More Dollars for High Speed Rail?
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has underscored the Obama administration's commitment to high speed rail. The National Journal quoted Sec. LaHood as saying:
"What the president is saying with the $8 billion (in stimulus funding for high speed rail) is this is the start to help begin high-speed rail projects." He added that the administration "is committed to finding the dollars to not only get them started but to finishing them in at least five parts of the country."
This latest statement is further evidence of the 'pro-rail' mood in Washington and suggests funding priorities down the road (or rather, down the rail).
A Tip o' the Hat to Local Chambers
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal told the world something that ACCE members have long known: "local chambers of commerce have geared up to help small businesses."
The article highlights different ways that several chambers, including the Nashville (TN) Area Chamber and the Salem (OR) Area Chamber, are using technology to help their members survive the tough economy. Congratulations Chambers on some much deserved national recognition.
Click HERE to link to the article.
Have we hit the bottom? A hopeful sign...
I am the eternal optimist but the Conference Board's "Index of Leading Economic Indicators" reports that indicators are UP (barely) for the 2nd month in a row! Not much of a gain, but still better than a drop. This could be a positive sign that we will see the overall economy start moving in the right direction.
My guess, based on what I've been reading, is that we might be at/very near the bottom but that things will be flat for a while with weak or little growth for a few months before things start moving up again.
Card Check DIALogue - Feb 26
Recent ACCE policy surveys show that Card Check is among the top issues for chambers nationwide. Clearinghouse Blog readers probably know that the proposed Employee Free Choice Act could fundamentally change labor relations in America, however, there are many things about this bill you may not be aware of.
- Do you fully understand the implications of the binding arbitration clause?
- Do you know the prospective legislative timeline, who is the supporting the bill, and who might still be swayed?
- Do you know the most effective ways you can you influence the trajectory of this bill?
Join us next Thursday, February 26, for a DIALogue on Card Check with Steven J. Law, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel at the US Chamber of Commerce. Law is a leading expert on this critical issue and will discuss the impact that this potential bill could have on both the national and your local economy. Get an understanding of how important the voice of the local business community will be in deciding the outcome of this legislation.
Thanks to the generous support of a concerned corporate citizen, ACCE is able to dramatically reduce the cost of next week's DIALogue. Instead of the normal $65 registration fee, this important DIALogue will only cost $25 for ACCE members.
Click HERE to register.
Durham Chamber Focuses on Job Creation
Yesterday the Greater Durham (NC) Chamber of Commerce launched a four year economic development initiative aimed at creating 9000 jobs. The comprehensive plan called Vision 3D focuses on Economic Development, Talent & Workforce Development and Community Development.
The Durham Chamber has adopted a regional focus with this economic development initiative:
"Focusing on our region as opposed to individual cities unifies our resources and strengthens our position when competing for new businesses and the jobs that come with them," said Casey Steinbacher, President & CEO of the Durham Chamber. "Our competition for projects tends to be communities much larger than our area. By working as a Corridor we provide more advantages that help level the playing field."
To learn more about Vision 3D and its measurable goals, visit the Durham Chamber website.
Here are some interesting transportation related headlines from the past several days.
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram - Calls to bring high-speed rail to Texas grow louder
- With congestion on the rise and the "mood of the moment in Washington is decidedly pro-rail," transportation planners and rail advocates in Texas are exploring high speed rail possibilities.
From the Denver Post - Fee hike may fuel road fixes
- The Colorado Senate hopes to secure $500 million in bonds to repair roads and bridges by increasing car registration fees. The FASTER bill also has an interesting provision allowing for local toll collection on state highways.
From the St. Louis Post Dispatch - States consider mileage tax
- An Oregon task force is considering using GPS to tax drivers based on their miles driven. What are the challenges and is this idea on the drawing board in other states?
Health Care Headlines
Here are some health care issues making headlines over the past few days:
From The Washington Post - At Wal-Mart, a Health-Care Turnaround
- By offering multiple options including high deductible and emergency plans, utilizing electronic medical records, and negotiating affordable prescriptions, Wal-Mart is drastically reducing the number of uninsured among its employees. Is it a model for states to follow?
From The Asheville (NC) Citizen Times - Telemedicine to provide health care to rural schools
- A school-based health project, funded with foundation and charitable support, is using teleconferencing and other technology to boost access to acute, chronic, and mental health services for school children in some of western North Carolina's most under served communities.
From Staunton, VA's The News Leader - Gubernatorial candidate unveils health-care plan
- Brian Moran, a Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia, has released a plan to provide health care for every child in the Commonwealth. He plans to leverage federal funds to achieve his goal.
Enough with the negative stuff already!
January retail sales in our city are UP 13.9 percent over same time last year!
Boo to the recession and gloom/doom crowd!
- Dennis Lauver, President and CEO, Salina (KS) Area Chamber
Chair, ACCE Government Relations Division
Immigration Proposals are Back in States
If you've been distracted over the past few weeks by the stimulus package and other belt-loop drama (e.g., Sen. Gregg's withdrawal from Commerce) you are not alone. It seems all eyes are intently watching for Washington's next move, and for good reason. But with nearly every state legislature in session, there are dozens of state and local issues in play too. Immigration is a prime example.
Already this year, legislatures in at least four states - Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, and Wyoming - are considering bills that would put the onus on local businesses to enforce immigration laws. The bills are modeled on the Arizona Fair and Legal Employment Act and the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, both passed in 2007. The Arizona bill mandates use of the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify program and establishes stiff penalties, including business license suspension, for employers who employ an illegal immigrant. The Oklahoma bill, which is currently under injunction in federal court, makes it a felony to provide shelter, employment or transportation to an illegal immigrant.
There are numerous problems with state and local immigration legislation. Primary among them is that state-by-state immigration regulation is not comprehensive national immigration reform. Individual state laws can not address the national security and workforce issues that are inextricably linked with immigration. Furthermore, cities and states that pass punitive immigration bills can damage their reputation as diverse, inclusive places that are open to foreign trade and investment. There are other concerns, such as E-Verify's estimated 10% error, opening the potential for litigation by legal workers who are denied employment. Also, overlapping, and sometimes conflicting, state immigration regulations create a compliance minefield for companies operating in multiple states.
These days it is important to pay attention daily (hourly?) to everything going on in Washington DC. But it is equally important to keep a close eye on your state house.
For more information on state level immigration proposals, see the links below.
For more information on state level immigration bills check out ImmigrationWorksUSA.org
Reflections on a trip to Washington DC
This past Friday, we finished a small and short trip to Washington DC. Eight community leaders were able to meet with two Senators and two Congressmen. We felt like our time there was well spent.
It was kind of a suprise that much of what we had to talk about wasn't involved in the economic stimulus legislation. NCLB, Card Check, Corps of Engineers specific to our community were among the topics.
We also focused on FY 09 and FY 2010 appropriation requests knowing that (for better and for worse) the decisions about where to spend stimulus money were out of the hands of elected representatives.
Now is certainly not the time to retreat from advocating our community needs - and I would guess the same statement can be made for every city.
We continue to work on making sure our local partners and the community at large understand that working with the federal government is a marathon and not a sprint.
At some point, I might share the story of how my city manager and I went jogging at 5:15 am with a former boss of mine, US Senator Charles Grassley. A taxi ride to his house for the ages! The low point of a taxi ride is when one of the passengers has to get out of the cab and ask a police officer for directions!