Income, payroll tax constitutional amendment moves in Legislature
by ERIC WATSON, State Rep.
Mar 12, 2013 | 597 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A constitutional amendment designed to clarify that Tennessee’s Constitution prohibits an income and payroll tax easily passed the House State Government committee last week.

The amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 1, specifies that the Legislature as well as Tennessee counties and cities, shall be prohibited from passing either an income tax or payroll tax which is a tax on employers that is measured by the wages they pay their workers.

Once approved by the Legislature, the amendment will be placed on the 2014 statewide ballot for a referendum vote by the people of Tennessee. If passed by referendum, the Tennessee Constitution will then be amended to officially ban a state income and payroll tax.

A payroll tax has been proposed in recent years by elected officials as a way around an income tax. This includes a 2.5 percent payroll tax proposal in Shelby County. In 2010, eight state lawmakers filed legislation to implement a state income tax.

Tennessee graduation rates steadily climbing

Civic Enterprises, a public policy firm based in Washington, D.C., last week announced that Tennessee schools have made the largest gains in the entire nation with regard to high school graduation rates.

Between 2002 and 2010, the statewide high school graduation rate rose more than 20 percentage points to an overall rate of 80.4 percent. Over the last four years, Tennessee has made its largest gains, averaging a 2.45 percent increase per year.

Thanks to a commitment by Gov. Bill Haslam and the General Assembly to focus resources on training Tennessee students to meet the demands of the 21st century job market, Tennessee has now become one of 18 states that are poised to achieve the national goal of a 90 percent overall graduation rate by 2020.

For more information on this study, visit http://www.civicenterprises.net and click on the “Building a Grad Nation 2013 Annual Report” link.

Student athlete legislation advances

Legislation designed to protect student athletes who suffer concussions from risking further medical complications passed the House Education Subcommittee last week with full support from lawmakers.

As introduced, House Bill 867 would ensure guidelines are in place to help coaches, youth athletic instructors and parents recognize a concussion and its symptoms in order to keep injured players from risking their health by returning to competition too soon.

In addition, the legislation requires that schools and organizations develop a policy of removing youth from sports activity who show signs of concussion until they receive a medical evaluation from a licensed doctor stating they are clear to return to play.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 2001 to 2009, concussions among youth increased 60 percent, leading the agency to label concussion frequency as reaching “epidemic” proportions.

House Bill 867 was scheduled to be heard this week in the full House Education Committee.

EBT card abuse has passed subcommittee

Last week, lawmakers on the House Health Subcommittee gave approval to a bill designed to help curb abuse of purchases made using Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.

House Bill 119, if passed by the Legislature, will prohibit use of a welfare recipient’s EBT card in liquor stores, adult cabarets, casinos and other gambling facilities. In addition, welfare recipients who use EBT benefits illegally would be subject to disqualification from the program as permitted by federal law.

The House sponsor said the proposal is needed in Tennessee to ensure taxpayer dollars are not abused and to redirect EBT benefits to where they are intended to go — to help struggling families across the state.

The legislation will face the full House Health Committee this week. If approved, the bill will head to the House Calendar and Rules Committee before going to the floor of the House of Representatives for final passage.