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"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you" -Pericles (430 B.C.)

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News from Tennessee

Wednesday May 10th marked the final day of the 2017 legislative session. In the first year of The 110th General Assembly over 1,400 bills were introduced. Lawmakers opted to delay final action on many bills and they, along with many more that will be introduced next year, are expected to be addressed when the legislature returns January 9th, 2018. Among the final bills taken up by the legislature was one that requires disclosure of lawmakers' travel paid for by politicos. The final bill to be taken up in the House was one that would have allowed lawmakers in both chambers and candidates for the legislature to significantly increase their fundraising ability. This effort led to a conference committee between the two chambers where the legislation was altered to allow House members to also increase the amount of money they could raise. After a very close vote to essentially return the bill to its original intent, Representative Tilman Goins (R-Morristown) requested the bill be delayed until 2018.

Another Bill that will return in 2018 is the Short- Term Rental Unit Act. Short-term rentals were a hot topic in Nashville this session. The issue strengthened when Nashville Metro Council was considering an ordinance to phase out the rental units in residential zones unless the owners occupy them. This affects companies like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and other Short-term unit platforms. Senator John Stevens (R-Huntingdon), sponsor of a bill that originally would have prohibited all local governments from banning short-term rental housing in residential zones requested the bill in the Senate be placed on hold until the 2018 legislative session. The bill was passed on the House Floor after extended debate on Monday with an amendment that would only apply to the city of Nashville.

The 2017-18 State Budget was passed last Thursday with a vote 83-2 in the House and was taken up Monday in the Senate. The senate voted 28-2 Monday night to send the state $37.1 billion Fiscal year 2018 Budget on to Governor Bill Haslam. The budget acknowledges a nearly $1 billion surplus in recurring revenues and more than $1 billion in one-time surplus revenue. The administration budget amendment reflects an extra $125.5 million in the 2016-17 revenue, including $60 million in savings on top of the $90 million shown in the original plan. The administrative budget also includes a $51 million franchise and excise tax payment that was the final installment of a $180 million tax settlement favoring the state. Some of the budget revisions from the 2016-17 include:

  • $40 million from departments and agencies and $20 million resulting from slower-than-anticipated BEP enrollment growth.
  • About $10.6 million is earmarked for three initiatives to help Sevier County recover from devastation caused by wildfires in late November and early December.
  • Caregivers in the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities would get a 4.8% boost in pay at a cost of $8 million.
  • More than $22 million goes for an incentive grant to LG Electronics, which announced in February it is locating a $250 million plant with 600 jobs in Clarksville.
  • A one-time $11.8 million appropriation, which the state eventually would recoup, would seal a reported agreement with TVA that allows continued use of the Ocoee River in Polk County for whitewater rafting. (A Bivens and Associates project).
  • A doubling of the $15 million already proposed for aeronautics economic development grants, a separate program from the Transportation Equity Fund that also provides airport funding, would go to airports.

Senators engaged in a spirited debate over the state busting the "Copeland Cap," a state constitutional provision named after former Rep. David Copeland, (R-Collegedale). It says the percentage of growth in Tennessee government revenues cannot exceed the percentage of per capita income as measured by Tennesseans' personal income. That is, lawmakers cannot exceed the percentage unless they specifically acknowledge they are doing it in the stand-alone bill. Senate leaders say the cap is being busted in the current budget year as the state acknowledged budget surpluses from the fiscal year 2016 and the current FY 2017. It goes away in the FY 2018 budget that goes into effect this July 1. The final version of Governor Haslam IMPROVE Act phases in the 6-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax hike and 10-cent diesel tax increase over three years in place of the full, immediate hikes initially contemplated. Governor Haslam proposed a $55 million transfer to the transportation fund to get projects in the IMPROVE Act off to a fast start. The $55 million would help offset the reduction in front-end money and get multi-year projects under- way sooner. The IMPROVE Act, which takes effect July 1, addresses a $10 billion backlog and lists 962 road and bridge projects. Another one of Governor Haslam legislative efforts this session included The Tennessee Reconnect Act. The proposal expands an already popular program to provide tuition free community college to adult Tennesseans. Any adult Tennessee resident without a college degree or certificate could use the scholarship regardless of income or past academic performance. The Tennessee Reconnect Act is the next step in Governor Haslam Drive to 55 initiative for Tennessee to reach the goal of 55% of residents to have a college degree.

Steve, Mike, Brian, Haley and Vivian appreciate your continued confidence in Bivens & Associates LLC. It is our honor to represent your interests in Nashville. While we will be getting some much deserved rest over the next few days please reach out to us if you have any questions, concerns or if you are ready to start planning for the 2018 legislative session.

Lobbying Efforts and TAPS by Jay Caughman

I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to better explain the advantages of having a professional
legislative lobbyist affords TAPS and the professional land surveyors of Tennessee. Each board member
of TAPS has a duty and responsibility to promote and protect the profession of land surveying. One
important way of protecting any profession that is regulated by government is by keeping a close eye on
the legislative body that introduces and votes on bills that directly affect it. There are three basic ways
of how organizations can accomplish this. First is by having its members and a legislative committee
keep an eye on bills as they are introduced and, if found, reporting it to its members. I believe TAPS has
this. Second is by having the resources available, should the need arise, to actively fight or support
legislation introduced by other parties that may affect the profession. This would include a body of
members that would actively contact legislators to voice their opinion and have influence. I believe
TAPS has this to a degree depending on what other party is supporting the legislative bill. Third, and
most effective, is by having a direct connection to the legislators who draft and vote on the bills
submitted for consideration. This is most effectively accomplished through a lobbyist who has a
history/relationship with the elected officials, knows their staff and committee members, has access to
arrange face to face meetings at their office on Capitol Hill and has the skill of crafting written
legislation. It's all about connections, access and influence that they can provide to their clients. As a
professional organization that represents the majority of licensed professional land surveyors in
Tennessee, we have the responsibility to provide all three levels of due care as described above. More
importantly, we need the ability to be proactive by introducing and drafting bills for legislative
consideration. This takes a well thought out game plan of knowing who our 'friends' are on Capitol Hill
(PAC committee), what influence do they have, what committees will the bill travel through and finding
the path of least resistance. Of course none of this can be done without the prior approval of the TAPS
board of directors.

In the past, TAPS has been the beneficiary of a fine lobbyist, Mr. Jay West. His connections and personal
contacts in the halls of Capitol Hill served us well. More recently, TAPS has acquired the services of a
professional lobbying firm, Bivens & Associates, LLC led by former State Representative Mr. Steve
Bivens. Mr. Bivens has attended many of our Board meetings and continues to work with the Legislative
committee on current issues. I am pleased to report that he has always responded back to telephone
calls, emails and has followed up on questions and issues. With a simple telephone call, Mr. Bivens has
connections that allow us to get the real story behind by every bill by making direct contact with the
bill's sponsors. Last year's legislative session provided TAPS with the opportunity to utilize his services
by the introduction of a bill. Mr. Bivens skillfully worked with Benny Moorman, drafted the bill and
strategized a path for the bill to follow. Ultimately a compromise was worked out the Realtors lobby to
include an offer of survey in all property closing papers. This was accomplished by his connections,
access and influence.

In closing I would like to emphasize the importance of having a lobbyist to serve the members of TAPS
and every professional land surveyor in Tennessee. Not only for the mindful eye watching for bills that
affect our profession, but more importantly for the connections, access and influence that it provides.
I look forward to another legislative year that begins this coming Tuesday, January 13th. Of the 99
members of the House, 73 (74%) are Republicans, 26 (26%) are Democrats. Of the 33 members of the
Senate, 28 (85%) are Republicans, 5 (15%) are Democrats. The Honorable Ron Ramsey, Lt. Governor is
the first Republican Senate Speaker in 140 years. Rep. Beth Harwell will serve as the Speaker of the
House. Issues expected to dominate this year include the 'Insure Tennessee' program and education
(common core). In addition, jobs and women's rights issues related to the recent passage of
Amendment 1 are expected.

Lobbying 101: Effectively Communicating with Legislators By Jay West

In my experience, I have found that there are a few rules that, if followed, will help TAPS members to most effectively communicate the message of the association to their legislators. Spearheading an effective lobbying effort involves three steps:
� Education. � Motivation. � Activation.

Education involves making sure TAPS members know exactly what the issues affecting their industry are. They must know how the issue affects them personally and be able to discuss all of the ins and outs of the issue in a clear and concise manner.

Motivation is essential to get our folks fired up. Our people may be the most informed about an issue, but if they are not willing to communicate that to their elected officials, all of their education is for nothing. We must be motivated that this is the right issue, we are on the right side of this issue, and the legislature has to pass/defeat it.

Activation is getting TAPS members to call, write, or go see their legislators after they have been provided with the right tools to communicate and the motivation to make that communication.

After education, motivation and activation, your TAPS lobbying team must then conduct the proper follow-up to determine where your votes are and if any follow-up meetings need to occur. When educating TAPS members on communicating with legislators, it always pays to remember that as the saying goes, all politics are local.

I have found that grassroots lobbying is the most effective way to influence public policy, if it is done correctly. Grassroots lobbying means convincing the members of the General Assembly that there are a lot of folks back home that think a certain piece of legislation is either a good or a bad idea. While some legislators are smarter than others, rest assured, that every single one of them can count and can count very well. That is to say, it takes a certain number of votes to get elected to the General Assembly, and it takes a certain number of votes in the General Assembly to pass legislation. Evidence is nice, but facts do not vote; constituents do, that is why organizing constituent support for a bill is the most crucial part of grassroots lobbying.

For this reason, motivating TAPS members to participate in the legislative process by making contact with their State Representative and State Senator is vital. Hearing first hand from a constituent about the associations issues and concerns is a powerful tool in advocating for TAPS interests. On the other hand, if grassroots lobbying is done incorrectly, our legislation may be defeated, our association could be embarrassed and lose credibility or legislation that is harmful to the surveying profession could become law.

Which leaves us finally, with activation, these are some of the useful hints for lobbying that I have learned through the years: Never write more than a one-page letter-I suggest using only three paragraphs: tell them what you are going to tell them -tell them what you told them. Never include lengthy studies or graphs with your letter. Be sure to put the exact bill number you are talking about instead of saying Vote against that gun bill. Never tell them If you don't vote for this, I won't vote for you. They all know that. Always be nice to the staff. They can get you access to a legislator very easily, but they can prevent access to a legislator if you are on their bad side. Mind your manners. If a legislator tells you he agrees with you and will vote for your bill, thank them and shut up. Never, ever lie. If you don't know the answer to a question, tell them that you will get back with them or have your lobbyist get back with them with the correct information. Don't be an economist by saying, If this bill passes, then unemployment will go up five percent in the State of Tennessee. The good Lord invented economists to make weathermen look good. Stay focused on how this particular piece of legislation impacts you personally and the way you do business.

Other Methods of Grassroots Lobbying: One-to-one contact list for each legislator, i.e., who is the closest person in your association to that legislator? Yard signs and bumper stickers. Poll workers. Postcards. Letters to the editor. TV and regular advertising. Newspaper advertising. Establish coalitions with other groups on the same side as you.

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