Capitol Hill Review: Moving Tennessee forward remains legislative priority
by Eric Watson
Oct 27, 2013 | 672 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Over the last several weeks, I and others have joined with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to announce numerous major business expansions from all across the state.

With these expansion projects, thousands of jobs have been created, as well as millions of dollars invested into local Tennessee communities.

Companies like Gap, Surface Igniter, Dot Foods and Miller Industries will move their headquarters here or expand their current space. When companies expand their existing space in Tennessee, that says a lot about the current economy. When companies are moving their headquarters here that says a lot about the state of Tennessee.

In 2010, I was proud to have been a part of the Tennessee General Assembly that established the Office of Small Business Advocate.

My family owns a small business within the Bradley County area. Small businesses are vital to Tennessee.

The OSBA is the primary contact for Tennessee small business owners who need assistance with specific business issues or have general questions about state agencies, regulatory compliance or other business-related topics.

In addition, if a small business owner feels his or her business has been subject to unfair enforcement actions by a state agency, the business owner can seek assistance and relief from the OSBA. With 97 percent of the companies in Tennessee being classified as “small businesses,” the Office of Small Business Advocate provides an invaluable resource to business owners across the state, providing help and information to the entrepreneurs who are the backbone of creativity and job production in Tennessee.

To contact Tennessee’s Small Business Advocate, Lauren Plunk, call 615-401-7806 or email her at

Major honor

goes to Benton

Elementary School

I am thrilled to announce that Benton Elementary School has been recognized as a Reward School by the Tennessee Department of Education.

The designation means the schools are in either the top 5 percent of all schools in the state for annual academic growth or the top 5 percent for overall academic achievement.

The Reward School program spans 52 districts across the state and includes 169 total schools. Republican leaders praised the news, thanking teachers, administrators and students for all their hard work in achieving the important educational goals.

The 2012-13 Reward Schools made their impressive accomplishments during a year when Tennessee saw consistent gains on the statewide Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program testing. As schools across the state made improvements and reached higher levels of proficiency, the Reward Schools led the way in overall school performance.

A complete list of Reward Schools can be found by visiting:

Veterans designation

made available for

driver’s licenses

I was honored to join my colleagues in Nashville, along with officials from the Department of Safety & Homeland Security, and the Department of Veterans Affairs during September to announce the addition of a new veterans designation for Tennessee driver’s licenses.

Many of the citizens of my district are veterans and to publicly recognize those that gave so much for our state and country is humbling. The new driver’s license designation is offered to any honorably discharged service member who presents a certified copy of their discharge papers, or DD-214, to any of the driver service center facilities located across Tennessee.

The primary purpose of the license designation is to allow the state to publicly recognize veterans for their time in service. The new license also serves as proof of veteran status for those who do not carry copies of their DD-214 papers with them on a regular basis.

For more information about this new program which is now being offered statewide, visit or call the Department of Safety and Homeland Security at 615-251-5166.

Governor, legislators

launch Tennessee’s

new ‘Drive to 55’

I joined Gov. Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell to help launch Tennessee’s new “Drive to 55” education initiative. This program aims to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate to 55 percent by the year 2025.

We focus so much on the future of Tennessee with our attention on the children. Now, we can bring an added emphasis to the adults as we encourage those to return to school for their secondary education. Currently, only 32 percent of the state has a degree or certificate.

The initiative will work hand-in-hand with the recent launch of Western Governors University Tennessee, an online school which seeks to expand access to higher education for all Tennesseans. Differing from most brick-and-mortar institutions, WGU Tennessee uses an innovative learning model called competency-based education. Instead of earning a degree based on credit hours or time spent in class, students must demonstrate their knowledge of required subject matter through rigorous testing procedures.

This new program will help both traditional college students achieve success while also aiding those who now wish to go back to school to finish their degrees. As the state continues to move into the 21st century, Republicans believe having these new opportunities available will help ensure Tennessee students are being prepared for the high-skilled and high-wage jobs of the future.

Tennessee keeps

getting recognized

with major honors

Other than law enforcement, one of the key areas that has been a priority for me is to bring more business to our state. I was thrilled when Forbes magazine released their 2013 “Best States For Business” and Tennessee is now No. 15, as compared to No. 24 just last year. Our pro-business and AAA rating from Moody’s Bond Agency is a major sign that proves our state’s fiscal environment and that our state is a leader.

I would like to congratulate Gary Farlow, president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce on his recent election win as president of the Tennessee Economic Development Council Board.