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State Chamber president outlines legislative agenda

Nathan Baker • Jul 30, 2013 at 9:42 PM

Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Catherine Glover said Tuesday that she expects a busy 10 weeks for the lobbying group when the state General Assembly reconvenes in January.

“We’re in the second half of the 108th coming up, it’s going to be a blitzkrieg, 10 weeks in and out,” Glover told Johnson City Chamber of Commerce members at an informal luncheon at the local organization’s offices. “Even though this last session was done in a shorter period, 10 weeks does not allow a lot, so we’re going to be coming at this from all directions.”

Members of the state Chamber organization advocate a pro-business stance to state lawmakers concerning corporate tax issues, worker’s compensation, organized labor and other areas of interest in hopes of influencing policy decisions, and an affiliated political action committee collects and distributes donations to candidates for state offices.

In the coming months, Glover said state legislators will likely face decisions on many business-related issues, first among those the Common Core State Standards currently being implemented in Tennessee.

“Common Core is a volatile issue, but it is one that over 40 states have adopted, we adopted, and will be fully implemented by 2014,” Glover said. “The Chamber is fully supportive of the Common Core Standards.

“We don’t see it as some educators do ... as an added burden, we see it as a necessity to be able to compete globally with our workforce.”

The more challenging curriculum adopted as part of the new standards will provide Tennessee’s graduating students with the specialization they need in science and math to help them land jobs at international companies, Glover said.

She also lauded the state’s bustling auto industry, and said the Chamber plans to fight to ensure Tennessee remains a right-to-work state, free of union influences.

“We’re working behind the scenes right now with Volkswagen management; obviously it’s of utmost importance and paramount that we remain a union-free state,” Glover said. “We believe that unions have served a purpose in the past, but the protections that we offer right now to employees ... mean you have many rights protected by a law that you wouldn’t have 50 years ago, 40 years ago, even 30 years ago, so we feel the environment is not conducive to having to have labor representation.”

Glover noted that the Volkswagen representatives told her that their Chattanooga plant is the company’s only manufacturing facility that does not have a workers’ council representing employees.

A third issue, finally passed this year after several years of contentious debate between representatives and businesses, is a measure allowing employees with valid handgun carry permits to keep their firearms in their personal vehicles at work, regardless of business owners’ policies regarding weapons.

“The lieutenant governor and the state Chamber did not see eye-to-eye on all components of this opportunity,” Glover said, referencing the new statute, dubbed the guns-in-parking-lots law. “In our perspective we felt that property owners need to maintain the right to post on their property and have certain rights that anybody who owns a house or property does. It’s yours, you should be able to have a certain say.”

The new gun law will likely be on the General Assembly’s agenda for clarification after State Attorney General Robert Cooper issued an opinion maintaining that Tennessee’s right-to-work protections allow employers to terminate those employees who bring firearms on properties where it is forbidden.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a proponent of the guns-in-trunks law, said Cooper’s statement goes against the intent of the legislation, and said he would likely support an amendment to the statute next year to bar employers from firing workers solely for possessing a legal handgun.

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