published Friday, February 11th, 2011

Haslam looks to cut rules to help business

NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he will focus on steps such as slashing business regulations instead of pushing a large "jobs package" of bills to meet his pledge of making Tennessee more business friendly.

"A lot of people ask me every day, 'When are y'all going to present your jobs package to the legislature?'" Haslam, a Republican, said at a luncheon hosted by the Tennessee Press Association and The Associated Press. "I don't think we're going to solve Tennessee's unemployment issues with legislation. I just don't."

Haslam repeated earlier pledges to examine administrative rules and regulations "that sometimes make it difficult to do business, and oftentimes they encourage businesses to go [places] besides Tennessee."

Upon taking office Jan. 15, Haslam put a "freeze" on pending rules.

"I was shocked, to be honest with you, at what rules and regulations were in the process," he said Thursday.

A secretary of state website last month showed nearly 40 hearings on proposed rules that would be affected by the freeze. The administration has yet to specify a total number affected.

Haslam said he wants to "make certain they [rules] were things that were not going to discourage job growth but were allowing us to maintain our proper regulatory involvement."

One of the frozen rules temporarily blocks new standards for underground fuel storage tanks holding blends with more than 10 percent ethanol.

That would affect the Haslam family's Pilot Corp. chain of convenience stores and the Flying J Pilot truck stop chain in which the family holds a majority share. The governor previously told the Chattanooga Times Free Press he did not know the rule would affect his family's businesses.

Some business groups have shown interest in legislation in other areas, such as workers' compensation.

But Thursday, Haslam only mentioned bills capping lawsuit awards in some cases and encouraging businesses to locate in Tennessee.

"It will not be a huge, thick jobs packet because I don't think that's how jobs are created," he said.

Earlier in the day, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, also expressed skepticism to the assembled newspaper publishers and editors about passing new laws to help promote economic growth.

"I'm a small-business man myself, and you know what I want out of state government? Absolutely nothing," Ramsey said. "Leave me alone. Get out of the way, and I'll create jobs. All I want for government is to get out of the way."

He also slammed excessive regulation and what he said is regulators' tardy responses to permit requests.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, said he blamed regulatory delays on budget cuts.

"There is such a disconnect in Republican government between cutting the number of people who work in a department and the efficiency in a department," he said.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

HASLAM IN CHATTANOOGA

Gov. Bill Haslam will visit the Volkswagen and Alstom plants in Chattanooga today before holding a jobs roundtable at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a celebration at the Tennessee Aquarium.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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