The Future of Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Efforts
Nearly five centuries ago, the political philosopher Machiavelli said, "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."
Even five centuries later it is still a difficult and uncertain task to introduce a new thing. For some chambers of commerce, adopting an effective advocacy program is a new thing, fraught with difficulty and uncertainty.
However, I believe that the future calls for chambers to be the very best at representing their memberâ€™s interests with government. That demands an unprecedented investment of time and effort by chambers in implementing a government affairs program or taking their current program to an even higher level.
As President of Chamber Advocacy, a professional firm that builds government affairs programs, I am fortunate to be part of award-winning advocacy programs that serve as a model in our industry. That model is based upon a belief that chambers of commerce must build advocacy programs that empower their membership and increase their relevance in public policy discussions and decision-making.
To that end, I believe that an effective government affairs program is founded on four basic principles:
1. Tracking pertinent local and state legislation and issuing vote records on local elected officials as it relates to business.
2. Fostering grassroots involvement, from the board to the government affairs council, to develop and advocate the chamber's priorities.
3. Staff must serve as an advocacy resource for the chamber's membership always willing to represent the business point of view from city hall all the way to the halls of the statehouse.
4. Constant maintenance of communication strategies such as a Web site solely dedicated to advocacy efforts and the commitment of the entire front page of the chamber's newsletter to advocacy in every edition, all year long.
To learn more about the four principles of effective government affairs programs and get ideas and advice for how to energize your advocacy, look for my posts on the ACCE Policy Clearinghouse Blog. Also, feel free to log in and post questions about your government affairs program.
- Shaun Lumachi
For more information about Chamber Advocacy click HERE.
Maryland Repeals Tech Tax
In a big win for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the Technology Council of Maryland, the Maryland General Assembly repealed the "Tech Tax" passed during a special legislative session last November.
Regular Clearinghouse Blog readers may remember that the Computer Service Sales Tax (Tech Tax) was a 6% sales tax on IT services such as custom programing, data processing, and system design. Had the tax stood, many highly mobile IT companies may have left Maryland for neighboring states to escape the tax and keep their services competitive with others in the market.
Land use decision appeals in Maryland
A state law in Maryland may force counties to amend their land use decision appeals process. At issue is who has "standing" to challenge a local zoning decision in municipal court.
Maryland HB 246 would force counties to offer "standing" to an aggrieved party and to any taxpayer. In most counties the appeals process for land use decisions mandates that an appeal can only come from an aggrieved party. An aggrieved party typically must be able to prove that the decision in question caused them particular harm above the general public impact.
By offering "standing" to any taxpayer, the state is undermining the defined land use decision making process which already includes opportunities for public input. Some business leaders in Maryland fear that new development projects may be held up in courts for months by individuals who oppose all new development.
Click HERE to read the Maryland Chamber's position on HB 246.
Thanks to Pamela Klahr, CCE at the Howard County (MD) Chamber for alerting us about this important piece of legislation.
Environmental Regulation Issue Jam - April, 22
Registration is open for the Environmental Regulation Issue Jam on April, 22. Registration is only $25 for ACCE members, so if you haven't signed up, click HERE to get on the call.
Issue Jams are a new format of ACCE DIALogue teleseminar. During an Issue Jam a guest presenter provides an overview of the latest state and local trends in a particular policy area. Following the brief presentation, we open lines for everyone to join the discussion and share their own experience.
Kathryn Klaber, Executive Vice President of Competitiveness at the Allegheny Partnership will lead the Environmental Regulation Issue Jam. Kathryn has an extensive background in helping companies work through issues like air quality compliance, Brownfields redevelopment, accidental release preparedness, and myriad of other environmental projects.
Issue Jams are a forum for shared learning, so come prepared to share your perspective and local experience. Click HERE to register today and take advantage of our special ACCE member rate of $25.
Alabama Getting In on the Immigration Crackdown
Today the Montgomery Advertiser reported:
"An Alabama House committee approved eight bills ThursÂday aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants in Alabama, including one to revoke the license of any business that knowÂingly hires illegal immigrants.
Other bills approved by the House Judiciary Committee would make it a crime to transÂport illegal immigrants into the state and impound the vehicle if a driver can't prove he or she is a legal citizen.
The committee turned down two immigration bills, includÂing one that would have reÂquired all workers in the state to have an identification card."
Click HERE for the full article.
If the bills pass, Alabama will join the growing ranks of states, including Arizona and Oklahoma, to pass stringent immigration laws that impact businesses.
A quick scan of headlines from the past few days reveals how prominent the immigration issue continues to be in states all across the country. Arrests of undocumented immigrants by local and federal officials are making headlines in the:
Cleveland Plain Dealer (March 29, 2008)
Lincoln, Nebraska Journal-Star (March 29, 2008)
Dallas Morning News (March 30, 2008)
For more information about state and local immigration policy developments, visit PolicyClearinghouse.org.
Part-Time Legislature Proposals in Michigan
Three separate ballot initiative proposals currently collecting signatures in Michigan seek to drastically alter the way the state legislature operates. Two would make the state legislature a part-time body and one calls for proportional representation in Senate.
Michigan is one of only 11 states with a full time legislature, and, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, ranks with California, New York, and Pennsylvania for the most active state legislatures in terms of on-the-job time, salary, and staff.
To read more about the proposals in Michigan, check out this post from the National Conference of State Legislatures' blog, The Thicket.
Tax Caps Make Headlines
Georgia moves to restrict property tax assessment
Last week the Georgia House passed a provision to cap growth in property assessments. The move would restrict so-called “back door tax increases” that local governments use to boost revenue without actually raising tax rates. The bill was approved in a Senate committee this week and will go the entire Senate for final approval.
The move has angered local legislators and school districts who are worried that the property assessment cap will leave them with large budget shortfalls.
Click HERE to read the article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Florida considers TABOR-like proposal
The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is currently considering a Constitutional amendment proposal that would limit the state’s revenue collection.
This plan, which closely resembles a taxpayer bill of rights (TABOR), would restrict revenue increases to the rate of inflation and population growth plus one percentage point. Additionally under the bill, any new taxes or fees imposed by the city, county, or state would need voter approval.
Click HERE to read the full article from the Miami Herald.
Guns in the Workplace
The Florida legislature is currently considering a bill that would prevent business owners from implementing policies that prohibit carrying guns on their property. This bill threatens to undermine private property rights and alter the status of employee-employer relations in the Sunshine State.
This type of legislation is not limited to Florida, other states are also considering similar limitations on business owners.
PolicyClearinghouse.org, the chamber professional's source for objective state and local policy information.
Over the past two weeks, residents in Raleigh, NC have been fired up in a debate over garbage disposals.
A City Council ordinance that went into effect on March 17 bans new homes and businesses in Raleigh that connect to the city sewer system from having disposals. The ordinance also makes it illegal for owners of existing disposals to replace their units or have a plumber repair them.
The ordinance is intended to prevent sewer overflow by reducing the amount of food waste and grease that builds up in the sewer system. Raleigh is the first city in the country to ban garbage disposals.
Opponents of the measure cite a lack of opportunity for public comment on the measure and claim that efforts to educate the public on popper disposal use would be more effective than an outright ban.
The ban leaves plumbers, contractors and hardware retailers unsure about the consequences they might face for repairing, installing or selling a disposal system.
Click HERE for an article from the Raleigh News and Observer.
In Prince William County, VA a law took effect this month that directs officers to check the immigration status of anyone in custody who they have probable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant. The Washington, D.C. suburb has drawn national attention since the county Board of Supervisors passed the law in July 2007.
The law has dealt a blow to the entire Hispanic community, forcing the closure or relocation of a number of popular soccer clubs. Click HERE for the article from the Washington Post.
Over the next two years, an independent team of college professors and criminologists will analyze everything from police records to public sentiment to determine the consequences of the Prince William County immigration law. Click HERE for the article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
This week the Georgia Legislature passed a bill making driving without a license a felony offense. The law requires a prison sentence of two days to 12 months the first offense, and one to five years on the fourth offense.
While never mentioned during debate, the bill targets illegal immigrants who can not legally obtain a driver’s license. Some opponents are concerned about the cost to local governments to incarcerate offenders.
Click HERE for the article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.