Tennessee sales taxes highest among states
With an average combined state and local tax rate of 9.44 percent, Tennessee has the highest sales tax rate of any U.S. state, according to a new study by the Tax Foundation.
Tennessee is among 34 states that allow local governments to add on to the state sales tax rate of 7 percent. Most Tennessee cities and counties add extra sales taxes atop of the state rate.
"Retail sales taxes are considered the most 'transparent' taxes," said Kail Padgitt, staff economist for the Tax Foundation. "Citizens are aware of how much they pay and when (with the sales tax)."
Griscom aids Haslam
Former Chattanooga Times Free Press publisher and executive editor Tom Griscom has been working as Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's acting communications director but doesn't expect to remain long.
"I asked Tom to come help us; I've known him forever," Haslam said recently of Griscom, who left the newspaper last June. "I said, 'I respect your abilities and the strategy you can bring to us and helping us with communications.'"
Griscom said he will stay at least through Haslam's State of the State address in March, but the one-time Reagan White House communications director said he doesn't plan to keep the post.
He said he came in to develop a communications plan and strategy for the administration. Griscom said he expects that he will have "some continuing type relationship" with the administration.
Also holding a top post in the Haslam administration is former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, who is deputy to the governor and his chief of staff.
Griscom is being paid $5,000 a month while Ramsey is paid $180,000 annually, according to Haslam spokesman David Smith.
Hamilton County's state Republican legislators are on the search once again to fill a vacancy on the county Election Commission.
Attorney J.B. Bennett is leaving the commission because he has registered to lobby the Legislature, said Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, the delegation's chairman.
According to the state Ethics Commission website, Bennett has registered to lobby on behalf of Thompson Engineering and Neuro-Spine.
Watson said he expects delegation members to name a replacement soon.
In 2008, Bennett replaced then-election commissioner Bart Quinn, another attorney, who also had signed up to lobby. In 2009, Jeff Lewis resigned to run Tim Gobble's unsuccessful Republican congressional campaign. Republicans have a 3-2 majority on the panel.
Labor unions touted
Leaders and supporters of organized labor plan a forum to discuss ways for labor unions to capture part of the influx of new industry in Chattanooga at 2 p.m. today at the at CAMPHouse, 1427 Williams St. off West Main Street.
The Hamilton County Democratic Party and Chattanooga Organized for Action are sponsoring the meeting in a series called "The State of the City."
"At a time when corporate profits are breaking all historical records, but organized labor is at an all-time low in the private sector, and public sector unions are under an aggressive attack, it is absolutely critical that we establish support for our neighbors, friends and family members who work in unions and are the backbone of our economy," Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Brown said.
Democratic women to meet Tuesday
Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey will be the guest speaker Wednesday for the Greater Chattanooga Democratic Women's Club.
Mackey, who represents District 4, will discuss and answer questions about the recent county mayor selection, the choice of a new District 3 commissioner and the allocation of PILOT funds.
The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at IBEW Local 175 on Volunteer Drive. Refreshments will be provided.
For more information, call club President Katherine Snyder at 423-875-0100.
Fleischmann meeting draws 12,000
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., talked via telephone with more than 12,000 constituents Tuesday night during his first "Tele-Town" meeting.
"Whether it is about health care, taxes, spending or events in the Middle East, I think it is important for citizens to always have direct access to their elected officials, and I was glad to speak with them about these issues," Fleischmann said after the hourlong conference call in which he fielded questions from more than a half-dozen constituents. "I look forward to doing this many times again in the future."
As they did during his campaign, Fleischmann's staff called constituents and invited them to listen in to the Tele-Town Hall meeting.
Among those who responded to a phone survey during the call, two-thirds said they thought tort reform should be a priority in revising health care laws. Asked about their top concerns, 40 percent listed federal spending and 38 percent chose health care, Fleischmann said.
Alexander takes ENERGY post
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., will serve as the highest-ranking Republican, known as the "Ranking Member," on the Senate Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.
The panel has jurisdiction over funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Energy, including scientific and nuclear weapons national laboratories.
"After we reduce spending, we still must set priorities that make it easier and cheaper to create private-sector jobs," Alexander said. "This position will allow me to make sure that priorities like research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, nuclear weapons modernization at Y-12, dredging at the Memphis port, and construction at Chickamauga Lock and the Wolf Creek and Center Hill dams get the attention they deserve."
Fleischmann committees promote business
Fleischmann also announced this week he will serve on three House committees -- Natural Resources, Science and Technology and Small Business.
"That's a lot of work, but it's going to allow me to serve the values of the 3rd District of Tennessee," he said.
Fleischmann said he plans to take aim at government bureaucrats.
"These government bureaucrats and regulators have hampered American business and I'm saying get out of the way of our great entrepreneurs so we can have real grown in the private sector," he said.
Maucere leads local Young GOP
Scott Raymond Maucere was elected chairman of the Hamilton County Young Republicans during the group's recent convention.
Other officers for the GOP group include Vice Chairman Tiffany Hargis, Treasurer Melissa C. Reinders and Secretary Michelle Maucere. The newly elected board members are Christopher Reinders, Brian Frye, Jonathan Mason, Brian Chaney, Ashley Hammonds and Kevin Hargis.