Tracy discusses state issues

Friday, January 20, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Jobs, lower taxes, education, the governor, reapportionment and other issues were discussed in Lewisburg Tuesday night by the man who could be Marshall County's state senator because of redistricting.

As of yet, there doesn't appear to be Republican rival or a Democratic candidate for the reconfigured senatorial district now represented by Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) who would succeed Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).

Reapportionment has moved all of Marshall County from the district now represented by Ketron to the one represented by Tracy.

And while the qualifying deadline isn't upon us yet, Tracy was speaking to the Marshall County Republican Party in the First Commerce Bank on North Ellington Parkway asking for support of his re-election bid.

During his mostly forward-looking discussion, Tracy said state lawmakers will again "look at lowering the sales tax on groceries" and they "want to lower the death tax" so heirs can, for example, continue their family tradition of farming without an onerous tax on inherited money.

Lawmakers get ideas for bills through all channels, Tracy said, explaining that somebody sent him an e-mail suggesting that teenagers who are about to get their license to drive could be asked to sign a contract saying they won't text while driving.

That contract would, presumably, be in exchange for the license. It's not totally new. Anyone signing their driver's license has given their implied consent to take a blood alcohol test if they're stopped on a suspicion that they'd been driving while impaired.

Technical education instead of courses designed to prepare students for college was a recurring topic of discussion Tuesday.

Extending the topic of more state- and local-funded classes to prepare students for factory jobs, Wayne Coomes noted industrialists are provided city and county property tax deferments as an incentive for the creation of local jobs.

"If they would run some of their own job training programs for tax deferments, that would be helpful," Coomes said.

Lewisburg's Industrial Development Board grants PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Tax) Agreements with a requirement that the business benefiting from the tax break must have a certain number of new employment positions filled in a certain period of time.

Members of the IDB and city councilmen have not found a way to require the business to hire people from the tax jurisdiction that's accepting less revenue to entice business development.

Meanwhile, Tracy has spoken with Gov. Bill Haslam about technology centers. He hopes that the curriculum will be written to prepare students for new jobs being created.

A problem recognized Tuesday is that technology center enrollment is full. There's a waiting list. Tracy suggested scheduling more classes at different times.

As for opponents of the recently released redistricting plan, Tracy said, "I anticipate them to sue."

An Associated Press report this week said the redistricting map for state Senate districts omitted Tipton County.

Tracy didn't mention the AP story published the next morning, but defended the method of redistricting by saying that it was modeled after the Indiana state redistricting plan.

Before he concluded his discussion on legislative matters, Tracy offered his services as the Senate lawmaker here and now, as well as appealing for votes to continue to do so next year.

"I'm running for re-election," he said. "I need your help in August (during the GOP primary) and hopefully in November" when the general election for state Senate is held.