Business, Policy, US

Roundtable, NFIB, Chamber Co-Host 2018 U.S. Senate Forum with Blackburn, Bredesen

The Tennessee Business Roundtable, in partnership with the Tennessee Chamber and NFIB, hosted a 2018 U.S. Senate Forum at Lipscomb University’s College of Business on August 15, 2018, focusing on federal policy issues affecting our state’s business community.

Candidates Marsha Blackburn (R) and Phil Bredesen (D) answered questions posed by moderator Ben Hall of NewsChannel5 on tariffs, health care, infrastructure, taxes, and regulatory policy. The event was live streamed by NewsChannel5+ and can be viewed here.

Marsha Blackburn and Ben Hall
Phil Bredesen and Ben Hall
From left to right: Ben Hall, NewsChannel5; Jim Brown, NFIB; Patrick Sheehy, TN Business Roundtable; Bradley Jackson, TN Chamber of Commerce & Industry

“Our Roundtable convenes Tennessee business leaders to provoke productive conversations on business and policy matters, and in presenting this Forum, we were pleased to join with our fellow statewide business organizations to begin the general election conversation on Tennessee’s 2018 United States Senate race with candidates Blackburn and Bredesen,” said TBR President Patrick Sheehy (pictured right). 

“Great teamwork by Tennessee NFIB, the Tennessee Chamber and TBR allowed our state business leaders to hear directly from the candidates on trade, regulatory, health, infrastructure, and tax issues that affect our state’s economy and workforce.  We’re grateful to Lipscomb University for allowing our Roundtable, the Chamber and NFIB to provide this opportunity for our business community, and to Ben Hall and NewsChannel 5 for partnering with us to deliver an informative, timely event.”

Business, Competitiveness, Policy, Taxes

Tennessee Business Roundtable Calls for Pro-Business, Pro-Worker Federal Tax Policy Reform

Executive business group names Hamilton-Ryker co-founder McCreight to chair Policy Committee

Nashville, TN, October 24, 2017:  The Tennessee Business Roundtable (TBR) today joined a growing chorus of pro-growth organizations in calling upon the 115th Congress to enact meaningful federal tax reforms that deliver real relief to Tennessee businesses and wage-earners.

The Tennessee Business Roundtable favors changes to our nation’s current tax system that promote the growth of Tennessee’s economy, and the well-being and success of Tennessee families. Continue reading

Business, Leadership, Policy

TBR to Host 2018 TN Gubernatorial Candidate “Round-Robin” on Sept. 12 in Nashville

In conjunction with the Roundtable’s Fall 2017 Board Meeting in Nashville, TBR members and invitees will have an opportunity to hear directly from the men and women who want to serve as Tennessee’s next Governor.

TBR is inviting the 2018 gubernatorial candidates to share their respective policy visions for our state at its 2018 Gubernatorial Round-Robin on Tuesday, Sept. 12, time and location TBD.

“This forum provides a unique opportunity to have candid conversations with gubernatorial candidates about issues important to not only Farm Bureau but also the business community at large,” stated Anthony Kimbrough, CEO of Farm Bureau Health Plans. “I look forward to learning more about the candidates and their positions.”

TBR has invited the following declared candidates to provide remarks and take Q&A, in a serial non-debate format, with Roundtable members and invited guests:

  • Mae Beavers (R), Middle TN, State Senator (District 17)
  • Randy Boyd (R), East TN, business owner (Radio Systems Corp.) and former Commissioner of Economic and Community Development
  • Karl Dean (D),Middle TN, former mayor of Nashville
  • Beth Harwell (R), Middle TN, TN House Speaker
  • Bill Lee (R), Middle TN, business owner (Lee Company)

Others considering bids for governor include U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R) and TN House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D). The gubernatorial primary election will be held Aug. 2, 2018, with the general election on Nov. 6.

Registration for the Round-Robin is available to all TBR members, and to their invited guests via invitation only.  Click here to request event sponsorship information.

Education, Policy

Tennessee Submits Final ESSA Plan to U.S. Department of Education

In April the TN Dept. of Education submitted to the U.S. Department of Education its final plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enacted in December of 2015 as the successor to the No Child Left Behind federal education law.  The product of a yearlong process of listening tours, town hall meetings, and stakeholder feedback, Tennessee’s ESSA plan—which is slated to take effect on July 1 following review and approval by the federal government—includes a new focus on career readiness which is expected to help more students to graduate from the K-12 system better-prepared for employment and higher education.

ESSA builds on the recent progress being made in educational systems in Tennessee and across the country, which is leading to rising high school graduation rates and declining dropout rates. The new law now requires that all students be held to high academic standards which prepare them for college or careers after high school. Tennessee’s strategic education plan, put in place prior to the enactment of ESSA, closely tracks the new law’s major priorities and requirements and provided a strong foundation on which to build the state’s ESSA plan.

In January, the Roundtable submitted its feedback to the draft ESSA plan developed by the Tennessee Department of Education. After reviewing comments from over 1,000 groups and individuals throughout the state, the Dept. of Education made edits and adjustments to the draft plan which addressed areas of concern held by many stakeholders.

“The Roundtable’s primary concerns during the ESSA plan development process, which we voiced loudly and clearly to the Department [of Education] throughout, were to protect Tennessee’s commitments to high K-12 academic standards and to assessments which align with those high standards, and to put workforce readiness on par with college readiness in measuring K-12 school performance,” points out TBR Vice Chair Tinker Kelly (VEBA, Nashville, TN). “TBR fought successfully for decades to raise our state’s academic standards and to hold our schools accountable by measuring student performance against those standards, and we’re very pleased that Tennessee has ‘doubled down’ on those commitments by submitting an ESSA plan which protects those rigorous standards and assessments—and which affirms more clearly than ever before that career-readiness is just as important as being ready for college.”

Two new key indicators in Tennessee’s ESSA compliance plan will break new ground for the state in its measurement of opportunity and readiness. Tennessee’s new “Chronically Absent” indicator focuses on students who miss 10 percent or more of the days they are enrolled in school, and aims to decrease absenteeism by addressing the underlying causes of their truancy. To address readiness, Tennessee’s new Ready Graduate indicator will identify the percentage of high school graduates who achieve specified post-secondary readiness benchmarks, including scoring 21 or better on the ACT exam or attaining certain industry-recognized technical credentials, that increase their likelihood of succeeding in college and careers.

In response to feedback from TBR and other business interests on its draft plan, Tennessee’s final ESSA plan includes an additional “readiness check” within its Ready Graduate indicator. Students who complete two Early Postsecondary Opportunities and receive a sufficient score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery will now be included within that accountability measure as “ready graduates.” Additionally, the accountability weighting of the Ready Graduate indicator has been increased from 20% to 25%, while the weighting of the Chronically Absent indicator has decreased. Changes like these will encourage schools to prioritize career readiness offerings, leading to more students graduating prepared for college or the job market.

Click here to read about more changes to the December Draft ESSA plan.

Policy, Transportation

Haslam’s IMPROVE Act to Fuel Tennessee’s Economy

Increased Gas, Registration Levies Offset by Cuts in Non-Gas Taxes; Local TN Govts Gain Surcharge Referendum Option to Fund Transit

Following weeks of negotiations, political posturing and legislative maneuvering, Governor Bill Haslam on April 26 signed into law the first major update to Tennessee’s road-funding program in over 25 years.

Coupling modest increases in the state’s fuel taxes and annual registration fees with four significant tax cuts, the enacted version of the IMPROVE Act paves the way for accelerated work on a backlog of over $10 billion in much-needed improvements to state highway routes and bridges—and provides new transportation revenue and options to Tennessee’s local governments. Continue reading

Judicial, Policy

TBR joins the “Yes on 2” Campaign Kickoff


On Tuesday , April 29th, TBR Executive Director, Charlie Howorth, joined Governor Bill Haslam, Governor Phil Bredesen, Senator Fred Thompson, and other state leaders in kicking off the Yes on 2 campaign which supports the constitutional amendment relating to the way that appellate court judges are appointed and retained.

An opinion piece on the issue authored by Bredesen & Thompson can be found here.

For more information, or to find out how to be involved in Yes on 2, feel free to contact our office.

Business, Education, Policy

TBR Passes Resolution Supporting TN Promise



WHEREAS, the Tennessee Business Roundtable has long supported education advancements through support, development, and implementation of such reforms as the TN Diploma Project, First to the Top, the Complete College Act of Tennessee, Complete College Academies, and the Common Core State Standards.

WHEREAS, on February 3, 2014 the Honorable Bill Haslam, Governor of Tennessee, proposed a plan which commits to providing on a continuing basis two years of community college or a college of applied technology (TCAT) absolutely free of tuition and fees to graduating high school seniors.   This plan is known as the “Tennessee Promise”.

WHEREAS, the Tennessee Promise proposes to finance this tuition by strategically directing  a portion of the existing lottery scholarship reserve fund to an endowment for this purpose.

WHEREAS, the Tennessee Promise provides that a student, after graduating from a community college, chooses to attend a four-year school, the state’s transfer pathways program makes it possible for those students to start as a junior.  By getting their first two years free, the cost of a four-year degree is reduced by half.

WHEREAS, the Tennessee Promise is part of the “Drive to 55” initiative aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree beyond high school.  By 2025 it is estimated that 55 percent of Tennesseans will need a certificate or degree to get a job.  Currently only 32 percent of Tennesseans meet that criterion.

WHEREAS, if Tennessee does not have a qualified workforce in the future, jobs will neither be created nor developed in our state.  For Tennessee to continue to be the place people and businesses want to locate, live and work we must have a work force capable of filling the jobs that will exist in the future.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Tennessee Business Roundtable endorses the principles and goals of the Tennessee Promise and the Drive to 55 as being in the State’s best interest and strongly encourages the Legislature to pass the necessary legislation needed to implement the Tennessee Promise Initiative.

By adoption of the Board of Directors,

Gary Shorb, President of the Board

Business, Education, Policy

TBR Updates Resolution Supporting TN Common Core Standards




WHEREAS, education “standards” define expectations of what students should know at the conclusion of a course of study. Standards do not dictate curriculum or prescribe a particular method of instruction.  The adoption of particular standards is made at the state level.  One of the core pieces of Tennessee’s work to improve public education has been to raise the rigor of Tennessee’s academic standards.  The goal has been to implement higher standards that better prepare students for the work force or college.

WHEREAS, in 2007, public education in Tennessee was faced with a stark reality. That year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Tennessee an “F” in “Truth in Advertising”, a rating based on our state’s ability to equip graduates with the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the modern workforce.  In addition, many Tennesseans were increasingly concerned about the high number of students who were entering college unprepared, unable to maintain a passing GPA, and struggling to graduate.

WHEREAS, to address these challenges, Tennessee’s Governor and the Tennessee General Assembly took the bold step of pushing for increased accountability in public education by raising academic standards in the classroom.  That same year, more than 130 business leaders from across the state worked with the Governor and key legislators, through a serious of regional meetings across the state, to outline a vision for public education in the future, a vision focused on making sure students graduate high school ready for the future.

WHEREAS, in 2008, the State Board of Education formalized this vision by raising academic standards in classrooms across Tennessee through an effort called the Tennessee Diploma Project. The Diploma Project set higher expectations for what students should know and be able to do in school and in life.

WHEREAS, at the same time, Tennessee was helping to lead a new conversation with governors and state commissioners of education from across the country about how we could continue to build on our work to raise academic standards. The idea was that the expectations for college and the workforce should be the same from state to state instead of having lower expectations in Tennessee.

WHEREAS, a new set of standards emerged out of this state-led effort, coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, called the Common Core State Standards. Tennesseans played an important role in the development of the new standards, and teachers and parents from Tennessee provided feedback on the standards before they were adopted by the State Board of Education.  These standards were adopted in July 2010.

WHEREAS, Common Core State Standards emphasize real world skills in math, reading and writing along with critical thinking and problem solving skills that better prepare students for college, for work and for being more informed citizens.  The standards also ensure that students have a deep understanding of


rigorous material instead of focusing on rote memorization and test-taking skills.  Common Core State Standards represent a remarkable advance in academic rigor and content, ensuring that students graduate from high school better prepared for the future.

WHEREAS, Tennessee is in its third year of implementation of Common Core State Standards and, along with other education reform efforts, these standards are a part of the tremendous academic gains made by students over the last three years on the National Assessment of Educational Progress ( NAEP).

WHEREAS, Tennessee, while being recognized by NAEP as the nation’s fastest-improving state for student achievement, still ranks below the average on the Nation’s Report Card and our students remain below the national average on proficiency in English and math.

WHEREAS, for Tennessee to continue to improve it is necessary to continue the reforms that helped bring about this result and to accurately measure such achievement through quality assessment. Tennessee plays a leading role in the Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC) and its governance which allows our educators to accurately measure whether students have mastered the course knowledge and can apply it.

WHEREAS, now is not the time to abandon the reforms and strategies that are starting to show real, measureable positive results and to do so may relegate an entire generation to missing out on opportunities to achieve economic success for themselves and their families.

WHEREAS, Tennessee’s students are not less intelligent or otherwise gifted than those in other states.  Tennessee’s students will rise to the level we expect of them. We must not fail them by expecting less than what they will need in order to be successful in life and in work.

WHEREAS, the Tennessee Business Roundtable, a member of SCORE’s (the State Collaboration on Reforming Education) “Expect More, Achieve More” (EMAM) coalition, endorses and supports EMAM’s “Stay the Course” campaign and would encourage all businesses to join in and support EMAM , local education leaders and teachers  in this important issue.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Tennessee Business Roundtable endorses the principles and goals of the Common Core State Standards as adopted, the corresponding  PARCC  assessment  and strongly recommends that no action be taken to delay, impede or alter the scheduled  implementation of either  these Standards or PARCC  in Tennessee’s public education system.

Dated this the 26th day of February, 2014.

By adoption of the Board of Directors

Gary Shorb, Board President