bond rating dog and pony show for Wall Street executives looks obnoxious to the 300,000 Tennesseans who are struggling to find work and provide for their families,” Forrester said. “They’d like to see a day where the numbers we brag about are Tennessee’s low unemployment rate and high economic output. “There’s no doubt Wall Street was impressed with Governor Haslam’s contingency plan to fire 5,000 workers and eliminate crucial services that keep families healthy, children educated and the disabled properly cared for. However, Tennesseans who’ve seen this extreme plan are not so enthusiastic,” Chip Forrester said. “Haslam’s slash-and-burn budget would send our state into an even more severe economic tailspin and prompt a societal crisis that would diminish the quality of life for every Tennessean.” This summer Gov. Haslam instructed state department heads to plan for 30 percent budget cuts to be enacted if Tennessee receives less federal funding. —30—
Tennessee’s House and Senate Democratic Caucuses announced Wednesday that their members will embark on a six-day tour across the state Sept. 19-24 to talk to business owners, local officials and the public about how to best grow jobs in Tennessee.
“Across the country and here in Tennessee, we are stuck in a jobs crisis, and it’s going to take everyone working together to get us out of it,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “Jobs are the number one priority for Tennesseans, and they also must be the top priority for their elected officials.”
Members will begin the tour Monday, Sept. 19, in Memphis, with stops throughout rural and urban areas across the state (see schedule below). The tour will end Saturday, Sept. 24, in Putnam and Smith Counties.
The unemployment rate in Tennessee currently sits at 9.8 percent, meaning more than 306,000 Tennesseans are looking for jobs and can’t find one. County unemployment rates are as high as 19.8 percent.
“People want their lawmakers to do something to combat the unemployment crisis, especially in rural areas that have been hit the hardest,” said State Senator Eric Stewart. “There’s a lot we can learn from going out there and listening to the people who are creating jobs, as well as the people who are looking for jobs.”
The tour will include several discussions and events open to the public, as well as daily press briefings and updates through traditional and social media. Members participating on the tour have pledged to use the feedback they receive on the tour to draft legislation directly addressing job growth throughout the state.
“The tour is our opportunity to listen, gather ideas and make decisions on what we can do as a state legislature to promote jobs in Tennessee,” Fitzhugh said. “We hope it will mark the beginning of a sustained focus on jobs and economic growth from all of our elected officials as we enter the next legislative session.”
Day 1 (Monday, Sept. 19): Corporate Partnerships Day (Shelby & Haywood)
8 a.m. Kickoff at the University of Memphis with Corporate Jobs Roundtable
1 p.m. Tour of West Tennessee Megasite with Mayor Franklin Smith
2 p.m. Tour of West Tennessee Solar Farm with Mayor Franklin Smith
Day 2 (Tuesday, Sept. 20): Small Business Day (Madison & Weakley)
8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Drop-ins at small businesses in Madison County
Noon – 2 p.m. Drop-ins at small businesses in Weakley County
Day 3 (Wednesday, Sept. 21): Technical Jobs Day (Rutherford & Maury)
Morning: Tour of Nissan LEAF Plant in Rutherford County
Noon – 2 p.m. Technical Jobs Roundtable at Columbia State Community College
2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Drop-ins at Maury County small businesses
Day 4 (Thursday, Sept. 22): Green Jobs Day (Warren & Hamilton)
7 a.m. Breakfast at Tennessee State University Nursery Research Center in McMinnville
8 a.m. Meet with nurserymen and tour Otis Floyd Research Center
Noon: Tour of Chattanooga State Community College
1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Tour new energy businesses in Chattanooga
Day 5 (Friday, Sept. 23): Research/Education Jobs Day (Knox)
8 a.m. Breakfast with Councilmember Brenda Palmer and small business owners
10 a.m. Business Round Table at the Chamber of Commerce
Noon – 2 p.m. Drop-ins at small businesses in Knox County
2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Meet w/Piper Communications to discuss growing the clean energy sector
Day 6 (Saturday, Sept. 24): Ecotourism Jobs Day (Putnam & Smith)
8 a.m. Breakfast at Dipsy Doodle in Putnam County
10 a.m. – Noon: Drop-ins at small businesses in Cookeville
1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Tour of Catesa Farms in Smith County
It’s crystal clear that Tennesseans have soundly rejected the extremist GOP agenda rammed through the state legislature this year.
A new, statewide Vanderbilt University poll found that support for the Republican-led state legislature has “plummeted 20 percentage points since January.”
The GOP honeymoon is over and Tennesseans are riled up like never before over lawmakers stripping teachers of their right to collectively bargain for smaller class sizes, school supplies, and text books while cutting millions from public and higher education budgets.
Teachers and public education weren’t the only targets of the GOP.
Since January we have seen a systematic assault on Tennessee values:
IGNORED JOBS CRISIS. In 2010, Republicans campaigned on a platform of jobs, jobs, jobs. Less than one year later, the majority party buried its head in the sand and ignored the crisis facing 300,000 Tennesseans looking for work. And since the GOP took charge, Tennessee’s unemployment rate has climbed to nearly 10 percent.
LAVISH RAISES. Gov. Bill Haslam made cuts to important health programs while handing out more than $250,000 worth of raises to his top cronies, all of whom already made six-figure salaries. One commissioner even got a 32% raise — in his first week on the job!
PROTECTED PREJUDICE. The GOP gave into the radical right-wing of its party, bowing to demands to overturn Metro-Nashville Council’s CANDO ordinance that required businesses with city contracts to employ non-discrimination hiring policies.
In short Republicans junked their promise to strengthen the state economy and create jobs in favor of ideological pet projects that harm our families and the least among us.
This poll shows that Tennesseans regret giving Republicans a chance behind the wheel and have quickly become sick of their reckless driving.
Tennesseans are not interested in political retaliation against teachers, they want good schools for their children.
Tennesseans are not interested in the anti-woman demands of the far right, they want to make sure their mothers, sisters and babies are healthy and well cared for.
Tennesseans are not interested in protecting reckless corporations from the damage they do, they want to protect victims and hold corporations responsible for their actions.
Republicans have given us no reason to think they will come to their senses in 2012. Last month Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey bragged on Facebook:
“This year was just an appetizer. Next year, and in the years to come, you will see the main course.”
Whatever Ramsey has in mind, you can rest assured it won’t be good for Tennessee.
If you want to stop the GOP’s radical agenda and put Tennessee on a path to a thriving economy where prosperity is shared by all, a path where a good education is available to every student, regardless of their circumstance, a path where government serves the people and is not beholden to moneyed special interest then stand with us.
In Tennessee, the more important question may be, “Where is the jobs plan?” It must be top secret because Republicans refuse to talk about what their plans are to help the 76 counties being strangled by double-digit unemployment.
In the past Democrats and Republicans have worked together to bring public-private partnerships to the state, such as Hemlock and Volkswagen.
This session of the General Assembly, Democrats have proposed a slate of laws that will spur job creation in Tennessee. One being a proposal that gives Tennessee contractors priority when seeking state business. Another would allow small businesses to have a sales tax holiday similar to Tennessee’s back-to-school tax holiday.
But Republicans won’t even schedule the bills for discussion. Why are they blocking 300,000 unemployed Tennesseans from getting relief?
Our Democratic leaders in the General Assembly took Republican leaders to task on Monday.
After 86 Days, Democrats Still Asking for Answers on Jobs
Governor’s campaign promised regional jobs creation strategy more than a year ago
(Nashville) – Following another month of rising unemployment in Tennessee, Democrats Monday again asked for answers on promised job-creation strategies from the administration and the Republican majority in the legislature.
“Now more than ever, we need people who place priorities on performance rather than politics,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney (D-Jackson). “Instead, we’re up here debating whether dogs should wear seat belts, or rewriting science books, or talking about creating our own currency.”
While national unemployment rates dropped to 8.9 percent last month, the state’s unemployment rate rose to 9.6 percent. Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Haslam gave raises to his commissioners of 11 to 20 percent, even though they were already making six-figure salaries.
Democratic leaders also are questioning the use of more than half a million dollars in federal stimulus money, sent from Washington, to fund three R.V.s to drive around the state to teach Tennesseans resume-writing skills.
“A resume doesn’t matter if there’s nowhere to send it,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley). “They’re telling rural West Tennessee how to apply for jobs, yet the governor didn’t include the West Tennessee Megasite in his budget. It doesn’t make sense.”
Democrats again asked Republicans to consider their jobs creation plans and work together to help 300,000 Tennesseans searching for work. The call came on the same day House Republican leaders claimed that Democrats had rejected a seat at the table with them.
“I sit at the leadership breakfast table every week with the governor and the majority party, and I have yet to hear a word from them about our jobs crisis,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory). “Tennesseans deserve to have their elected officials working together to put Tennesseans back to work.”
Republican-Controlled Government: Still No Jobs
Jan. 15(Day 1 of Haslam Administration): Newly-elected Gov. Haslam signs an executive order closing financial disclosures for himself and his cabinet.
Feb. 2 (Day 18): Senate Republicans ram through a committee vote to stop Memphis City Schools from merging with Shelby County Schools. The bill is passed by House and Senate Republican majorities and signed by Gov. Haslam on Feb. 11.
Feb. 10(Day 26): Union City Goodyear plant announces it will close, putting 1,900 Tennesseans out of work.
Feb. 14 (Day 30): Senate Republicans pass a bill to require photo ID to vote, jeopardizing the voting rights of 500,000 Tennesseans.
Feb. 16 (Day 32): Senate Republicans vote in committee to strip teachers of collective bargaining rights.
March 5 (Day 49): Gov. Haslam tells Rutherford Co. GOP at a fundraiser that “the government doesn’t create jobs.”
National unemployment rate in January: 9.0 percent, down from December.
Tennessee unemployment rate: 9.4 percent, unchanged from December.
March 14 (Day 58): Gov. Haslam releases budget with no funds for the West Tennessee Megasite, despite repeated pledges of support to West Tennessee voters and media.
March 23 (Day 67): A House subcommittee hears presentations on Haslam’s biggest “jobs plan” to date: tort reform.
March 31 (Day 75): Gov. Haslam hosts a $3,000- to $25,000-per-couple fundraiser at the Governor’s Mansion. February unemployment numbers released same day.
National unemployment rate: 8.9 percent, down from January.
Tennessee unemployment rate: 9.6 percent, up from January.
April 5 (Day 80): Gov. Haslam announces three stimulus-funded RVs stocked with flat screen TVs and wireless Internet will go to rural Tennessee to help with job searches.
Haslam in Commercial Appeal, March 19:
If you think governments can go create jobs, go look and see how much was spent on the (federal) stimulus plan from Washington – trillions of dollars – and did that really help create more jobs? I don’t think so. I just don’t believe in that process.
April 6 (Day 81): AP story details average 11 percent raises for Gov. Haslam’s commissioners. State employees would get 1.6 percent raise amidst 1,200 job cuts under Haslam’s budget.
April 7 (Day 82): House Republicans debate for hours over changing science curriculum in schools and requiring dogs to wear seat belts. No discussion on job creation.