By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
State Rep. Bill Sanderson was victorious in his second try at elective office in November 2010 and assumed his responsibility as the state representative for District 77 soon thereafter.
In a recent interview, he discussed his work over the past 12 months.
“We passed a number of major reforms in the first half of the 107th session,” the Kenton businessman noted. “We have begun the process of overhauling how government operates so tax dollars are saved and utilized more efficiently. Plus, we instituted a number of education reforms so our children can be better prepared for the 21st century job market. We also responsibly cut over a billion dollars in government spending while balancing the budget.
“And we did all that while finishing the last session earlier than we have in the last decade.”
Sanderson served on a Small Business Task Force and notes that the group has the responsibility to “look ahead to the upcoming session.”
“We are focused on ways we can empower the job creators in our state to do more while ensuring our state government is a resource, not a hurdle, for economic growth in Tennessee. We identified a number of the problems facing our businesses and entrepreneurs. Many are caused by burdensome federal regulations; however, this session we intend to address workers’ comp reform, education reform and many departmental rules and regulations at the state level.”
He sees the challenges as follows:
• Reforming workers’ comp — Premiums are high and are not competitive with other states. The categories are too broad and this contributes to making the premiums different.
• Reforming education — Universities and technical schools need to work together to adapt to the current job potential and teach classes that correspond with available jobs that are marketed to certain areas of the state.
• Reforming departmental rules and regulations — There are regulations being imposed by both the county and the state. The rules and regulations coming down from each department need to be paired with a fiscal note that shows the impact the action would have on the state and on the consumer. That information should be considered before any rule or regulation is adopted.
“We will be looking to reform the Hall Income Tax and the Death Tax, as well,” Sanderson noted. “It concerns me that the state is basically forcing people to break up farms and businesses to tax them again after a death in the family. I feel we are chasing capital and people away with this tax. There are two things you can be sure of in life — death and taxes.
In Tennessee we take this one step further by taxing again after death. Of course it is also our responsibility to address concerns of filling the budget gap if this tax is removed. But I feel we should do all we can to gradually roll this back and slowly phase it out.
“As for the Hall Tax, we all say that Tennessee does not have an income tax but, in fact, we do have the Hall Tax. The Hall Tax is an income tax, especially for seniors living on a fixed income and living on these funds. I feel this sends a message that if you work hard and are successful, leaving your kids a farm or setting money back, we penalize you. This is just not right and I intend to do all I can to see it corrected.”
Sanderson says it is his intention to see some sort of drug testing paired with the awarding of benefits.
“With the budgetary constraints we are under, I feel there is a desire to ensure that every state dollar spent is being spent efficiently and for the right reason. In other words, every cent should go to help those most vulnerable. There is a lot of discussion about how this will be paid and implemented. We are focusing on other states that have already passed drug testing measures and the court’s position on the reform.”
Sanderson adds that concept maps related to redistricting across the state will be ready the first week of session.
“I am certain the lines will be fair and legal. Every effort to comply with all laws has been made. I am not certain how the redistricting will affect District 77. Unfortunately, both Obion County and Lake County have lost almost 1,000 people in the past 10 years. In order to keep all districts the same size, my district will need to grow by almost 9,000 people. That means we will have to get geographically larger. This same situation will face district 76 and many other West Tennessee districts. So you see, there will be a lot of movement of House and Senate district lines.”
Noting that there are many bills still on the table from the last session, Sanderson says many new bills have already been filed.
“Nevertheless, the economy, jobs and a smaller, more efficient government will be our focus this session,” he says.
Published in The Messenger 1.2.12