"Two years ago there were 26 new representatives -- I was new and the governor was new in Nashville," recalled Sanderson. "We knew we had a job on our plates to make Tennessee a better place to live and do business."
Sanderson began by discussing plans to update the state's workers' compensation system, which he acknowledged had some antiquated laws. Haslam proposed during his State of the State address that a workers' compensation board would be appointed. The new system Sanderson says would eliminate unfair advantages for both the employee and the employers. In addition, employees should receive benefits faster and the new system will create a more predictable work environment for employers.
To the delight of the audience Sanderson announced that it is the state Legislature's intent to lower sales taxes from 5.50 percent down to 5.25 percent.
Other areas of Haslam's State of the State address that Sanderson summarized included a plan to take the nearly 1 million Tennesseans who have some college credit but no degree and help them attain a degree should they desire. Sanderson also discussed the Hall Income Tax, which will be reduced for the second time since 2011 by exempting single filers with a total annual income of $33,000 or less, and either joint filers with a total annual income of $59,000 or less or a spouse 65 years of age or older.
Sanderson brought good news for Dyer County law enforcement and the Tennessee Technology Centers indicating that the governor intends to seek additional funding for both. The state has acknowledged that the amount of money being reimbursed to the counties to house state prisoners locally is not sufficient and there will be an increase in funding. Although Sanderson could not put an exact dollar figure on how much additional funding this would mean in Dyer County, he did note that the additional funds are more than what was originally discussed.
Sanderson, who was recently appointed by Speaker Beth Harwell to chair the House subcommittee for state government for the upcoming session, commented that representatives would for the first time be limited to carrying 15 bills. He outlined the eight bills he is carrying for the audience:
* A bill allowing the decision of when to retire school buses left at the local level. Current law states that school buses are to be retired after 15 years of service regardless of their condition. School buses in good condition are normally sold to school systems in other states that do not have that restriction.
* A bill that will allow Tennessee to honor the tax-exempt status from a neighboring state. Sanderson called this a pro-business bill and hopes it will have a positive economic impact especially in northwest Tennessee, which shares a border with Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky.
* A bill introducing a pilot program in two counties to allow voting precincts to be connected so that voters can vote at any precinct in the county they are registered to vote for. This pilot program will not take place in Dyer, Lake or Obion counties.
* A bill that would allow counties to collectively purchase items. For example, Lake and Dyer counties could join together to purchase asphalt in a larger quantity and thereby reduce their costs. Current laws do not allow for counties to collectively purchase items in bulk.
* Tax exemptions for low-profit limited liability companies (L3C).
After Sanderson's detailed update on what is transpiring in Nashville he fielded questions from the audience, and Dyersburg Alderman Bob Kirk immediately asked about the status of Interstate 69. Sanderson responded that he had just met with Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer, who is concerned about the current funding for the I-69 corridor or lack thereof. Schroer pointed to vehicles extending their gas mileage as well as the costs of asphalt rising. Also Sanderson stated that I-69 began as a federal earmark to construct a highway that runs north and south from Michigan to Texas. Currently there are no federal earmarks to complete the highway.
"There is no urgency in his (Schroer's) voice to complete it," said Sanderson.
Everyone was encouraged to attend a public meeting with Schroer set to take place at the Chamber on Friday, Feb. 22 at noon. Sanderson said that interested individuals should come and stress the importance of completing at least the portions that are half done in Union City and Memphis.
Kirk asked if there was a possibility of installing a toll road to generate revenue for the corridor. Sanderson responded that Schroer previously had addressed the use of toll roads to fund I-69. However, traffic studies indicated that there would not be enough traffic to generate the required revenue.
Although not specifically asked about, Sanderson did discuss proposed gun legislation that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to keep their gun in their vehicle while entering establishments that do not allow guns. Sanderson believes the bill will make it through the state Legislature this year.
Ministers Theresa Bass and Lillie Blue of the Dyersburg Christian Center inquired about Tennesseans that do not have health insurance and about programs to help the homeless. Sanderson discussed homeless programs with the two after the meeting but did answer that the state Legislature has been putting money away in its rainy-day fund in order to account for the estimated $1.5 billion in costs to be incurred by the influx of individuals into the TennCare system over the next five years.
Sanderson lastly addressed the supermarket wine bill, which he says seems to be the most talked-about piece of legislation. The bill would allow supermarket establishments like Kroger to sell wine but it also opens the door for smaller convenience stores.
"There is always a minor asking someone to buy alcohol for them," said Sanderson. "The policing of the convenience store is the difficult part."